Downtown Blacksburg is known for the local bars, restaurants and shops, but starting this summer, it is also the home of new entrepreneurial offices.
The offices of TechPad are to be located right above PK’s Bar and Grill, serving as a co-working space for those with an idea and no place to go.
As founder Bob Summers described it, TechPad is “a community of like-minded people in a convenient location.”
When Summers began TechPad in January, it was originally named Blacksburg Innovation Center, but Summers changed the name to better capture the goal of the company.
“It’s a fun place to work and learn, pad is a laid back type of place, and tech to focus around technology products. Companies that are software oriented for social, mobile are typical kind of companies that are here,” Summers said.
Summers was in search of a job himself when a friend from his undergraduate days at Virginia Tech reached out to help him start his business.
Mike Whaley, owner of PK’s and Top of the Stairs, offered Summers the 6,000 square feet of office space upstairs to start his own business. Within that 6,000 square feet there are two conference rooms, four private suites, broadband internet, and lots of open space members can all use starting as little as $60 a month.
Summers said he now has a sole interest in helping student entrepreneurs get their own start.
TechPad will also offer help from a local angel investment group, 460 Angels, who are 33 investors that provide capital as well as mentoring to the new companies to help them grow.
Although TechPad is still in its early stages, there are already 12 different member companies, all of which heard about the company through word of mouth.
Marek Zareba, a recent Tech graduate, is a member of TechPad working on launching his company Engagn.
Engagn is a software that helps businesses connect to their
customers via mobile sharing, a simple scan from your smart phone will take you to a website the Engagn developers created, on which you will find different information about the business, especially helpful if you have never been.
For now, PK’s Bar and Grill is the only business which uses Engagn, but Zareba is working with Sharkey’s next.
“Our team needed an office to meet, we now have employees and being so close to campus attracted us,” Zareba said.
“In the early stages [of starting a business] you are really careful of how you spend your money and this is a great deal.”
Zareba works for the university so his hours at TechPad usually start in the afternoon and continues through the wee hours of the night. TechPad is open 24 hours, 7 days a week.
For Tech gradutate Michael Rihani the story is different.
During his time as a student, he and his friends made history in their dorm rooms by founding the popular campus information sharing website Koofers.
“[TechPad] didn’t exist when I was here four years ago, and I would have loved coming here,” Rihani said. “This would be the first place I would have come because we just had to work in our dorms, we didn’t have a place. You have a space here to bring people and use the conference rooms, as well as a big advantage of working with everyone else. We can bounce ideas off of each other as well as receive mentoring from someone as experienced as Bob. There are a lot of cool companies in here and you bounce off ideas and get in touch with what we are building.”
Koofers headquarters are located in Reston, Va, however Rihani just moved into TechPad a
few weeks ago and will be in Blacksburg for the next three months working on campus deals, working with local businesses, the university, and most importantly, students to get their perspective about what they want from Koofers.
As Summers described it, TechPad is “a community of like-minded people in a convenient location.“