Saturday, April 19, 2014

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Two Alumni Companies Flourishing With Gentle Push from Darden Incubator

Two companies co-founded by recent graduates of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business have achieved significant milestones.

This fall, VividCortex secured $2 million in funding to continue its innovative work in the field of MySQL open source database management and analysis tools. 501 Auctions, developer of a platform that enables nonprofits to manage fundraising events with online auctions and mobile bidding, reached $3 million in charity transactions and was featured recently on MSNBC’s “Your Business.”

The founders of both companies credit Darden’s resources for entrepreneurs as being instrumental in their success, praising the school for providing a safe environment to develop their business plans as well as access to Darden professors and other entrepreneurship experts.

 

VividCortex

VividCortex was co-founded in August 2012 by Darden alumnus Kyle Redinger, who earned his MBA in May, and U.Va. alumnus Baron Schwartz, a software engineer and MySQL expert. At the time, Redinger was a participant in the Business Incubator of the W. L. Lyons Brown III Innovation Laboratory (i.Lab), housed at Darden’s Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Redinger previously co-founded DeParis Redinger, a technology and media consulting firm. In March of last year, Schwartz released the trade manual “High Performance MySQL.”

An emerging force in its industry, VividCortex has coined the term “Database Performance Management” to describe its revolutionary improvements to MySQL functionality. Schwartz and Redinger say that recent investments of more than $2 million from Jaffray Woodriff, Battery Ventures, CIT and angel investors will be used to bring talented engineers to its already growing staff in the U.S. and Uruguay.

“Big data will experience 300 times growth between now and 2020,” Redinger said, “and the big challenge from a people perspective is that IT budgets will only grow 5 to 10 percent per year.” VividCortex aims to help companies “manage hundreds of servers, and gain a competitive advantage by managing servers well,” he said.

The company maintains its headquarters in Charlottesville, while focusing on building infrastructure in the U.S. and abroad. Its founders describe Charlottesville as the “East Coast’s best-kept sleeper tech hub secret,” and Redinger cites the proximity of the University of Virginia as a driving factor in the entrepreneurial spirit of the community.

The entrepreneurship program at the Darden School was ranked No. 5 on The Princeton Review’s list of “Top 25 Graduate Entrepreneurship Programs for 2014.” The distinction followed this year’s expansion of the i.Lab, a University-wide initiative that serves as a nexus for entrepreneurship and innovation education at the University.

501 Auctions

501 Auctions was co-founded in the summer of 2011 by Jon Carrier, Teddy Jones and Ryal Tayloe, all of whom earned MBAs from Darden in 2012. The company was born of Carrier’s own experience planning fundraising events for Building Goodness in April, a Darden student organization that works to rehabilitate area homes. After purchasing event software that “didn’t work,” he began designing the efficient platform that evolved into 501 Auctions.

Like Redinger, Carrier spent a year in the incubator, a program that he said “gave us a huge boost and a runway for our business to take off. “ He praised the “entrepreneurial ecosystem that Darden promotes through entrepreneurship classes and alumni who want to keep in touch.” 501 Auctions’ first paying customer was a fellow Darden alumnus.

The completely self-funded venture has raised $3 million for nonprofits this year alone, and it projects revenue to reach $5 million by January. A variety of 501(c) organizations, including the Parkinson Foundation, have seen an average growth of 40 percent in their fundraising efforts since adopting 501 Auctions’ event management software.

 “As a startup, we can offer a willingness and drive to make events unique, and provide a superior level of responsiveness and customer service,” Carrier said.

501 Auctions leaders maintain that beyond its superior product, the company sets itself apart from competitors with a commitment to exceptional customer service. The team plans to expand its staff to nine people by the end of the year and has sent “auction SWAT teams” to manage events in 17 states to date.

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