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Virginia Tech study expected to measure region's growth in entrepreneurship

April 11, 2016

Khaled Hussein, co-founder of Tilt

Khaled Hussein, co-founder of Tilt, with Tilt sign
Khaled Hussein is co-founder and chief technology officer of California-based technology company Tilt, which opened an office in Blacksburg last year. Hussein and seven other employees are Virginia Tech alums.

Building on efforts to foster entrepreneurship in the region, Virginia Tech’s Office of Economic Development will spend the next six months measuring progress and exploring issues raised in the 2013 Regional Innovation Blueprint.

Business and civic leaders created the blueprint in 2013. It was designed to promote jobs and entrepreneurship by connecting assets in the Roanoke and Blacksburg regions.

Funded by a $43,000 grant from the Kauffman Foundation, which underwrites research to create entrepreneurial ecosystem assessment tools, the study will:

  • Describe the region's entrepreneurial economic climate;
  • Develop a set of progress-measuring metrics, such as number of small businesses per total population, total venture capital, or number of annual start-ups versus closures in the region;
  • Explore the implications of two types of entrepreneurs in the region – tech-focused entrepreneurs who look to global markets and the "quality of life" entrepreneurs who provide services to regional consumers.

 “Our region is on the cusp of a transition where sectors including medicine, education, agribusiness, and technology are all becoming part of the entrepreneurial economy," said John Provo, director of the Office of Economic Development. "Our study aims to provide insight into how our region can grow and thrive in the new economy.”

The study will include surveys and – with help from the Virginia Tech Discovery Analytics Center – an analysis of entrepreneurs' social-media use.

"It hopefully will tell us where we're at today and will let us measure any progress we've made since the Innovation Blueprint,” said Jonathan Whitt, president and CEO of the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council.

Maggie Cowell, assistant professor in the School of Public and International Affairs in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, National Capital Region, will work with Sarah Lyon-Hill, economic development specialist, on the study, which is expected to be completed by September.

"If the region aspires to be among the best places to start and operate a flourishing business, then this project will help track progress toward that goal,” Lyon-Hill says.

Data collected is expected to be of use to regional planners, local economic developers, and entrepreneurs. The Office of Economic Development is part of Outreach and International Affairs.

Any entrepreneur is invited to participate in the ecosystem survey. For more information about the study, please contact Sarah Lyon-Hill, 540-231-9940.

Erica Corder, a senior from Newport News, Virginia, majoring in political science and English in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, contributed to this report.

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