The 2013 Incubator A Look at Promising Startups and Past Business Successes

21 June 2013

Education, food, health and technology are some of the areas of focus for many of this year’s startups in the W.L. Lyons Brown III Innovation Laboratory (i.Lab) housed at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. Selected for admission, these budding companies have a strong chance for success — half of the companies incubated in the iLab incubator since 2000 remain active, a rate well above the national average cited in recent research.

Each year, a group of budding entrepreneurs is admitted into the iLab Incubator at UVA, formerly known as the Darden Business Incubator. Their mission: to grow new businesses, often from concept to successful company.

The 2013 iLab incubator includes Darden MBA students, Charlottesville community residents and some who hail from UVA’s main Grounds. Together, they will learn, plan, think and grow companies, with help from experts in a brand new facility brimming with rich resources.

Venture mentor Kathryne Carr leads the new, expanded business incubator program.

“I want them to have road tested their concepts by the end of the first phase of the incubator program,” said Carr. “The program is a 12-month program now, divided into two sections, an accelerator phase, which is ongoing during the summer months, followed by an academic year phase which allows a deeper dive into the subject matter addressed in the summer program.”

Carr shares more about her new role in a recent Darden BusinessCast interview.

Returning venturers Second Year student David Marriott of CoverPlay Audio and Veneka Chagwedera (MBA ’13) of Nouri are ready to take their startups to a new level.

“It has been so rewarding to lead Nouri through this incredible stage of growth. Over the last 10 months since we founded the business, we have grown from just a concept to having our bars carried by natural food stores and cafes in more than four states,” said Chagwedera. “My goal this summer is to take Nouri to the next level as a sustainable company. We plan to focus on both internal and external growth, which is essential in building a successful venture.”

Chagwedera also hopes to deliver another 10,000 meals to children in need in the upcoming months as part of Nouri’s social mission. The sale of each Nouri bar provides one meal to a child from a disadvantaged global community.

Why are their startups so promising? A look at past incubator ventures and their current market strength shapes the story.

Since 2000, when the iLab incubator first opened at Darden, 63 of the 126 ventures that were hatched are still in business. Notable ventures include:

  • PluroGen, a burn and wound skincare company founded by former UVA Health System faculty member Dr. Adam Katz
  • Global CellSolutions, a maker of cell culturing tools for medicine and research founded by Uday Gupta (MBA ’04) and his colleagues from U.Va.’s main Grounds
  • Hotelicopter, a hotel reservation search engine business founded by Adam Healy (MBA ’05) and Charles Seilheimer (MBA ’05). Hotelicopter was sold to a major hotel industry player in 2012.
  • Hemoshear, a biotechnology research company founded by UVA faculty members Brett Blackman and Brian Wamoff, has raised more than $10 million from investors, and secured several strong partnerships with multinational pharmaceutical firms to advance their drug safety and efficacy programs.

New ventures in the 2013 incubator include Branch Basics, which manufactures a 100 percent nontoxic soap concentrate for use with virtually all home and body-cleaning needs. Founded by Kelly Love, Branch Basics provides “a better and safer solution to the saturated market of ‘green’ cleaners.” Smorgus, founded by SY student Matt McCauly, engages organizations in collaborative learning before and after class periods. Additional 2013 ventures can be found on the incubator page.

This year’s participants will take advantage of a full schedule of learning sessions throughout the summer. These include:

  • Financial Management: Basic rules for budgeting, reporting and valuation
  • Customer Acquisition: How to identify, contact and close
  • Communicating Your Company’s Message and Building Your Brand
  • The Market: What is it telling you?
  • IP: Taking Care of the Asset
  • Growing Your business
  • Positioning Your Company for an Institutional Investor
  • Are they really angels? What investors look for

A selection committee coordinated through Darden’s Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation considers applications for admission to the incubator each year. To apply to the incubator for 2014-15, learn more about the application process.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


Press Contact

Sophie Zunz
Director of Media Relations
Darden School of Business
University of Virginia