UVA Darden Joins Local, State Partners to Launch Central Virginia Startup Accelerator

By David Touve

Catalyst, a newly launched accelerator serving startups in Central Virginia, has announced seven local companies for its inaugural cohort, including one founded by two Class of 2020 University of Virginia Darden School of Business students. This new competitive accelerator, which is an initiative created by local municipalities and the University of Virginia, supports high-potential, early stage companies in the region.

Chosen by a seasoned selection committee of local founders and regional investors, Catalyst startups now have access to nine months of support, including $20,000 in grant funding, dedicated workspace, experienced founders-in-residence, monthly programming, full-time staff, a network of industry experts and access to nearly $50,000 in additional resources.

Catalyst is the result of a partnership among several regional organizations active in the local ecosystem, including: Darden’s Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, as well as the economic development offices of Albemarle County, Virginia; the City of Charlottesville, Virginia; and the University of Virginia. The program has also received substantial support from the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Growth and Opportunity Initiative (GO Virginia), through the Region 9 Council supported by the Central Virginia Partnership for Economic Development.

The ventures accepted into Catalyst were introduced at an event co-hosted with the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council (CBIC), which provides opportunities to showcase companies and better connect their founders with the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The Darden student-founded venture selected to join Catalyst this year is:


Slay, founded by Darden students Kelly Bonilla and Jade Palamino, is the most affordable and flexible beauty membership ever. A ClassPass for beauty, consumers seamlessly book appointments at salons.

The six additional local ventures selected to join the program are:

Cardboard Live

Founded by Wilson Hunter and James Hsu, Cardboard Live creates multiplatform, interactive live stream experiences for esports and hobby games. The experiences revolutionize live streaming with integrated e-commerce and artificial intelligence-powered game analysis.

Data Classroom

Founded by Dr. Aaron Reedy, Data Classroom lets students and teachers in grades six through 12 engage with data through a web app that makes graphing and statistics easy and fun.

Icarus Medical

Icarus Medical, founded by Dave Johnson, is introducing a new class of knee brace called a “tri-compartment unloader.” The Icarus brace helps people with knee pain stay active by unloading significant weight from the knee.

Lytos Technologies

Lytos Technologies, founded Bryan Berger and Evan Eckersley, aims to empower growers, restore crop yields and ensure consumer health through development of green, enzymatic, broad spectrum bio fungicides for pre- and post-harvest protection of high-value crops.


Northshea, founded by Charity Dinko and Felix Sam, is an all-natural and sustainable shea butter-based cosmetic line that functions to relieve dry skin while alleviating poverty.


Scanoptix, founded by Dr. Arjun Dirghangi, is an intelligent medical diagnostic device and platform that automates and augments in-exam medical imaging by doctors, enhancing quality, efficiency and billing.

“We are incredibly excited about the potential of this cohort, and for this opportunity to work alongside the community-at-large to support these founders,” said David Touve, senior director of Darden’s Batten Institute and the program lead for Catalyst.

Roger Johnson, director of economic development for Albemarle County, added: “Albemarle County is grateful to be part of the Catalyst initiative and associated with these talented people. We fully expect the inaugural group of selected startups to be a huge success and serve as a stepping stone for the program.”

The next cycle of applications for Catalyst are due 31 October. Interested companies can find more information about the program and the submission process at: http://434.co

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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