top of page

2017 Tom Tom Founders Festival Gears up for April 10 Kickoff

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA—The Tom Tom Founders Festival, a one-of-a-kind weeklong celebration of the power of innovation, entrepreneurship, and community, is gearing up for the April 10 launch of its sixth annual season. This year’s program will occur April 10-16, and will feature dozens of bands, artists, chefs, and creative founders at 65+ venues downtown. The event is expected to draw more than 40,000 attendees.

“We’re excited to launch another Tom Tom Founders Festival,” said director Paul Beyer.  “The 2017 Festival offers something inspiring for everyone, whether they’re interested in founding a business, launching a new career, enjoying live music, or learning about how to create positive change in their own community.”

More than 300 speakers will join the Festival from 45 communities throughout the U.S. Featured speakers include Anne-Marie Slaughter (New America), Dave McClure (500 Startups), Kim Jordan (New Belgium Brewing Company), Laura Weidman Powers (Code2040), Craig Dubitsky (Hello Products), Steven Olikara (Millennial Action Project), Mark Warner (U.S. Senator, Virginia), Chris Cillizza (Washington Post & The Fix), Peter Baker (New York Times),  Lester Brown (Earth Policy Institute), Jerome Ringo (Zoetic Global), Andy Berke (Mayor, City of Chattanooga, TN), Jason Schupbach (National Endowment for the Arts), Todd Haymore, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade, and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.  

On April 13, from 2:30 to 3:15, Governor McAuliffe will be participating in the student-planned and student-led Youth Summit at the Paramount Theater. Governor McAuliffe said, “It is always a privilege to meet with ambitious young Virginians who are making a difference. This student-led event inspires our Virginia high school students to take charge of their education, but more importantly, to start thinking like entrepreneurs about their futures, their careers, and their businesses.  This event highlights why Virginia’s public and private school systems are national leaders in preparing our youth for the innovation economy.”

Senator Warner will be participating in Innovations in Democracy: First 100 Days of Trump on Thursday, April 13 from 8pm – 10 pm at the Paramount Theatre.  “Tom Tom is a fitting celebration of the innovative legacy of Thomas Jefferson. Bringing together entrepreneurs, academics, policymakers, and artists in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Tom Tom Festival has an energy and excitement rivalling Austin’s SXSW festival,” commented U.S. Senator Mark Warner. “Tom Tom shows that creativity and entrepreneurship are just as vibrant in smaller communities as they are in big cities like New York and San Francisco.”

2017 Program.

Highlighting the key themes of innovation, music, art, and food, the Festival encompasses more than 150 events, ranging from public policy discussions to public art creation; from local leadership forums to local food sampling; and from open air block parties to life-changing keynote speeches.


During the Festival’s signature Founders Summit, entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to learn from 70 of the nation’s most creative and inspiring founders—including Kim Jordan, co-founder of New Belgium Brewing Company; Dave McClure, co-founder of 500 Startups; and Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO of New America. Other events include the inaugural Hometown Summit, America’s biggest conference for small cities; a crowdfunded pitch night; a student planned and student led Youth Summit; topical discussions of Innovations in Democracy: First 100 Days of Trump (with Mark Warner, Chris Cillizza, and Peter Baker) and Innovations in Energy: Futures of Renewables (with Lester Brown), respectively, as well as our Future Forum, a discussion of the future of Charlottesville. See the innovation itinerary here.  


This year’s Tom Tom features over 60 bands and performers. Premier events include free block parties featuring the region’s best music of all genres, surprise-live performances on pop-up stages throughout Charlottesville’s historic downtown; front porch concerts at Porchella in the historic Belmont neighborhood; our annual heavy metal bash; and—new this year—an intriguing tarot opera. See the music itinerary here. A full list of events can be found here.


Tom Tom’s “city as canvas” approach offers unique opportunities for attendees to engage in the creation of community-enriching art, including our public space-transforming mural project and the City Art Bus, Tom Tom’s cheeky answer to installation art.  The Festival will also include workshops with Tom Tom artist-in-residence Paul Hostetler, a freelance illustrator, painter and comics-art innovator and Roye Okupe our first-ever writer-in-residence, sponsored through a unique partnership with Charlottesville’s popular Festival of the Book. See the art itinerary here. A full listing of events can be found here.


Charlottesville’s famed local food offerings shine in the Farm-to-Table Restaurant Week and Craft Cocktail Competition, which feature locally sourced and inspired dishes. Saturday kicks off with Tom Tom’s very own “Iron Chef” competition, featuring ingredients from our vibrant Farmer’s Market, alongside a Downtown Chili Showdown, our friendly Community Picnic, and the diverse, delicious offerings of our numerous local food trucks.  See the food itinerary here. A full listing of events can be found here.

“Thanks to the generous support of our partners throughout the community, region, and state, the 2017 Tom Tom Founders Festival promises to offer our best-yet display of the incredible power of innovation, and the tremendous potential of communities,” Beyer said.  “We look forward to welcoming friends old and new to Charlottesville this April 10-16.”  


The Tom Tom Founders Festival is presented by the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, American Evolution, the Quantitative Foundation, and the i.Lab at UVA. It is also generously underwritten by a number of leading organizations, including the University of Virginia, Ting, C-Ville Weekly, New Belgium Brewing Company, Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, City of Charlottesville, Galant Center for Entrepreneurship, the UVA School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the Virginia Tourism Corporation.


To register for press credentials, download our press kit, and see video and photo highlights from the 2016 Tom Tom Founders Festival visit


bottom of page