TechPad member, Risa Pesapane has written another entry on her coworking experience. She points out how the workplace is changing and along with it the way we think about entrepreneurship and innovation. On beanbags being used during business meetings, Risa has this to say, "The key to success often lies in being edgy, dynamic, original and innovative. It doesn’t matter where or how you sit, it only matters what you create. " The article is great and you should definitely check it out on Handshake 2.0.
We are pleased to announce that Senator Mark Warner has selected Blacksburg and TechPad as the location for his series on crowdfunding. This event from 5:30-7 on 11/29 will be a panel and community discussion on an important source of capital for our growing start ups. Crowdfunding enables more people to invest in start-ups and represents a significant change in funding strategies. Come learn more. RSVP.
Update: Mark will be joining via video teleconference.
VirtualU is a company that arose from unique friendships and inside jokes. Together they plan to use body scanning and three-dimensional modeling to completely change online shopping. Today, only 10% of apparel shopping happens online and of that 40% is returned. The VirtualU team has recognized this and has created a user experience, that they believe will increase consumer confidence and mitigate return risks.
It begins the moment a customer walks into the dressing room of a partnering clothing company. Branded as a “Virtual U Style Center” these dressing rooms would be outfitted with a full body scanning system and a simple touch screen panel. After creating an account the user would simply stand still in their underwear for 10 seconds and in the time it takes them to get dressed the program will create a 3D rendering that the customer can use in a couple of ways. With their tablet a user can drag and drop clothing to see how it looks on their 3D model. And if they decide to head home for the day, the user can log on to the VirtualU site, see their personalized size recommendations and then have items shipped directly to their home. “Imagine a day when you don’t buy a shirt online without using VirtualU’s technology,” challenges the company’s CEO Louis Cirillo, “Or imagine stepping into a store and not immediately being tempted to pull out your phone to see what fits you.”
For Chief Marketing Officer, Nick Gagianas its all about that final moment when the customer gets their order in the mail. Whenever they put the garment on the customer should think, “Damn, that’s everything I thought it would be.”
But as the company’s COO, Caroline Pugh, points out, “Its not just confidence its also efficiency.” Louis’ aunt, a cancer survivor, was thrilled when she heard her nephew was working on this technology. A program like VirtualU would mean she no longer had to spend a day out shopping just to come home exhausted and often disappointed. She could instead use her iPad to see exactly how the clothes would fit her. After these profound moments Caroline has been left thinking, “This is something a lot bigger than we thought that it was.”
Currently, the team is nearing early product launch and already getting plenty of attention. VirtualU’s business pitch won first prize at Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council’s Small Bucks Big Bang. They also placed in the top 20 of 600 teams that competed globally in Fortify VC’s Distilled Intelligence 2.0.
VirtualU joined TechPad in May. Since then there have been many late nights spent programming and practicing pitches while taking intermittent naps on bean bags. The team said that getting office space was a big milestone for them. Nick said that after moving into TechPad, “It all started to feel real.”
Risa Pesapane is an outdoor enthusiast and one of the newest members of TechPad. She has been here working on her startup, Rural System, Inc., for about a month. In that time we have enjoyed stories about her African adventures and the photographic evidence hanging over her desk. Recently, she wrote an article about her entry into the coworking world. Read about her experience so far: http://www.handshake20.com/2012/11/coworking-simmering-in-an-interdisciplinary-pot.html
Thanks to everyone who contributed to this article on TechPad which was featured in the Sunday edition. Front page of the business section rarely gets this kind of attention from our start-up community.
Braden Croy’s entrepreneurial endeavors began at an early age. His first toy was a red and gray cash register and as a child he found several creative ways to keep it full. When he was 5 years old, Braden would pick vegetables out of his family’s garden only to sell them back to his parents. “I have always had this idea of making money,” he says. Today, Braden is the CEO of Pivotal Testing as well as a proud member of TechPad.
Pivotal Testing was born when Braden needed an idea to pitch at Blacksburg Startup Weekend. He told himself, “I am just going to pitch this idea and see what happens.” Within just a few days, Braden and his team built a demo, conducted market research, and went on to take second place at Startup Weekend. Five days later Braden’s team won $1,000 after pitching their idea at “Small Bucks, Big Bang!” an event hosted by the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council. After gaining so much momentum in less than a month Braden, who had previously been working on another startup, decided to move forward with Pivotal Testing and leave his other projects behind.
Pivotal Testing is a program that allows teachers to choose from preformatted questions types and create tests that students can take from their cell phones or other touch screen interfaces. Braden’s vision behind Pivotal Testing, was to empower teachers and allow them to create Technology Enhanced Assessments with a platform that is “sleek, beautiful and easy to use.” With competitors like Blackboard and Scholar already providing similar products, Braden wanted to introduce a system that focused on more than a student’s ability to memorize information. Pivotal Testing does this by getting rid of traditional testing styles like multiple choice and true - false and requires students to interact with problems. Teachers are able to test conceptual understanding with questions that ask students to perform tasks like pointing to specific bones on a skeleton, drawing diagrams, or building molecules. The program also gathers and compiles data based on the performance of test takers. This information can then be used to refine teaching skills and see where lectures are lacking. Lead Developer Hayden Lee summarizes the company’s approach by saying, “We’re getting rid of the fluff and actually interacting with the content.”
Before coming to TechPad in August Braden was working on his startup from his bedroom. Since then he has realized the benefits of coworking and seen the vital role that it can play in growing a business and a community. “You can incubate, get ideas going, and then eventually once you need more space you can launch out into the community where you will actually be driving the local economy”.
Pivotal Testing is one of seven Blacksburg based companies that competed in Distilled Intelligence 2.0. One hundred startups pitched their ideas in hopes of winning investment money from Fortify V.C., a venture capital company co-founded by Hokie alum Jonathan Perrelli. Their presence in the competition makes it clear that entrepreneurship is on the rise in Blacksburg. And with all seven companies having worked out of TechPad our hope is that like Braden other members of the Blacksburg community will consider TechPad to be, “that single location where you know entrepreneurs gather”