Tom Tom Founders Festival is a 501c3 nonprofit. It aims to inspire and support “founders”, people who creatively pursue new ideas and self-direction across multiple disciplines.
Tom Tom Founders Festival combines real opportunities to launch ventures with ideas, art installations, bands, and parties over the course of multiple days in one of America’s most beautiful and historic small cities.
In 2015, Tom Tom featured dozens of free events on Charlottesville’s Historic Downtown Mall, a pedestrian urban thoroughfare. These events included six free block parties, a farm-to-table restaurant week, four pitch competitions, and a public art series. Tom Tom also hosting the first ever Founders Summit, a day of talks headlined by the entrpreneurs behind Reddit, The Container Store, Maker Faire, Locken Music Festival, and Chromat.
Tom Tom Founders Festival is a 501c3 nonprofit. Its mission is to celebrate and empower founders, the people who take risks in order to bring visionary creative, civic, and entrepreneurial projects into existence. The Festival always overlaps with Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, April 13th. Like the founding polymath, Tom Tom explores diverse disciplines – society, education, energy, food, and technology – through their shared civic and intellectual richness.
Tom Tom Founders Festival was launched in 2012 as a month-long music festival. The following year, Tom Tom condensed this programming to 4 days, expanded its entrepreneurial and tech offerings, and entered into a presenting partnership with the University of Virginia. To date, the festival has attendance of approximately 78,000 with 260 bands, 224 speakers, dozens of artists and installations, and nearly $700,000 of seed capital invested through Tom Tom events.
2012 – CONCEPT
Tom Tom Founders Festival was born from a question: How can live gatherings catalyze Charlottesville to generate new ventures, products, and visions of its future?
In just five months, the first Tom Tom Founders Festival was launched as a month-long experiment beginning on April 13, Founders Day. It aimed to create an atmosphere of ground-up, community oriented, and experimental creativity. Thirty days of free art and innovation programming concluded with a ticketed music festival. Altogether, the Festival tried dozens of events and 8,700 participants rallied around the idea of Charlottesville as a creative hub and a stage for new ideas.
2013 – REFINE
Tom Tom’s programming committee reworked the Festival’s spring event into 4 packed days of free block parties, talks, pitch competitions, art installations, and concerts. The Festival continued to enjoy the support of hundreds of volunteers from across the community, and partnered with over 330 community organizations on programming.
That spring, Tom Tom filed for 501c3 nonprofit status and entered into a presenting partnership with the University of Virginia, a major step in linking Grounds with the Charlottesville and Albemarle communities. In spring 2013, Tom Tom brought 13,600 attendees Downtown and seeded $175,000 in funding to local startups.
2014 – FOCUS
In Spring 2014, Tom Tom positioned itself for regional growth by solidifying its mission as a Founders Festival. It hosted 116 speakers, 50 of whom were founders of their companies or organizations. Tom Tom also hosted 75 bands and 61 artist vendors at 31 venues, as well as 5 works of large-scale public art. At the Festival’s entrepreneurial competitions, over $500,000 of investment capital was offered to new ventures. Attendance exceeded 16,600 for these events.
In the fall of 2014, the inaugural Founding Cville initiative highlighted 18 founders within the Charlottesville community, and Tom Tom’s Fall Block Party welcomed over 6,000 visitors. Tom Tom’s total annual economic impact on the community of Charlottesville was $843,000.
2014 was also a year of administrative milestones for Tom Tom, including financial stability.
WHAT DOES THE NAME MEAN?
“Tom Tom” is a tip of the hat to Thomas Jefferson. Best remembered as the author of The Declaration of Independence, founder of the University of Virginia, architect of Monticello, and Third President of the United States, Jefferson was also a visionary farmer, winemaker, art patron, and inventor. Tom Tom connects Jefferson’s revolutionary legacy with the difficult and visionary work of founders today.
WHAT’S WITH THE BUFFALO?
The buffalo is a symbol of the frontier. Lewis and Clark returned from their exploration of the American West with a buffalo hide displaying Native American painting and cartography. Thomas Jefferson sponsored their historic journey, and this hide now hangs in the foyer of Jefferson’s home Monticello, as a reminder of the value of American risk-taking.
WHY IS TOM TOM FREE?
Tom Tom’s strength is that it brings people with diverse perspectives and passions together. Keeping the majority of the Festival’s events free makes that possible. Everyone is welcome to participate, be inspired, and have fun at Tom Tom.
WHO RUNS TOM TOM?
Paul Beyer began Tom Tom Founders Festival in 2011, and is its Director. Tom Tom staff includes a mix of full, parttime, freelance, and volunteer professionals in marketing, production, programming, design, and other fields. Tom Tom’s programming and strategic choices are made with the input of its board. Finally, Tom Tom would be completely impossible without the time and energy of the nearly 200 individuals who volunteer at the Festival each year. Complete list of Staff & Board.
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