This year, Blacksburg was ranked No. 32 for the Best Small Place for Business and Careers in Forbes Magazine. With a look at the growing number of technology based businesses that have made Blacksburg their home over the past year, it’s unsurprising that Mayor Ron Rordam has declared Blacksburg, “a new hub for tech-based entrepreneurship.”
Among the technology-based companies calling Blacksburg home, some originated here with Tech alumni at the helm, while others simply saw the promise in Blacksburg’s supportive community.
Business in Blacksburg
One of the standouts of Blacksburg’s growth is Modea, a digital advertising agency currently headquartered Downtown.
Founders David Catalano and Aaron Herrington, both alumi of Pamplin’s finance program at Virginia Tech, started Modea six years ago. The company provides customers with detailed research analysis to create and manage media plans.
In 2011, Modea earned $5.9 million dollars in revenue, with 624 percent business growth over the past five years.
Modea is also expanding locally. The agency decided in March 2011 to take over part of the site of the former Blacksburg Middle School with a $10 million headquarters. The company intends to add 200 jobs in the next five years, stretching their current level of employees from 75 to nearly 300 by 2015.
Modea isn’t the only company with origins in Blacksburg.
A small, rapidly growing social media company formerly known as Lujure Media, Inc., Heyo announced it will be expanding its enterprise into Blacksburg. The expansion comes in the form of a $100,000 investment, with an estimation of 50 jobs to be created over the next two years.
Creator Nathan Latka is an alumnus of Tech’s Pamplin School of Business. Technical co-founders Josh Gunter and Brian Putt started the company in 2010, and have since received over $550,000 in funding.
Building on Lujure’s initial success, Heyo has had more than 100,000 businesses use its application to make more than 120,000 fan pages, sites and apps.
Their decision to operate and create new jobs in Blacksburg has received immediate praise from Gov. Bob McDonnell.
“This student-founded company was born in a spare room in Blacksburg nearly two years ago, and has taken off,” he said in a press release last month. “It is gratifying to see these innovators in our commonwealth bring an idea to fruition that results in venture capital flowing into Blacksburg.”
However, not all of the business seeking expansion in Blacksburg have been "home-grown."
Texas-based open cloud company Rackspace opened office at the University Mall earlier this year. The company is an IT hosting company where employees, called “rackers”, help companies handle and fix technology problems.
Named 92 out of 100 in Fortune magazines top 100 companies to work for in 2011, the Blacksburg division of Rackspace is already planning an expansion. All the options keep the company in Blacksburg.
While it isn't easy to pinpoint why Blacksburg has become a flourishing site for technology companies, the resources available for young entrepreneurs are a primary factor in the town’s success.
Tech’s Corporate Research Center has helped to create relationships between it’s member companies and Tech students, as well as create companies with technology developed by Tech students through their incubator program, VT Knowledge Works.
Among its successful beneficiaries was Koofers, Inc., a technology startup incepted from the ideas of three Tech grads.
“We launched (Koofers) in fall 2006, and joined VT Knowledge Works in spring 2007,” said Patrick Gartlan, the current CTO of Koofers. “They were an incubator to help get startups going, give guidance and offer office space. It was a great place to bounce ideas and get feedback.”
Gartlan and his company have continued their success with Koofers, with a headquarters in Reston and an office in Blacksburg.
The CRC houses over 125 research, technology and support companies, located within the 120-acre park adjacent to campus. It has functioned as a subsidiary of the Virginia Tech Foundation, catering to high-tech companies and collaborating withTech to, according to their mission statement, “advance the research, educational and technology transfer missions of VT.”