Pictured above: (from the left) Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, Steve Case, Bob Summers, and Secretary of Technology Jim Duffey
Bob Summers has spent the past ten years building global Internet product companies and catalyzing the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in southwest Virginia. He is motivated by the premise that to be successful requires contributing to his community. The result is active involvement with groups that are essential resources for entrepreneurs: alumni advisor to the Virginia Tech Entrepreneur Club, board member of RBTC, co-chairman of Access to Capital Committee, founder of 460 Angels and director of TechPad (which has helped over 3 dozen startups). Mr. Summers is an alumni of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Virginia Tech and MIT. When not focused on software code you can find Bob running marathons with his wife Teggin or playing with his two boys.
CIT: Tell us about your current venture.
Bob: KinectHealth is an online fitness studio featuring real-time biometric feedback using any mobile webcam. Real-time data exchange with peers and a fitness trainer enable a social fitness experience which increases motivation for successful goal progression. A product which will improve the health of millions and put Bob back into bit-making. He learned C# and XAML on Windows 8 to build the first version of the app in less than 30 days. An accomplishment which earned it the champion of the Windows Startup Challenge and funding awards from Mozilla Foundation/US Ignite. Designated as an ‘app of the future’, KinectHealth has been featured by TechCrunch, VentureBeat, DEMO, Roanoke Times and WSLS/NBC.
Bob Summers giving a demo presentation for KinectHealth
CIT: What advice would you give an aspiring entrepreneur?
Bob: Learn to code. Every entrepreneur can benefit from understanding the fundamentals of software programming. The abundance of online resources make it free and easy to learn to build interactive website and mobile apps. Understanding the fundamentals can help you communicate with your team and increase the chance your dream becomes a reality. It is an exciting time for entrepreneurs with low cost to grow and global markets open to you.
CIT: What events/meetup groups are essential for startups?
Bob: A monthly rhythm for the community is essential to build momentum, increase the network and build density within the startup community. We have seen this in Blacksburg where a monthly Pitch clinic has created a cohort of over 100 startups which have received quality advice resulting in successful outcomes. StartupBlacksburg is holding regular open coffee meet-ups and working towards more events for networking and knowledge sharing.
CIT: How important is collaboration and knowledge sharing to you?
Bob: Collaboration and openness has such a high priority that I started TechPad: an open 6,000 square foot space above a downtown bar where startups are born, collaborate and grow. Without walls the amount of information exchange, adhoc meetings and creative brainstorming increases dramatically. Chance intersections with other bright people have resulted in significant ideas with real returns in efficiency and revenue.
CIT: What makes your city’s tech scene unique?
Bob: Blacksburg has two unique qualities which make it ideal for our tech companies: density and bootstrapping. The network of people is tight and active so that when there is an event most people make it out. When we hosted Startup Virginia, Crowdfunding with Mark Warner and the Hokie Health code-a-thon, the community responded with high turn-out and engagement. High quality of life and low cost of living have enabled our startups to successfully build global product companies without outside capital. I think this comes from our Appalachian roots: flourishing in the face of limited resources and harsh conditions. It is a community where a $50m company can be started with a $5k advance on a credit card.
Bob Summers at the Hokie Health code-a-thon
CIT: What are your thoughts on fiber and the future of the internet?
Bob: I am with Steve Case who recently commented to Fox News that the second coming of the Internet is upon us and it will be greater than the previous one. In this new world the limits of compute and bandwidth capacity are so cheap they are effectively limitless to an entrepreneur. It is this environment which Education, Energy and Health problems will be solved by our next generation of entrepreneurs. Our communities investment into fiber and gigabit infrastructure will create the foundation for these entrepreneurs to build these solutions here in Blacksburg and the Commonwealth. Virginia was at the center of the first Internet revolution and it will be again. Economics, entrepreneurs and infrastructure are on our side to be the big winner. Visit TechPad for more info.
Chief Geek, Friendeo