Imagine having just 60 seconds to ask members of a community to help you develop a business idea. This is what members of the 2012 Darden Business Incubator and HackCville had to do during a business-pitch forum held recently at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. The forum, held in Darden's Innovation Laboratory, or "i.Lab," allowed community members and budding entrepreneurs to network and exchange ideas following the pitch presentations.
Sustainability, the great outdoors and even wedding planning are among the areas in which the incubator entrepreneurs hope to hatch full-fledged ventures. With their newfound contacts and some helpful advice, the students will continue to grow their businesses throughout the summer. This year's incubator includes both new and returning companies.
Incubator veteran Greg Herrington (MBA '12) is taking his company Deal Stage to the next level this summer. Incubator newcomer and rising Second Year MBA student Jeff Willis received third place in the Darden (U.Va.) Business Plan Competition, which encouraged him to pursue his venture, Chatter Sports, instead of a summer internship. Rising Second Year MBA student Lauren Byrne, who is also new to the incubator, is already stirring interest with her company Bridal Brokerage.
"This year's entrepreneurs encompass a wide range of startup possibilities and each venture brings something unique to what is an overall impressive group," said Philippe Sommer, director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. "It will be enjoyable watching them learn and grow through the incubator's program."
The 2012 Darden Business Incubator participants include:
- Isaac Blanton (Class of 2013), founder of Legends Live Media Group-Legends Live Entertainment
- Lauren Byrne (Class of 2013), founder of Bridal Brokerage
- Scott Caras (Class of 2013), founder of Cheeky Fly Fishing LLC
- Jon Carrier (MBA '12), founder of 501 Auctions
- Veneka Chagwedera (Class of 2013), founder of One2One
- Matt George (Class of 2013), founder of Aislert
- Greg Harrington (MBA '12), founder of Deal Stage
- Teddy Jones (MBA '12), founder of Job Simple
- Owen Larkin (Class of 2013) & Nathan Phalen (U.Va. Law Class of 2014), founders of Apollo Water
- Jordhy Ledesma (MBA '12), founder of Leslor
- Ben Margolis (Class of 2013), founder of Pentricity
- Zubin Mehta (MBA '12), founder of MobilizeArt
- Matt O'Connor (Class of 2013), founder of Footprint Free
- Kyle Redinger (Class of 2013), founder of Pandia Capital Management
- Lucas Rogers (Class of 2013), founder of Mobile Motions- Spat Nav
- Jeff Willis (Class of 2013), founder of Chatter Sports LLC
Complete details about this year's student companies appear on the Darden Business Incubator webpage.
Program coordinators for the incubator are also looking to bigger and better things ahead. This year, three nontraditional participants will pilot the incubator's program expansion to include members of the greater Charlottesville, Virginia, community. Another new feature is the creation of a special website to help participants engage with a wider audience.
"Our new website will hold videos of our participants discussing their ventures and includes Facebook-like progress posts," says MJ Toms, associate director for the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership in Darden's Batten Institute. "This is a great way for them to grow their networks and connect with Darden alumni who operate in the entrepreneurial space or who work in industries similar to those of the incubator ventures."
In addition to the new features, the incubator will continue to provide incoming entrepreneurs with approximately $13,000 in seed money, physical office space and expert advice. Participants also attend workshops covering various business-related topics and receive legal counsel through a partnership with the U.Va. School of Law and the Woods Rogers law firm. Past well-known incubator companies include, OpenQ, Husk Power Systems and hotelicopter.
HackCville is a Charlottesville group that supports student entrepreneurship. Its members who participated in the recent pitch session included U.Va. students, who offered business concepts ranging from a device to help improve sleep quality to an online collectible toy platform for hobbyists. Many of these students also participated in the University of Virginia Venture Summit's Venture Fair, which was held at Darden earlier this spring.
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