Darden School of Business and Batten Institute Announce Emerging Ventures in 2011 Business Incubator


The Darden School of Business and its  Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the Batten Institute have announced the latest entrepreneurship ventures participating in the Darden Business Incubator, Darden’s on campus program to support its MBA students developing promising, early-stage business ventures.  

The Darden Business Incubator is unique in that it supplies each incoming entrepreneur with more than $13,000 to support their development and cover expenses. New in this year’s program is a series of pre-incubator workshops including a legal clinic, developed through a partnership with the U.Va. School of Law and the Woods Rogers law firm to provide free legal services to new ventures.  

“This year's group of 12 companies admitted to the Incubator is one of the strongest groups to date both in the novelty ofListen to Philippe Sommer on the Darden BusinessCast concepts being advanced and the commitment to taking an ‘effectual’ approach to starting businesses," said Philippe Sommer, director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. “There have been a number of highly successful companies that have emerged from our Incubator and by working closely with this year’s terrific group of participants on the process of new venture development we’ll continue to improve their potential for future entrepreneurial success.”   

The Incubator also provides additional critical resources, such as physical office space and expert advice from the legal, marketing and technology communities, as well as assistance in finding third-party investment support – all within the framework of a community of fellow entrepreneurs over the course of a year.  

Among the many success stories from previous years in the Darden Business Incubator, Husk Power Systems (HPS), a venture co-founded by Darden alumni Chip Ransler (MBA ’09) and Manoj Sinha (MBA ’09) which provides electricity to rural India, was awarded the prestigious 2011 Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy in the international category.  

While each venture must involve a Darden student or recent graduate, the incubator is also open to members of the wider University of Virginia community who are interested in pursuing an entrepreneurial business idea. Projects are selected for the commitment of the student(s), the persuasiveness of the business concept and the research behind it.  

New programs added this year included a series of pre-incubator workshops:  

  • Legal Clinic: Through a partnership with the U.Va. School of Law and the Woods Rogers law firm, the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership initiated a series of programs to provide free legal services to new ventures. U.Va. Law students are partnered with Incubator students under the supervision of a practicing attorney.  
  • E*Tech Mash-up: Aspiring entrepreneurs presented their ventures before technical experts and received advice concerning the practicality, requirements, scope, difficulty, and implementation of their ideas. Quick pitches were followed by the opportunity to breakout into smaller groups at this event organized by the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council and the Neon Guild .

  • Internet Start-up Workshop: Incubator students developed their technical knowledge and learned about the powerful tools that are available to build websites from current and former Darden students with technical expertise.

  • Incubator Pitch for Help Session: Incubator students pitched their ventures to alumni to ask for non-monetary support such as customer contacts, strategic partnerships, key personnel and expertise. 

 The participants in this year’s incubator are:  

  • Abt Labs, founded by Darden Second Year student Kevin Abt, will create a revolutionary line of “smart” sporting goods and apparel that measure athletic performance. The initial line of products will comprise sensors embedded into sporting equipment and accompanying software to accurately measure and analyze speed, movement, trajectory and rotation. The product is intended as a training tool to help athletes, coaches and evaluators accurately capture, analyze and catalog performance through a flexible set of metrics applicable to the specific sport.

  • Buy Time, founded by alumni Matt Parker (MBA ’11) and Stefan Talman (MBA ’11) with Darden Second Year student Teddy Jones, sells “fare freezes” which allow customers to lock in airfare rates for a period of time through partnerships with large online travel agencies.

  • DealStage, created by Darden Second Year student Greg Herrington, is a software productivity tool for law firms to assist them with closing deals between multiple law firms and client firms in a more transparent and less costly manner.

  • Groundswell, founded by Darden Second Year student Jacqueline Wilde, is an organization that focuses on helping people to live healthier and happier lives through active living, nutrition education and holistic health offerings. One such offering is Pop-Up Yoga, which offers yoga classes in public spaces and partners with local businesses to leverage open spaces for yoga classes.

  • Music Project, founded by Carlos Camacho (MBA ’11) is a social media-based fan relationship management platform for professional musicians. The Music Project platform offers to fans free listening and sharing of digital music and to musicians powerful analytics about their fanbase along with an innovative social media engagement space that assists in creating income opportunities.

  • NOMUDA Games, winner of the 2011 Darden Business Plan Competition, is a pioneering story-based episodic game content for mobile platforms. Founder Joe Chard (MBA ’11) employs vivid, imaginative environments to explore and addictive, touch-based puzzles embedded in the environment to pace the storytelling experience.

  • Stylher, founded by Emily DeSancti (MBA ’11) and Leila Ledsinger (MBA ’11) is an online clothing and accessories recommendation system offered free of charge that combines a user’s unique body dimensions with personal style preferences and budget to provide customized recommendations about where to shop and what to buy. Stylher’s mission is twofold: to simplify the process of finding clothes that fit well and look good, and to help retailers improve online conversions and reduce returns by recommending customers who fit their sizing and designs.

  • SynkMonkey, founded by Hunter Murchison (MBA ’11) and Jay Subhash (MBA ’11), is a mobile app that allows users to easily schedule meetings and appointments via rich text messages with integrated date/time and mapping technology, while auto-populating a calendar with the meeting details. Synk Monkey will collect data about what user’s future plans are, thus enabling the company to deliver highly targeted and relevant ads, coupons, or other services.

  • Tee Gee, founded by Darden Second Year student Tom Giedgowd, is a toy development company whose next project is an interactive stuffed animal that “grows” with the child to provide age-appropriate stories, games and conversations.

  • The Third Space, founded by Trevor Thomas (MBA '11), will be an “interactive art house lounge” located in Los Angeles’ LAX airport. In partnership with local university studio art programs, The Third Space concept calls for student artwork on exhibit as well as for sale, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, snacks and access to vintage and modern video games.

  • Travel Gems, founded by Brianne Warner (MBA ’11), is an online, personalized travel guide. Users input information about their favorite sites in cities they have visited and Travel Gems applies the information to create a travel guide for cities the users want to visit in the future.

  • Validate Contract, founded by Kyle Hawke (MBA ’11), provides a software platform that estimates a project’s length or cost using a prediction market run by either an organization’s employees or a diverse network of third-party experts.  

For questions or information, contact communication@darden.virginia.edu or a member of the  Communication team .  

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