Inaugural Jefferson Innovation Summit at UVA - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Inaugural Jefferson Innovation Summit at UVA

Posted: Updated: Oct 12, 2011 12:13 AM EDT

Tuesday, CEOs from some of the nation's fastest-growing companies were mixing and mingling with policymakers and educators at the University of Virginia.  They're taking part in a first of its kind summit to inspire business innovation that could turn our economy around.

The summit's delegates held an invitation-only roundtable discussion at the rotunda - hosted by cable business network CNBC.  It's lights, camera, action with an international TV audience tuned in to innovation.

"That's what the conversation's about," said CNBC "Power Lunch" Co-Anchor Tyler Mathisen.

CNBC broadcast Tuesday's "Power Lunch" live from in front of the UVA rotunda for the inaugural Jefferson Innovation Summit.

Mathisen stated, "It's not so much where do we find the next Steve Jobs, but how do we create an ecosystem and environment in which the next Steve Jobs could thrive, blossom, and grow."

The cable business network is partnering with UVA's Darden School of Business to debate and develop ideas that inspire, and support new entrepreneurs to turn around a sinking economy.

"I think this is the ideal time to be having this particular conversation about how to drive growth through entrepreneurship and innovation," said Sean Carr with UVA Darden School.

The summit hosts 60 delegates, from Google and General Motors executives to a White House adviser and a farmer.  They all circled around a table under the dome room of the rotunda for a real-time, interactive dialogue Tuesday afternoon.

Mathisen pitched hypothetical business ideas to a team of role play financiers to find out how they'd fund a start-up.

Saras Sarasvathy, a Darden School professor, stated, "Think through somebody who will work with us - for whom it is worthwhile to make the investment."

And how they'd overcome government regulations.  "In the US, we have a lot of constellations that are actually lined up right," said Edison2 Founder Oliver Kuttner.

This conversation is reaching beyond the rotunda, speaking to the Charlottesville community.

Avery Chenoweth, a Charlottesville author, said, "We need access to UVA's faculty and have UVA release the faculty to create start-ups based on their ideas.  That's beginning now.

And begin an entrepreneurial boom based in central Virginia.  "This needs to be the beginning of something great," Carr said.

A panel discussion with several central Virginia entrepreneurs was also open to the public Tuesday night.  A group of Charlottesville's top moneymakers and movers & shakers shared some valuable insight with students and the community.

Relay Foods has its roots in the city, and has seen its deliveries double time and time again.  "It's a very supportive community, both for local food and for innovation, so it's been a fantastic place for us to get started," said Relay Foods Founder/CEO Zach Buckner.

There's not only lots of customers, but lots of potential employees too.  Buckner stated, "There's no shortage of very talented people to take part in the business."

Relay Foods was just one moneymaker sitting on Tuesday night's panel at UVA's Darden School.  The Jefferson Innovation Summit invited the group to give its take on entrepreneurship.

Edison2 got most of its start-up cash from Charlottesville investors, but moved south to get closer to car manufacturers.  After winning the X Prize competition for their very lightweight model, the company didn't give up on making cars.

"A lot of believers in our approach for efficiency, a lot of believers in the way we go about designing the vehicles," said Edison2 Director of Research & Development Brad Jaeger.

Then there was CLAW USA Executive Director Jennifer Hoyt Tidwell - the head of the lone nonprofit and the mastermind behind what is now an entire league of female arm wrestlers.  The group is part theater, part charity, part brute strength and all Charlottesville innovation.

"As soon as something new comes along, there's a lot of excitement and support for that and the city is the right size to get the word out pretty quickly," Tidwell said.

Other panelists Tuesday evening included a life vest inventor and a Washington D.C. based handbag designer. 

The summit continues Wednesday for the delegates.  They'll develop a declaration of innovation with ideas to create a society of entrepreneurs.

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