Beyond the many accolades that are heaped on Charlottesville as a great place to live (happiest town in America, best place to live in the country, the most beautiful college campus in the US, one of the hippest mid-size towns … and the list goes on …), Charlottesville is emerging as a mini-tech powerhouse. From student entrepreneurs to startups to some of the fastest growing tech companies in America, Charlottesville’s tech scene is thriving.
What makes Charlottesville a great home for technology?
The tech sector is the fourth largest industry in Charlottesville, encompassing 10% of the city’s job market, and accounting for more than 7,400 jobs in the region. On average, employees in the city’s tech sector earn $74,117 – almost 50% higher than the city average.
Despite the city’s small size, employees won’t be starved for choice – there are more than 130 tech firms based just in the city.
National players include:
- Rimm-Kaufman Group, recently acquired by Merkle
- S&P Global Market Intelligence, formerly SNL Financial, now part of McGraw-Hill
- Apex Clean Energy – CBIC’s “Business of the Year” in 2016 and “Top Job Creator of the Year” in 2015
Successfully funded startups include:
- Biotech/Lifescience companies: BeHealth, Cavion, Contraline, Tear Solutions, Diffusion Pharmaceuticals
- Non-biotech startups: ArcheMedx, Relay Foods, Maternity Neighborhood
- Social Ventures: MadiDrop PBC, KiraKira, Grow Oyster Reefs
Many tech firms have made Charlottesville their home base, even those with an impressive regional, national and global reach including:
- HelioSage (now Coronal Development)
- Center for Open Science
- PRA Health Sciences
- Locus Health
You’re just as likely to find the founders of these companies hanging out around town as you are to find them at your next business get-together.
- University of Virginia
One of the highest ranked public schools, UVA brings tremendous cultural, creative and scientific resources to Charlottesville. UVA’s leading engineering and business schools provide a steady stream of qualified employees for the city’s many tech firms.
In the past several years, UVA has upped its tech credentials with the addition of the Batten institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Darden Business School’s i.Lab. Last fall, UVA’s Licensing and Ventures Group opened new offices on Preston Avenue, creating an entrepreneurial hub for community and university innovation activities. These resources are nurturing a university community that celebrates and fosters tech growth in the city.
Many of the region's most successful UVA spin out companies got their start here. One of the better known is PsiKick, which makes self-powering wireless sensors for “Internet of Things” applications.
- Funding Sources: VC and Angel
In 2015, PsiKick raised $16.5 million from venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates (NEA). PsiKick was not the only startup to receive the venture capital that’s pouring into the region.
A recent report by the National Venture Capital Association found that nine companies in the Charlottesville metro area received $27.7 million in venture funding last year. Charlottesville ranked first out of 133 metro areas in both the greatest growth (55.2 percent) and the greatest rate of growth as measured by venture investment dollars with a 156.5 percent increase since 2010.
In addition to VC funding, Charlottesville-based startups now have easier access to private funding through the formation of the Charlottesville Angel Network (CAN), organized in January 2015.
CAN is an organized network of high net-worth angel investors that evaluates startups as possible funding opportunities. CAN provides early-stage companies with high-growth opportunities access to much-needed startup investment capital. CAN generates wealth that can be reseeded, funding deals that bring money into our community to grow the next crop of successful innovation-based businesses and sustain the cycle.
In CAN's first 18 months, more than a dozen mostly local startups received more than $1.6 million in funding, collectively.
- Cost of Living
A low cost of living means a lower cost of doing business and, compared to tech hubs like San Francisco or New York City, Charlottesville wins in this category hands down.
Compared with regional neighbor, Washington D.C. Charlottesville offers cheaper rent, transportation, utilities, groceries, healthcare and taxes.
If you’re a tech business in Charlottesville you’re even eligible for special tax breaks through a Technology Zone business incentive program launched by the city in 2000.
- Community and Connectedness
Nearly 30% of the city’s residents walk to work: short commutes mean less stressed workers, and longer, more productive work days.
The Charlottesville region is popular with entrepreneurs and tech professionals because of its “small-town feel combined with an abundance of savvy people.” Because of Charlottesville’s small town vibe and strong sense of community, it’s a whole lot easier to connect with all the right people– whether that’s fellow tech companies, new employees, or your next client. Some of the best connections are made at concerts or festivals, casually over a beer or coffee on the downtown mall, or at a tech meetup.
If you’re not interacting with Charlottesville’s local tech scene organically, you can be sure to find what you’re looking for at one of the city’s many tech meet-ups. The diverse technical community offers something for everyone.
CBIC has spent nearly 20 years (since 1997) fostering the tech and innovation community in the area and offers 2 monthly meet-ups:
- #CvilleTechOnTap is held on second Tuesdays, 5-7 pm, at various favorite watering holes around town.
- Charlottesville Entrepreneurs and Espresso is held on third Tuesdays, 8-10 am at the Darden i.Lab in partnership with CBIC and the Community Investment Collaborative.
Finally, there are annual events including:
- CBIC’s annual awards gala featuring Innovators Row – a showcase of startups and up-and-rising tech stars and
- Tom Tom Founders Festival – a week long celebration of art, music and innovation, which brings tech innovators from across the country to Charlottesville each spring.
Listen to my interview with WINA’s Les Sinclair for a complete update about Charlottesville’s tech scene. And get looped in on what’s happening in Charlottesville’s expanding tech and startup community:
- Subscribe to CBIC’s opt-in newsletter
- Text CVILLETECH to #22828
- Follow the action @CBICouncil and CvilleBIC on Facebook.
The Charlottesville Business Innovation Council enhances, publicizes, and champions technology initiatives that strengthen economic and social vitality in our area. By encouraging and growing companies that support our region’s economy, CBIC – and other like-minded groups – are building Charlottesville into a world-class tech hub and entrepreneurial ecosystem.