Seven finalists competed in the closing round of
the second annual Darden
Business Plan Competition, held in April at the U.Va. iLab, housed at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. The
competition, open to all University of Virginia students, faculty and staff, awarded
a total of $15,000 in prize money to four winning ventures.
Third Year students Tara Raj and Garrett Allen earned the $10,000 grand prize
for their concept, VotersChoice. VotersChoice is a direct polling and analytics
app that connects government representatives and voters by serving as a two-way
communication channel. The venture was also a semifinalist in the 2013 UVA
Entrepreneurship Cup competition.
"We are very excited about the
outcome of the competition, and it was certainly a humbling experience to have
competed against MBA students," said Raj, a computer science major.
two ventures from the incoming 2014 i.Lab incubator class, tied for second
place.Founded by Darden rising Second Year student Sarah Rumbaugh, Relish is an
employment tool that provides company alerts and employer matching opportunities
for MBAs, MBA recruiting companies and MBA career services. LAMARCA, created by
Darden alumnae Sarah Sanchez (MBA `14) and Anika Brown (MBA `14) generates
crowd-funded campaigns for luxury handbags and accessories made by independent
designers. The Wire Project, also an incoming i.Lab incubator venture, placed
fourth. Founded by Darden rising Second Year student Annie Medaglia, The Wire
Project is a digital marketplace connecting quality freelancers to media
outlets, nonprofits and businesses.
Three local entrepreneurs judged the
final pitches on concept originality, value proposition and competitive
advantage, among other criteria. Judges noted the quality of the concepts
presented and their difficulty selecting winners.
Following the pitches,
the contestants, judges and spectators gathered in the lobby of the i.Lab for a
reception. "We didn't want to have to choose between so many great ideas, and
you should all be proud of making it to the final round," said Philippe
Sommer, director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at Darden's
Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
"The Business Plan
Competition helped me make valuable connections with competition judges,
professors and other students," said Rumbaugh. "The biggest benefit for me was
attracting stakeholders like venture capitalists who were interested in my
Rumbaugh plans to pilot launch Relish for the Darden Career Development Center this summer.
With several other clients on board for the launch, she aims to have a final
product to market by this time next year.
Students are encouraged to
refine their business plans throughout the year by participating in three annual
competitions sponsored by Darden's Batten Institute. Participants use the
competitions to evaluate and hone their plans and pitches.
In the fall,
Entrepreneurial Concept Competition evaluates student concepts on their
viability in the current marketplace. The Darden
Effectual De-Risking Competition, held in late winter, requires students to
demonstrate that they have taken steps to "de-risk" their idea using principles
of effectuation. Effectuation is
the method introduced by Darden Professor Saras Sarasvathy, by which expert
entrepreneurs build successful ventures despite unpredictable conditions. The
Darden-U.Va. Business Plan Competition is
the culmination of this path, in which students pitch their business plans to
"Participating in all three competitions enabled
me to leverage customer feedback to propel my business forward," said Rumbaugh.
"Each competition demands different things and makes you look at your idea in a
About the Darden School of Business
University of Virginia Darden School of Business is one of the world's leading
business schools, offering MBA, Ph.D. and Executive Education programs. The
unique Darden experience combines the case study method, top-ranked faculty
whose research advances global managerial practice and business education, and a
tight-knit learning environment to develop responsible and complete leaders who
are ready to make an impact.
About the i.Lab at the University of
The i.Lab is a University-wide initiative that creates a
nexus for entrepreneurship and innovation education. Its mission is to foster
deep cross-collaboration with no boundaries, across disciplines, schools or
ways of thinking. The i.Lab provides coaching, courses and incubation to
students, faculty and community members innovating the future. The i.Lab is a
collaborative effort of 11 schools of the University, the Provost's Office and
UVA Innovation, and is operated by the Batten Institute at the U.Va. Darden
School of Business.
About the Batten Institute
Batten Institute at the Darden School of Business improves the world through
entrepreneurship and innovation. The institute's academic research center
advances knowledge that addresses real-world challenges and shapes Darden's
curriculum, and the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership offers one of the
world's top entrepreneurship programs. The Batten Institute was established with
gifts now totaling over $100 million from U.Va. alumnus Frank Batten Sr., a
media pioneer, visionary and founder of The Weather Channel.
Director of Media Relations
School of Business
University of Virginia
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