Hi-ho, Heyo, It’s Off to Blacksburg We Go!

Heyo’s three co-founders. Photo credit: TheBurgs

Yesterday I argued that the economic odds were stacked against Virginia’s smaller metropolitan areas when it came to stimulating the start-up and growth of technology businesses. Economies of scale in the knowledge economy, I suggested, favor large regions with larger, more diverse labor pools. Could I have been wrong? (What, me wrong? Never!)

This morning, Governor Bob McDonnell announced that Heyo, a fast-growing social media company formerly known as Lujure Media Inc., will expand its operation in the Town of Blacksburg. The company, which creates dashboards for managing Facebook fan pages, mobile apps and websites, aims to create 50 jobs over the next two years.

Said Jim Cheng, Secretary for Commerce and Trade: “Heyo’s innovative services and accelerated growth are further evidence that Virginia is an incubator for good ideas. … The company is dedicated to Blacksburg and Montgomery County, and has found a pool of local talent to thrive. ”

Added Heyo CEO Nathan Latka: “The close knit community makes it easy to build culture and hire top tier talent from top ranked local universities like Virginia Tech and Radford University. This has enabled us to create 16 full-time jobs with aggressive hiring plans for the coming months. As we continue to grow rapidly, it’ll be hard for Blacksburg to remain the country’s biggest secret.”

A big high-five to Heyo and Blacksburg! I would love to believe that Blacksburg, Charlottesville and other smaller Virginia metros can buck the mega-trends arrayed against them. I hate the idea of a Virginia defined by a sprawling urban crescent and a withering hinterland. But a few positive anecdotes don’t change the big picture. It will be instructive to see if Heyo can grow a large technology  enterprise in Blacksburg.


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  1. Blacksburg has the best chance to emulate the western places that attract young people.

    It’s in the mountains and has a wide variety of outdoor activities that are attractive to young folks.

    VaTech is born and bred a land grant University and ready, willing and able to deal with a changing world including online education.

    I say, let UVA be moribund. Let Richmond cling to the Past. Who cares? Give the ball to Va Tech and watch good things happen!

    The “Smart Road” is just one of several great research centers. The Veterinary College is another.

  2. DJRippert Avatar

    Best of luck to the hackers at Heyo!

    Building fan pages on Facebook is a pain and I’ve always suspected that people / companies could get a lot more out of Facebook by managing a separate fan page from their personal account.

    Who knows? Maybe James A Bacon will use Heyo’s free edition to create a fan page for BaconsRebellion on Facebook. Once he sees the value he gets from his BaconsRebellion fan page, he might even venture to the $30 / month supported (and functionally expanded) version of Heyo.

    Certainly, Peter Galuska could use Heyo to promote his new book – Thunder on the Mountain.

    Lots of good possibilities, right here on this blog!

    But … can Heyo turn Blacksburg into Santa Clara, East? Who knows? Once upon a time there was a sleepy little town in Arkansas named Bentonville …

  3. Another place to think about is James Madison. It’s near the mountains and it’s also near NoVa.

    I tend to agree that the State can assume some role on this but again I’d point out that the Ryan folks think govt should not be involved in things like this.

  4. DJRippert Avatar

    A little digging on Heyo shows perhaps the start of something in Blacksburg. Some of Heyo’s funding came from “current and former executives of Rackspace hosting” in Blacksburg, VA. Rackspace is a large Texas-based hosting company that (in 2007) bought Webmail.us – a private e-mail and apps company in … Blacksburg, Va. While I don’t know this for sure, I am guessing that the “current and former executives at Rackspace hosting” came to Rackspace through the Webmail.us acquisition.

    This is a pretty important start – a successful local company investing in other local companies.

    The next phase involves some well organized local venture capital firms. If they can raise some money for later stage investments, great. If they can attract bigger names to lead rounds in Blacksburg, even better.

  5. DJRippert Avatar

    I should have written, “executives from a successful local company investing in other local companies”. I do not believe that Rackspace invested in Heyo.

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