Kathryne Carr Award

Kathryne Carr Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence

Presented in memory of Kathryne “Kathy” Carr, beloved and respected director of the Batten Institute’s flagship incubator program, this award encourages entrepreneurial excellence by recognizing founders who exhibit Kathy’s indomitable spirit.

About Kathryne Carr

Kathryne Carr
Kathryne Carr

Kathryne Carr (1955-2015) was a vibrant life force in all she did. In the entrepreneurial world she gave generously of her spirit and experience; held a high expectation of integrity; and shared her boundless faith in those who innovate. She always offered her time and experiences, good and bad, to those in the University community. She was no different with her family and friends.

Throughout her life, Carr relentlessly applied her natural ability to see how the collaborative sum of talent and ideas can improve the pace of development and success of all entrepreneurs. She provided this insight with great humor and optimism underscored by pragmatism and real-world experience.

Criteria for the Award

The Kathryne Carr Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence recognizes the entrepreneur(s) that best embody magnetic and selfless leadership and whose venture demonstrates clear potential for commercial success. We can imagine no better way to honor Kathy’s memory. The core criteria include:

  • Clear potential for commercial success;
  • A team player, a colleague, a mentor and a friend within the broader iLab community;
  • Grit and perseverance in the face of challenge and adversity;
  • Humility at a level to which others aspire;
  • Potential for positive market and societal impact.
  • Only students from the iLab Incubator may apply.

Contact: Jason Brewster


2024 Winner

Synersia, founded by Rithika Kormath Anand and Haeley Wotnosky



Past Award Recipients

  • 2023 Recipient - Earnestly

    Earnestly was founded by Emily Ashtiani (MBA '22). Earnestly helps sales professionals, business owners, event organizers, and HR departments make corporate gifting easier, less stressful, and more purposeful. Read the article in the Darden Report.


  • 2022 Recipient - by Eilly

    Kathryne Carr Award 2022
    by Eilly founder, Elizabeth Blankenship (MBA '22) center, flanked by Jason Brewster (left) and Maurie Carr (right).

    By Eilly (formerly “Coton”) turns leftover textiles from luxury fashion brands into designer garments on-demand. Read the article in the Darden Report.

  • 2021 Recipient - Transfoam
    Transfoam logo

    Transfoam's mission is to use cutting-edge, bio-based technologies to facilitate the world's transition towards circular waste management. Using a proprietary bioprocess, Transfoam turns single-use plastic waste into a fully biodegradable alternative. Inspired to confront global challenges with synthetic biology, co-founders Alec Brewer (Engr '21), Simonne Guenette (Col '22), and Kobe Rogers (Col '21) began their careers on the Virginia iGEM team in 2019. Shortly after participating in the 2020 summer incubator program at Darden, Transfoam was selected for an EPA SBIR grant. With the help of transitional funds like the Kathryne Carr Award, the team plans to begin scaling research and development in Charlottesville.

  • 2020 Recipient - CardBoard.Live

    cardboard live logo

    CardBoard.Live, founded by Wilson Hunter and James Hsu, creates multi-platform interactive live stream experiences for esports and hobby games. The experiences revolutionize live streaming with integrated ecommerce and AI-powered game analysis.

  • 2019 Recipient - Purpics

    PurPicsFounded in the Page House dorm room of Aneesh Dhawan and Victor Layne, PurPics empowers individuals to promote the brands they love to raise funds for the causes they care about.

    Focused upon influencers, it should be no surprise that the PurPics team were a positive influence on their 2018 cohort. After that summer, the team joined the Techstars “Farm to Fork” accelerator before raising a $750,000 seed round. Now based in Austin, Texas, the PurPics team stays true to their initial mission: make the world a better place.

  • 2018 Recipient - Beanstalk

    Jack Ross and Michael Ross

    Founded by brothers, Jack and Michael Ross, Beanstalk’s mission is to create a sustainable abundance of nutritious food through technological advancements in growing and harvesting. Beanstalk Farms grows heirloom produce in automated indoor farms.

    After joining the 2017 incubator cohort, Jack and Mike were selected for Y Combinator’s Spring 2018 program. Jack was selected as a “STEM catalyst” by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and the Science Museum of Virginia. Also in 2018, the co-farmers raised their seed round (get it!) and returned to Northern Virginia, where they began growing and selling produce from their vertical, autonomous farm—its over 20-feet tall!

  • 2017 Recipient - Kira Kira

    Suz SomersallIn 2017, Suz Somersall received the inaugural Kathryne Carr Award. Somersall first founded Suz Somersall Designs, producing 3D modeled jewelry that was featured in a variety of business and fashion outlets, such as: Wall Street Journal, InStyle, Real Simple, and MarieClaire.

    Somersall then converted this passion for engineering and design to found KiraKira, an online community and platform designed to inspire and prepare the next generation of innovators, makers, designers, and architects. The platform teaches and enables students to create virtual and physical products using CAD software.

    KiraKira was selected to participate in Intel's Education Accelerator program, and has partnered with HP, Autodesk, and True Ventures on a MakerStudio in San Francisco's Ghiradelli Square (featured in the San Francisco Chronicle). Somersall was honored as one of Fast Company's Most Creative People of 2017, and the company has been features in outlets such as Entrepreneur and INC magazine.