Funding for UVA Darden Alumni Ventures Shows Dramatic Growth

By Dave Hendrick

As the entrepreneurial offerings at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business continue to grow and mature, funding for ventures started by Darden alumni is skyrocketing.

According to data compiled by Darden’s Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation using information from Crunchbase, fundraising for ventures started by Darden alumni spiked to $586 million in 2018, an 83 percent increase over the 2017 totals and a 45 percent jump from the previous high of $403 million in 2015.

The figures have been climbing since 2011, suggesting a yearslong push to increase the School’s entrepreneurial capabilities are both bearing fruit and accelerating.

“The steady uptick in funding for ventures founded by one or more Darden alumni over the past few years has been nothing short of remarkable,” said Batten Institute Executive Director Sean Carr (MBA ’03, Ph.D. ‘13). “The breadth of sectors and the geographic diversity of these high-growth ventures provide powerful evidence of the momentum and broad-based impact of the entrepreneurial ecosystem we have been steadily cultivating here.”

Growing Momentum, From India to the San Francisco Bay Area to Virginia

The diverse geographic headquarters of recently funded ventures demonstrates the true global reach of the Darden founder network, and indicates particular strength outside of the United States in India. One of the most recent standout successes is Udaan, an India-based business-to-business e-commerce startup co-founded by Vaibhav Gupta (MBA ‘08). Udaan recently raised $225 million in Series C funding, putting the company into “unicorn” — a company valuation of $1 billion-plus — territory. Media reports also suggest it may be the fastest Indian company to go from founding to $1 billion.

The Darden community’s strengthening ties to the San Francisco Bay Area are also evident in the data, with Bay Area ventures founded by Darden alumni attracting more than $350 million in funding in recent years. The area, which is home to one of the largest Darden alumni bases, is a major node of activity for the School and the Batten Institute led by Bay Area-based Director of West Coast Initiatives Robyn Swift.

Notable recent venture funding success stories also include:

ZipGo — An on-demand, app-based bus service co-founded by Guarav Agarwal (MBA ’10), ZipGo raised roughly $43 million in a Series B round led by the Essel Group. The company plans to use the funding to expand its fleet of buses while transitioning to all-electric vehicles.

Safeguard Cyber — A cloud-based digital security company led by Chairman and CEO Jim Zuffoletti (MBA ’05) and President Otavio Freire (MBA ’05), Safeguard Cyber in 2018 raised $11 million in new funding from AllegisCyber and NightDragon Security. The Series B investment will help the company expand its platform and go-to-market activity.

Wildflower Health — A family focused health software company founded by Leah Sparks (MBA ’01), the San Francisco Bay Area company raised $8 million in a 2018 funding round led by growth equity firm Health Enterprise Partners. The funding will allow the fast-growing company to further its capabilities to promote healthy pregnancies and improve family health.

Other recent funding highlights include:

LendStreet — A San Francisco Bay Area consumer debt restructuring company founded by Jerry Nemorin (MBA ‘08), LendStreet raised $117 million in Series A equity and debt financing in 2018. Nemorin first formulated his company in the W.L. Lyons Brown III i.Lab Incubator program in 2010, and launched the first iteration of the company’s website in 2013. Since then, he has overseen steady growth by maintaining a focus on the people underserved by traditional financial services.

Ankura Consulting — A Washington, D.C., based consulting firm founded by Roger Carlile (GEMBA ’16), Ankura received a $100 million equity commitment in 2016 and inked a deal to acquire professional services firm Navigant for $470 million in 2018. The firm’s growth has been tremendous, with Ankura now employing hundreds and with multiple offices around the country.

A Closer Look at Darden’s Commitment to Incubating Entrepreneurs, Startups

Since 2000, the Batten Institute has advanced Darden and the University of Virginia as leaders in developing the next generation of entrepreneurs as well as cutting-edge research on entrepreneurship and innovation. In addition, it has been a key resource growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Charlottesville, Virginia, ranked No. 4 in the country by Entrepreneur, and connecting the Darden and UVA networks to major hubs of entrepreneurship like the San Francisco Bay Area.

Recent entrepreneurship and innovation initiatives in the San Francisco area include:

  • Technology Venture Fellows — A unique MBA internship experience that places Darden students in high-growth tech ventures, giving them hands-on experience with companies that rarely grant traditional internships.
  • Bay Area Tech Trek — Relaunched in partnership with the Darden Career Development Center in 2017, the student trek to Bay area companies has grown to 96 students visiting 23 companies.
  • Bay Area Connect – A new program serving First Year MBA students who plan to forgo traditional on-Grounds recruiting and focus on pursuing careers in entrepreneurship and venture capital. The three-day, immersive experience in the Bay Area includes meetings with founders, venture capitalists and leaders at every stage of the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“Batten’s West Coast Initiatives are creating greater connectivity between aspiring entrepreneurs in the Darden student community and leaders in technology, entrepreneurship, innovation and venture capital in the Bay Area,” said Swift. “This newly activated network on the West Coast is helping to elevate the UVA Darden brand presence in Silicon Valley, further enhancing the top-notch programming available to founders in Charlottesville.”

The growth on the West Coast comes as entrepreneurship and venture creation capabilities at Darden continue apace, with a number of new and expanded initiatives, including:

  • Batten Scholars Program — An enhanced competitive scholarship program offering full and partial scholarship for top students interested in pursuing careers related to entrepreneurship, technology and innovation.
  • Darden Venture Lab — Newly launched in 2018, the Venture Lab supports Darden students working on startups by providing dedicated workspace, grant support, mentorship and workshops.
  • Catalyst Program — Open to UVA and the greater Charlottesville community, the new program is a nine-month accelerator program supporting high-potential startups.

Darden offers more than 35 academic courses in entrepreneurship, innovation and technology, and its programming related to applied innovation and new ventures, supported by the i.Lab, continues to expand. Since 2000, the i.Lab’s venture programs, including the flagship summer incubator program, has supported more than 250 startup companies, with roughly $150 million in equity capital and more than $250 million in total capital raised by i.Lab Incubator alumni teams.

“We are proud of our founders and their accomplishments, as well as grateful to our team and the Darden alumni community for their support of these founders over the years it can take to grow a company from idea to launch to the types of outcomes we are now seeing,” said i.Lab Director David Touve. “

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.


Press Contact

David Hendrick
Associate Director, Editorial & Media Relations
Darden School of Business
University of Virginia