Our Year in Review: 2019

Welcome. Thank you for all that you have done to make Tom Tom a success this past year. It was a big year for our organization, for our hometown of Charlottesville, and for an ongoing national dialogue about city innovation. We are excited to share with you some of the impacts.

In 2019, the Tom Tom Summit & Festival convened thousands of leaders from more than 300 cities across the country. They came to Charlottesville to make connections they couldn’t make anywhere else, and to engage in a unique dialogue about the future of America’s hometowns. Increasingly, and excitingly, the stage is being set for those conversations to live on beyond those events.

One of the Tom Tom Foundation’s chief measures of success is rooted in this collaboration, both with a national roster of civic stakeholders like the Kauffman Foundation, Rise of the Rest, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities, and the National Endowment for the Arts, and in media partnerships with Entrepreneur magazine and Shondaland and hosted speakers from Slate, The New York Times, and New York Magazine, to name a few. We also continue to work alongside hundreds of community organizations located right here in Charlottesville.

Our ambition is to be the live platform for transformative connections among small-city leaders and to be the best partner to the Charlottesville community that we can be. In the following report, I’ll share with you our year in rear view: our successes and challenges, the goals we met and new goals we set, and the individuals and organizations we had the privilege of engaging throughout.

Thank you, as always, for your belief in our mission and unbending dedication to the inclusive advancement of tomorrow’s cities.

Paul Beyer Executive Director Tom Tom Foundation Tom Tom Summit & Festival


When you have an event that encompasses beer at block parties, world-class thought leadership, public murals, city art buses, and public performances — there’s one question that comes up a lot: What exactly is Tom Tom?

In 2019, the Tom Tom Foundation really leaned in to this question with a renewed focus on our mission. Tom Tom champions innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship in tomorrow’s cities. They’re the values you think about when imagining the kind of community you want to live and work in.

When Tom Tom started in 2012 on the steps of The McGuffey Art Center, it was about big ideas, innovation and community, in and around Charlottesville. This vision has expanded to take a broader thematic look at how cities across America are working to become more creative, prosperous, and equitable communities. It has also refined, showcasing our own hometown in this conversation, and how innovation is being put into practice in Charlottesville.

That’s where we step in. We at Tom Tom believe that small-city innovators are underserved. So, in 2019, we asked not only, “How can we address these issues?” but “How can we take steps to actively foster change?” Our program’s resounding response: by leveraging cross-country and local networks, we can strengthen the power of convening, spark new relationships, and supply tools and takeaways to bolster hometowns across the nation.

Moving forward, our vision is to become the destination for tomorrow’s city innovation and the platform for sharing research, policy, playbooks, stories, and resources that empower change in a vital sector of American civic life.


You may have noticed that “TTFF” lost (and added) a letter in 2019. In 2019, we changed the name of the event from the “Tom Tom Founders Festival” to the “Tom Tom Summit & Festival.” As a “Founders Festival”, we focused primarily on entrepreneurial and creative ideas, but as the years have passed, we’ve recognized that these are just a couple of the components of a thriving and inclusive city. 

Although we continue to promote the importance of robust entrepreneurial ecosystems, a broader purview of education, health, data, climate, criminal justice and other essential conversations offer a fuller story of small-city progress across the country. 

In 2019, we  organized our thought-leadership content into a Summit experience whose bold theme was “Building 21st Century Hometowns” and gathered civic leaders, entrepreneurs, engaged citizens, and preeminent innovators to explore what makes small cities thrive. Then, we paired this topical programming with a wide range of free Festival events—both familiar and new—to bolster the Tom Tom theme of community building. 

So, we’ve recalibrated our mission, dropped the”Founder” from our logo, and hence, the Tom Tom Summit & Festival was born.


We embraced the truth that if cities are going to be innovative, they’ve got to be equitable. Countless sessions at this year’s Summit elevated these themes, including conversations about reintegrating the formerly incarcerated into society, tackling bias in data practice, preventing homelessness before it starts, welcoming refugee populations into communities, reforming the present criminal justice system, pursuing inclusion in arts communities, and maintaining diverse role models in schools—and we look forward to continuing many of these dialogues at our 2020 Summit. 

As for our speakers? Multisector civic leaders shared the work they’re doing in small cities through the lens of Youth Innovation, Civic Innovation, Renewable Energy, Creative Ecosystems, Applied Machine Learning, and Entrepreneurial Ecosystems. In all, more than 464 speakers brought their expertise and enthusiasm to Charlottesville, and a focus on inclusion and equity manifested itself in the form of our most diverse speaker lineup to date.

Tom Tom 2019 attracted a long list of national luminaries at both the conferences and our headlining events throughout the week. Youth Innovation Conference keynote speaker Jaclyn Corin, a freshly graduated Parkland student and cofounder of March For Our Lives, talked about translating tragedy into activism at the historic Paramount Theater and inspired scores of local students. At The Future of Cannabis, superstars Steve Hawkins, Executive Director of the Marijuana Policy Project; Jane West, “the Martha Stewart of Marijuana”; and more leading experts dug into the legalization movement’s implications on everything from agriculture to criminal justice. Headlining journalists Emily Bazelon (The New York Times Magazine), John Dickerson (CBS This Morning), David Plotz (Atlas Obscura), and Jamelle Bouie (The New York Times) recorded the Slate Political Gabfest podcast live, dissecting crucial topics like the crisis of immigration policy and the clash of presidential candidates. And to top it all off, Whose Line Is It Anyway? veterans Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood delivered an unforgettable improv performance entitled “Scared Scriptless.”


Thanks to an ongoing partnership with VPM PBS, we have been able to capture some amazing content that both inspires and educates.


The success of this Charlottesville celebration was, in fact, what prompted the Summit– as more and more leaders from other cities came to Tom Tom— they wondered how these kinds of conversations could inform their own communities. So when April’s annual community culture Festival returned in full force, it put the intellectual ideas of the Summit into focus and exhibited how a community can celebrate its creative leaders in business, arts, and government.

Our popular block party drew artists from as far as San Francisco and as near as Charlottesville’s 10th & Page neighborhood, and community workshops showcased local programs and passions. Plus, music,