Batten Institute Celebrates 15 Years Growing Entrepreneurship at Darden, UVA

By Laura Longhine

The University of Virginia Darden School of BusinessBatten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation celebrated its 15th anniversary in November with a spirited gathering at the W.L. Lyons Brown III i.Lab, the heart of the University’s entrepreneurship initiatives.

“Frank would be proud of what has emerged from his generosity,” said Darden Dean Scott Beardsley, reflecting on the Batten Institute’s founding benefactor, Frank Batten Sr. “Darden is now recognized for having one of the very best entrepreneurship programs in the world.”

The event featured highlights from the i.Lab Incubator program, and the announcement of a new award named in honor of Kathryne Carr, the first director of the i.Lab.

In announcing the award, W.L. Lyons Brown III (MBA ’87) recalled the “pandemonium” of the i.Lab’s early days. “Kathy Carr was precisely what the moment demanded,” he said. Her advice might have come with sass, moxie or tenderness, he added, but “you always got wise counsel.”

The Kathryne Carr Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence will be awarded annually to a founder in the i.Lab Incubator program, starting with a $25,000 award this spring. Brown set an ambitious goal of raising the award to $100,000 in the future, and expressed the hope that it will encourage the winner to remain in Charlottesville and build their business here, contributing to the vision of making Charlottesville a hub of entrepreneurship.

Throughout the evening, guests perused exhibits from recent i.Lab Incubator startup ventures.

“These are the main ingredients in our tea,” Meryem Erarac told a visitor, gesturing to two shallow glass bowls filled with hibiscus flowers and sugar. Erarac and her husband, Ali (MBA ’04), founded their company Pure Hibi two years ago. Now they sell their bottled hibiscus tea at Whole Foods and other markets around Charlottesville.

Participating in the i.Lab, she said, was invaluable. “You don’t feel alone,” she said. “You feel like someone is supporting you. That’s very important.”

Listening in was Scott Richardson (MBA ’88), an entrepreneur who had come to learn more about the i.Lab. He started a software company focusing on marketing automation a few years after graduation. “We didn’t have this when I was here,” he said. “It looks like students have a really great platform.”

Later in the evening, five of the i.Lab participants gave five-minute pitches on their ventures, which ranged from a new approach to male birth control to a program for getting girls interested in engineering. The crowd, full of people who know what it takes to launch a business, responded with warmth and enthusiasm.

As the evening wrapped up, Robin Felder, a longtime faculty member at the medical school, was still engaged in conversation. “I have seven companies I’m running simultaneously, in addition to my day job as a professor of pathology,” he said with a smile. “So why wouldn’t I come to a Darden event?” Gesturing to his surroundings, he added, “This is the best resource on campus for entrepreneurship.”

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