i.Lab at UVA Incubator Program Expands National Reach, Introduces New Director

By Laura Longhine

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation today announced the 2016 i.Lab Incubator cohort, comprised of a diverse and impressive group of UVA and local Charlottesville-based entrepreneurs. This year, the program is also welcoming a new director, technology entrepreneur Jason Brewster.

The W.L. Lyons Brown III i.Lab and incubator program play a crucial role in supporting UVA-affiliated and community startups. The annual program begins with a 10-week summer accelerator, in which participants join a community of fellow entrepreneurs as they develop and refine their business ideas. The incubator continues to gain traction and momentum, with multiple i.Lab incubator alumni ventures achieving significant company milestones in the past year.

“We want to make the ventures exponentially stronger in the 10-week accelerator period than they would have been working independently,” Brewster said. “And also give them exposure to how to think and act like a startup venture.”

Brewster, who left the San Francisco Bay Area for Charlottesville in 2013 and served as an i.Lab mentor last year, is a “serial entrepreneur” who has founded a number of businesses, including three companies focusing on software development and online services. He is the co-founder and CEO of Fair Document and founder of Nimbus. Since 2012, he has been a CodeX Fellow at the Stanford Center for Legal Informatics, where entrepreneurs and researchers work to design technologies for a better legal system.

Under Brewster’s leadership, the i.Lab program received 64 applications this year. Approximately two-thirds of the ventures selected are led by current UVA students and faculty and a third by local community members. The final incubator spot was awarded to Seniors Connect, the winners of the 2016 Tom Tom Festival Crowd Funded Pitch Night. Seniors Connect aims to increase technology proficiency and use among senior citizens.

More than 20 i.Lab ventures were selected for this year’s incubator program and will each receive a $5,000 grant; office space; mentoring support; networking opportunities; and access to legal, accounting, and technical expertise throughout the year. The 2016 cohort represents a diverse range of industries including technology, biomedicine, mindfulness, education, apparel, social entrepreneurship and others. They include:

  • AgroSpheres, a biotech company that develops unique solutions to degrade pesticides and make the process of harvesting safer and more lucrative for wine producers and farmers. AgroSpheres was founded by UVA undergraduates Payam Pourtaheri and Ameer Shakeel along with Shaun Moshasha. AgroSpheres recently won the UVA Entrepreneurship Cup Launch! Competition and earned a total of $22,500 in winnings.
  • Dovetail Digital Films, a crowd-sourced film production company that makes professional films from footage captured by friends, family and guests at weddings and other important life events. Dovetail was founded by Matt Rohdie, Stephen Brannan and Carrie Hodgkins of Charlottesville.
  • Helme has developed a software service that helps K-12 private school administrators with budgeting. Tools like budget forecasts, analytics, dashboards, and visualizations help users make and communicate sound financial decisions. Helme was founded by UVA students Brent Baumgartner and Koleman Nix.
  • Local Nanny Network (LNN), founded by Lisa Skillman, provides premier on-site childcare for special events and weddings. Its services ultimately provide peace of mind for parents, brides and grooms, and event planners. LNN nannies arrive with activities to entertain the children, are CPR certified, personally interviewed and thoroughly screened.
  • Rhoback is a stylish, high-end brand of Activewear for men: think Under Armour meets Vineyard Vines. Rhoback recently won the 2016 EDENS Retail Challenge and was founded by Darden School students Kristina Zambelli (Class of 2017) and Matt Loftus (Class of 2016).
  • Seamless founded by local high school students Rheisen Dennis and Tyler Cosgrove, developed a mobile app that utilizes the advantages of retail shopping to build an online, socially inspired clothing marketplace.
  • Scanoptix has developed an innovative wireless camera system and software platform that can be adapted to fit existing medical diagnostic instruments. Founded by UVA faculty member Dr. Arjun Dirghangi, Scanoptix aims to improve quality of care and radically streamline the use of visual information in patient care, medical education and telemedicine.

Among other goals, Brewster said he is passionate about building out a virtual component to the i.Lab “that will provide a platform for robust discussion between the ventures themselves, and with mentors and advisors,” he said. “It’s also going to facilitate a pent-up interest for Darden and University alumni to reconnect and help build UVA’s entrepreneurial community, regardless of where they live.”

As Darden welcomes a new cohort, the program also celebrates some notable successes of companies who recently completed the program.

  • 501 Auctions is a premier charity auction, mobile bidding and event management solution for the modern nonprofit. Founded by Darden alumni Jon Carrier (MBA ’12) and Teddy Jones (MBA ’12), 501 Auctions has managed over 1,000 charity events in 47 states and currently has 52 full time employees nationwide. To date, charities have raised over $100 million through the 501 Auctions platform.
  • Contraline’s mission is to develop a long-lasting, non-hormonal and reversible contraceptive for men that can be administered through a non-surgical procedure. Contraline won the $20,000 first prize in UVA’s 2014 Entrepreneurship Cup and the $10,000 first prize in the 2015 Darden Business Plan competition. Earlier this month, Contraline won 2nd place and $10,000 in the national competition ACC InVenture Prize and was offered $350,000 in seed funding at The Galant Challenge.
  • DreamWakers is a national nonprofit that uses free video chat services to bring diverse and dynamic industry leaders into high-need public school classrooms. Working in over 50 cities, DreamWakers has connected thousands of 4th-12th grade students with volunteer speakers from organizations such as Apple, Makerbot 3D Printing and The White House.  Founders and UVA alumnae Monica Gray and Annie Medaglia (MBA ’15), were recently named Toyota’s 2016 “Mothers of Invention,” receiving $50,000 and a feature video in The New York Times.
  • Foodio builds custom online ordering systems for over 250 local restaurants in five states, helping independently owned businesses compete with the technology of big chains. Foodio was founded by UVA alumni Rory Stolzenberg, Connor Clark and DJ Collier and recently closed a $575,000 seed round with Murrayfield Ventures.
  • LendStreet, founded by Darden graduate Jerry Nemorin (MBA ’08), is a lending platform that helps consumers who are in financial distress to restructure their debt, rebuild their credit and re-engage with the financial system. This April, LendStreet announced it raised a $28 million facility from FLOCK Specialty Finance. Previously, LendStreet raised $3.2 million in seed funding from prominent venture capital firms.
  • RelishMBA, founded by Darden alumni Sarah Rumbaugh (MBA ’15) and Zach Mayo (MBA ’15), is an online recruiting platform for graduate business school students and alumni and the companies that hire them. A successful angel round of financing helped fuel 10-times revenue and user growth over the last 12 months, and the RelishMBA network now includes over 3,000 students from 65 of the top national and international MBA programs.
About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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