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?

  1.    Jobs

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:

Inc 500 honorees: WillowTree, GovSmart, Marketing Mojo and Silverchair Information Systems

Successfully funded startups include:

Many tech firms have made Charlottesville their home base, even those with an impressive regional, national and global reach including:

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.

  1.    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.

  1.    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. 

  1.    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.

  1.    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.

  1.    Meetups

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:

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:

About CBIC

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.

About the Author
Tracey Greene
Author: Tracey GreeneWebsite:
Executive Director, Charlottesville Business Innovation Council and Charlottesville Angel Network
Tracey's passion for igniting the Charlottesville area’s entrepreneurial and high-tech community is evident by her extensive volunteer roles over the past 15 years, coupled with her current roles as Executive Director of CBIC and the Charlottesville Angel Network, which she founded in 2015. Tracey has served for more than 25 years in sectors including biotechnology, start-ups, trade association and non-profit management delivering results in a variety of roles –communications, public relations, marketing, legal, fundraising, investor relations, technology training, operations, conference and event management, leadership development, and more. Tracey’s enthusiastic community building stimulates personal and group excellence. She is probably best known as an influential connector who seemingly knows everyone and inspires thoughts into action.