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VT Alumnus Headlines In-person RBTC TechNite

VT alumnus Michael Rihani, a former product manager at Apple and current product manager at Tesla, will be the keynote speaker at Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council’s annual awards ceremony, TechNite.

The celebration of the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC) will be in-person and outdoors on August 26 on the grounds of The Inn at Virginia Tech. TechNite provides an opportunity both to network with more than 300 leaders in business and innovation and to recognize the accomplishments of RBTC members.

“Everyone is looking forward to gathering together again,” said Erin Burcham, Executive Director of the RBTC. “For our organization, it is all about celebrating the hard work of the past few years, those leaders who have excelled during challenging times, and the growth of technology in the region. We know that talent attracts talent, so having all these great minds will definitely draw interest from those who are interested in relocating to our area.”
TechNite is a highlight of the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center’s “Game Changer Week,” which brings together industry disruptors through a variety of events held virtually and in-person across the region.

At TechNite, the Corporate Research Center will present the first ever People’s Choice Award. Other awards include:

Rising Star of the Year, which recognizes a local technology company whose “star is rising.” Finalists: Micro Harmonics, Ticket Spicket, and Corvus Labs.Entrepreneur of the Year, which recognizes a leader who exemplifies what it means to be a risk-taker in the technology field. Finalists: Rob Gourdie, Sonu Singh, and Mickey Cowden.

Innovator of the Year, which recognizes an individual, a team, or an organization that has blazed new trails in the areas of research and innovation. Finalists: Daniel Smith and Matt Welborn, Entos, Inc.; David Porterfield, Micro Harmonics; and Delta Dental.

Regional Leadership Award, which recognizes a member who succeeds in the workplace, but also leads by example by contributing significantly to the RBTC community. Finalists: Amy Ankrum, John Provo, and Amy White.

Company of the Year, which recognizes a Roanoke or New River Valley company that is committed to advancing our region’s technology community and is able to demonstrate excellence in its people, programs, and projects within its industry. Finalists: FoxGuard, Landos Biopharma, and KlariVis.

RBTC will also present the Ruby Award to an outstanding member that has proven to be a brilliant and valuable asset to the Roanoke-Blacksburg region. We will induct one member into the RBTC Hall of Fame.

RBTC is an affiliate of Verge, a collaborative strategic alliance established to grow the region’s innovation economy. To learn more, visit

About Michael Rihani A 2008 graduate of Virginia Tech with a business information technology degree, Rihani co-founded in Blacksburg, which became the second largest social network on many college campuses, just behind Facebook. Koofers was acquired in 2020 by a larger EdTech company. At Apple, Rihani helped launch Apple Pay on the web, Apple Cash, and Apple Card.

Passionate about sustainable energy, autonomous vehicles, bitcoin, and, according to his LinkedIn profile, “delivering happiness,” Rihani today leads the Supercharger User Experience team at Tesla. He currently lives and works in Palo Alto, Calif.


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