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Speakers Announced for Founding Keynote Stories

Charlottesville, VA (February 26, 2018) — The Tom Tom Founders Festival has announced its speakers for Founding Story Keynotes, which will take place on Friday, April 13th from 9AM to 5PM at The Paramount Theater in downtown Charlottesville. Entrepreneurs, innovators, and advocates will share stories of the grit, creativity, vision, and purpose that helped them build extraordinary ventures, revolutionize industries and enrich the world.

The Founding Stories Keynotes are included in all Summit Badges and are also available as a separate $50 ticket. Tickets are available at Learn more at

One Founding Story Keynote will be Steve Huffman, current CEO and cofounder of reddit. Huffman sold the company in 2006, but returned in 2015 as the CEO and sparked a remarkable turnaround, raising a $200M round of funding, growing the company to 300 employees, and 5x-ing revenue, all while developing native image and video hosting, a new mobile app, and a full site redesign. The reddit community is now over 330 million monthly users.

“Four years ago, Alexis Ohanian gave the very first keynote of our inaugural Founders Summit with the founding story of reddit,” commented Festival director, Paul Beyer. “Alexis and Steve went from UVA dorm room to serendipity at Ycombinator, to become the front page of the internet. We couldn’t be more excited to announce the other half of the founding duo and current CEO, Steve Huffman, who will tell the next chapter of their founding story at this April’s Summit.”

The event will be emceed by the charming and dynamic husband and wife duo Mark Brzezinski (Former Swedish Ambassador) and Natalia Brzezinski (CEO, Symposium Stockholm) who share a passion for how ideas and innovation can create global change.

2018 Founding Story Keynote Speakers

  1. Zac Bookman (Cofounder and CEO, OpenGov) – Seeing public servants struggle against outdated technology, Mr. Bookman and his cofounder developed a set of tools to empower more open and effective government. Today over 1,800 public agencies in 48 states use his products.

  2. Renee Diresta (Head of Policy, Data for Democracy) – A tech entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and researcher who has combatted the spread of disinformation across social networks.

  3. Steve Huffman (Cofounder and CEO, reddit) – Mr. Huffman launched the “front page of the internet” and fourth most-visited site in the U.S. while still an undergraduate at UVa. Mr. Huffman then proceeded to co-found the popular online travel company Hipmunk, before returning to reddit, where he has grown the platform’s community to over 330 million monthly users.

  4. Vince Kadlubek (CEO, Meow Wolf) – Cofounder of Meow Wolf, the exciting and immersive art installation in Santa Fe that has attracted attention from around the world.

  5. Shan-Lyn Ma (Founder, Zola) – Launched the fastest growing wedding company in the country that’s reinventing the wedding planning and registry experience by combining compassionate customer service with modern tools and technology.

  6. Bryan Manning (Cofounder, Two Blind Brothers) – After he and his brother, Bradford, were diagnosed with an illness that caused them to go blind, they launched a clothing line to help find a cure and inspire others.

  7. Leland Melvin (Astronaut, NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration) – From playing for the Dallas Cowboys to exploring outer space, Mr. Melvin’s story of perseverance and passion has inspired the next generation of explorers to pursue STEAM careers.

  8. Michael B Moore (President & CEO, International African American Museum) – Mr. Moore is leading the efforts to tell the story of one of the most important sites in American history, the Port of Charleston, where almost half of all African captives arrived in the United States.

  9. Jigar Shah (Founder, SunEdison and President, Generate Capital) – Mr. Shah helped launch the clean industry revolution in North America as founder of SunEdison which, at its peak, possessed over $10 billion in energy assets.

  10. Billie Whitehouse (CEO, Designer, Director, Wearable X) – Ms. Whitehouse is invigorating the fashion industry with technology and putting the Internet of Things into the clothes on your back, enhancing the performance of everyone from NFL athletes to long-distance couples.

The Tom Tom Summits, of which the Founding Stories are a part, will occur April 11-14 in Charlottesville. They will feature iconic innovators like Dan Rather and John Cleese, household name companies like Spotify, IDEO, Nickelodeon, Berkshire Hathaway Media, reddit, and the New York Times, and insights from entrepreneurs and leaders from across the nation.

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The Tom Tom Foundation is a nonprofit organization that celebrates entrepreneurship, culture, and innovation in small cities. Tom Tom’s signature event is a weeklong Founders Festival that takes place in Charlottesville, VA, each April in conjunction with Thomas Jefferson’s birthday. This cross discipline, multi-venue experience transforms the historic downtown and empowers entrepreneurs, innovators, and civic leaders who are defining the future. Since its inception in 2012, the Foundation’s programming has showcased thousands of speakers, artists, and bands to 186,000 program attendees, and has channeled $2.9 million to new ventures and projects. Learn more:


The Tom Tom Founders Festival is presented with the generous support of the University of Virginia, American Evolution, the Quantitative Foundation, and the Virginia Tourism Corporation.


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