From Inside Business By

Dan Bell was among Hampton Roads’ biggest cheerleaders.

And like most cheerleaders, he was well known for his smile, positive attitude and boundless energy. The leader, visionary and vice chairman of nonprofit Innovate Hampton Roads died on Aug. 18. He was 70 years old.

Paul Hirschbiel, chairman of Innovate Hampton Roads, called Bell “the center of our universe” in terms of the region’s technology and innovation ecosystem.

“We’re going to carry on strong in his honor and his memory and make sure we continue to diversify our economy and build our ecosystem,” Hirschbiel said.

A retired computer industry executive, Bell used his experience and knowledge to help others by starting the Hampton Roads Business Education Collaborative and Chesapeake Technology Business Consortium.

Bell had led the Hampton Roads Innovation Collaborative, a 2016 re-launch of the Hampton Roads Technology Council that had formed in the late 1990s to advance tech businesses in the region. He was instrumental in merging the organization with StartWheel in May to create one force — Innovate Hampton Roads.

It was easy to see, by Bell’s longstanding work in the community, that he wanted to tout all the advantages in the region for entrepreneurs and startups, including its culture, climate, technology access, science and academic communities. Bell wanted to shine a positive light on Hampton Roads for regional innovation, collaboration, development and economic strength.

Bell was known for convening stakeholders and sparking connections through his Tech Tuesdays monthly meetups and Innovate Hampton Roads’ Venture Out (previously Bizwheel expos).

Michael Kuhns, former president of the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, remembers his best friend as tenacious in his drive to create regional collaboration.

“The typical parochial hurdles were just bumps in the road for Dan. He never got discouraged,” Kuhns said, noting Bell worked under the radar and never sought recognition.

Tim Ryan, executive director of Innovate Hampton Roads, said that anyone who had the privilege to work with Bell knew how much he cared about the success and future of the region.

“Dan gave his all to help propel our region forward and he wasn’t afraid to challenge anyone in doing so,” Ryan said, noting that was one of the many lessons Bell taught him. “We will work extremely hard to keep his vision moving forward.”

Kevin Daisey, founder of Array Digital, said in a Facebook post that he was lucky to serve on the board of Innovate Hampton Roads alongside Bell from its inception. Calling Bell a great man, friend and mentor, Daisey said he will be greatly missed.

“Dan was a driver, a man that got things done when it came to an initiative we all supported,” he said. “He was the workhorse of our organization (HRIC) and he would charge ahead no matter what challenges we faced and he would drag us along with him.”

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Bell came to the region in the early 2000s and embraced it from the start. Bell relocated to the region to work for Canon Information Technologies in Chesapeake, working his way up to president before retirement in 2011.

He began his career with world-class companies including Honeywell and Xerox. He honed his skills in the high-tech field before moving up the ladder in corporate America.

In 1982, he was employee No. 2,734 for a then-fledgling company known as Apple Computer. Bell shared in a November 2022 episode of the “Fervent Four Show,” a weekly podcast with Ryan and Zack Miller, that he was one of the company’s original employees working under Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. He later became global vice president of consumer product support for U.S. Robotics (acquired by 3Com).

A self-proclaimed “ladder type of guy” who reflected on his career run as a good one, Bell penned “Rungs Not Wrongs: Steps for Your Career Ladder” during the pandemic.

A mentor to many, including students, exiting military, family, friends and colleagues, Bell stressed that everyone’s journey up life’s mountains is a unique climb.

Bell served the community in countless ways throughout his life, including volunteering with the Chesapeake Public Library Foundation; Future of Hampton Roads; Civic Leadership Institute; Virginia Supportive Housing; Chesapeake Alliance; and Chesapeake Economic Development Authority.

Bell leaves behind his wife, Patty, two daughters and four grandchildren.

Brad Scott, chairman emeritus of Hampton Roads Innovation Collaborative, said he has lost a close friend and a mentor while the community has lost an absolute selfless leader.

“He wanted to leave Hampton Roads a better place, and I know he did,” Scott said.

Sandra J. Pennecke, 757-652-5836,


Thank you, Sandra and Inside Business for honoring Dan with this thoughtful article.  ~ Tim