The Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business has accepted a record 26 ventures, in such fields as medicine, technology, fashion, the arts, new media and social entrepreneurship, into the 2014 W.L. Lyons Brown III Innovation Laboratory (i.Lab) incubator, better known as “i.Lab.”
The i.Lab is a University-wide initiative, housed at the Darden School, that includes an incubator supporting early-stage business ventures from U.Va. and the Charlottesville community.
The 2014 cohort is the largest in the 14-year history of the incubator program. Chosen from 47 applications, the ventures include 14 founded by Darden students; six started by current U.Va. students, faculty members or recent U.Va. graduates; and six created by members of the Charlottesville community.
The final spot will go to the winner of the Crowdfunded Pitch Night, which kicks off the Tom Tom Founders Festival, a five-day celebration of music, art and innovation in downtown Charlottesville, sponsored by Darden’s Batten Institute. At the Pitch Night event, to be held April 9 at The Haven, the contestants will have three minutes to sell their business ideas to the crowd, which will then vote on a winner.
The i.Lab incubator provides participating ventures with a $5,000 grant, office space, mentoring support, networking opportunities with local entrepreneurs and investors, and access to legal, accounting and technological expertise. The program consists of a 10-week summer accelerator followed by a one-year residency, during which participants develop and refine their business ideas and participate in a community of fellow entrepreneurs.
Kathryne Carr, a venture capitalist and longtime mentor of early-stage businesses, directs the incubator program.
“The 2014 i.Lab incubator class represents some of the best and brightest ideas from Darden, U.Va. and Charlottesville,” said Philippe Sommer, director of Darden’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and of the i.Lab. “We’re excited to bring together such a talented and diverse group of businesses. The i.Lab incubator gives aspiring entrepreneurs the knowledge, support and community they need to take their ventures to the next level, and we’re thrilled to provide this program to our students as well as the broader U.Va. and Charlottesville communities.”
Participants share the enthusiasm surrounding this opportunity. “We’re excited about the expertise of the mentors and alumni associated with the incubator,” said Darden second-year student Ares Manos, whose venture, K2 Dental Arts, was chosen for the 2014 class. “Wisdom on how to grow our business the right way will be invaluable.”
Darden has been home to a business incubator since 2000. The i.Lab, established in 2010, was renovated and reintroduced in 2013 as the W.L. Lyons Brown III Innovation Laboratory (i.Lab) – a collaborative endeavor among all 11 schools at U.Va., the Provost’s Office and UVA Innovation.
The ventures in the 2014 cohort represent industries such as medicine, technology, fashion, the arts, new media and social entrepreneurship.
Among this year’s ventures:
- K2 Dental Arts was founded by Darden second-year students Philip Kim, Ares Manos and Dwight Emerine and helps dentists adopt the latest digital oral scanning technology for use in the manufacture of crowns and other restorations.
- Revamp Labs was created by Darden first-year student Kris Subhash and provides digital marketing solutions for local businesses. The company’s core product is Virginia Vinehopper, a mobile app that serves as a guide to Virginia’s wineries, breweries, cideries and distilleries, and offers a mobile marketing platform for those businesses.
- MapLab was founded by community members Madeleine Hawks and Matthew Slaats and offers specialized tools, scientific expertise and research capabilities to help clients create striking visual representations that clarify strategic initiatives, present arguments and publish information for the common good.
- Fluensi, conceived by U.Va. undergraduates, Aakash Shah, John MacLaughlin and Nicole Abba, offers a variety of learning tools, including immersive language-learning software that simulates the experience of living in a foreign country. The company’s Web, mobile and Google Glass applications will work together to provide a superior learning approach.
Among the many success stories from previous incubator classes are:
- Green Powered Technology was founded by 2011 Darden alumnus Phillip Green and recently honored as a White House Champion of Change. It provides sustainable, cost-effective energy solutions to governmental, commercial and energy-impoverished clients.
- Husk Power Systems is a venture cofounded by 2009 Darden alumni Manoj Sinha and Chip Ransler that provides electricity to rural India and was awarded the prestigious 2011 Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy in the international category. Husk Power Systems designs, installs and operates biomass-based power plants, creating a better-quality, cheaper way to provide electricity to more than 200,000 people in rural India.
- hotelicopter is a global hotel search and direct connect platform founded by 2005 Darden alumni Adam Healey and Charles Seilheimer, acquired by Room Key in 2011. The hotelicopter platform connected more than 160,000 hotels to hundreds of sites and millions of travelers.