Charlottesville’s tech community is on the rise. If you’ve ever stopped by this small Virginia town you will have heard of its many accolades: happiest town in America, best place to live in the country, best college town (and the list goes on). But what you might not have known is that Charlottesville is quickly becoming 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.
Having spent time mingling with over 50 of the city’s most exciting tech firms at the Tom Tom Founders Festival, we’ve put together a list of 5 things that make Charlottesville a great home for tech. Here goes:
1. University of Virginia
You can’t have a list about things that make Charlottesville great without including the University of Virginia, brainchild of Thomas Jefferson, and one of the best public schools in the nation. But we’re not including The University just for window dressing. UVA brings tremendous cultural, creative and scientific resources to Charlottesville. And many of the region's most successful start-ups, including Global Cell Solutions and PsiKick got their start here.
Plus, 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 the University has upped its tech credentials with the addition of the Batten School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and the UVA Darden Business School’s i.Lab. Both have provided a university community that celebrates and fosters tech growth in the city.
The tech sector is the 4th largest industry in Charlottesville, encompassing 10% of the city’s job market, and accounting for over 7400 jobs in the region. On average employees in the city’s tech sector make $74,117 – almost 50% higher than the city average. And despite the city’s small size, employees won’t be starved for choice: there are over 130 tech firms based in the city. From national players like Rimm-Kaufman (recently acquired by Merkle) and SNL Financial (now part of McGraw-Hill), to Inc 500 honorees WillowTree Apps, GovSmart, Search Mojo and Silverchair, to successfully funded startups Borrowed & Blue, ArcheMedx and Relay Foods. Check out the guest list from last weekend's Tech Mixer for an idea of just how many tech firms have made Cville their home base.
3. 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. Even 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 program launched by the city in 2000. An added bonus? Nearly 30% of the city’s residents walk to work: short commutes mean less stressed workers, and longer, more productive work days.
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. We’ve made some of our best connections at a concert over a beer – and as a result we’ve been lucky enough to work with some of Charlottesville’s best exports like acac and Starr Hill Brewery. It helps that Charlottesville is also home to some impressive regional, national and global companies – SNL Financial, HelioSage (now Coronal Development), Maternity Neighborhood, Crutchfield, PsiKick, SciTent, Relay Foods – whose founders you’re just as likely to bump into hanging out around town as you are at your next business meeting.
If you’re not running into 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. From the 450-member strong Neon Guild, to Austin transplant, Café Bedouins, or Charlottesville Women in Tech – the diverse technical community offers something for everyone. The Charlottesville Business and Innovation council has also spent over 15 years fostering the tech and innovation community in the area – and offers 2 monthly meet-ups – Charlottesville Entrepreneurs and Espresso and #CvilleTechOnTap. Finally, there’s the Tom Tom Founders Festival – a weeklong celebration of art, music and innovation, which brings tech innovators from across the country to Charlottesville each spring…and we’re not just fans cause we built their website.