The Growing Impact of Startup Investors Cav Angels

The entrepreneurial ecosystem in and around the University of Virginia has grown dramatically in recent years, and a host of tools, including mentors, incubators and competitions, now exist to help turn promising ideas from members of the University and local communities into successful ventures.

A recent article from the UVA McIntire School of Commerce spotlights one piece in the ecosystem: the Cav Angels investing group.

The affinity group, which is made up of a variety of investors and entrepreneurs and invests in startups seeking seed or series A funding, includes numerous Darden School alumni in leadership positions, notably founders and active members Jim Cheng (MBA ’87) and Dick Crawford (MBA ’74). The article notes the maturation of the group as a significant vehicle for investment, with roughly $1.5 million invested so far year to date through 2020.

The article focuses on the role of McIntire alumnus and Cav Angels Treasurer and Co-Chairman Rich Diemer as the group seeks new opportunities to invest and mentor across Grounds.

Diemer is understandably optimistic that all schools across the University will want to connect with the investment group — that is, if they haven’t already.

He’s got an impressive list of interested parties that show the group’s proactive slant and prove its growing popularity. They recently invested in a company called DiveTech, launched by a former military member and Darden graduate who started his own company to create an unmanned underwater vehicle that functions without a ship at the surface to support it.

Then there’s interest coming from the Engineering School. The potential for entrepreneurial students and graduates who might look to Cav Angels to fund their ideas has increased, no doubt due to the group’s newest member, Engineering Professor Chip Blankenship.

And there are even more reasons for high expectations.

“We have the confidence of the Batten School because Professor Christine Mahoney, who is an expert on ESG [environmental, social, and governance] investing at the University, knows we have a couple of high-profile ESG opportunities in our portfolio, and has committed to being a regular participant in our weekly working group Zoom meetings.”

Diemer says that he’s determined to raise the group’s profile at the Comm School among potential investing members as well as current and future entrepreneurs who seek support. “I’m hopeful we’ll get buy-in from McIntire. I’ve already reached out to the new Dean, Nicole Thorne Jenkins. I like the fact that she trained as an accountant and has practical industry expertise. It resonates with me.”

Within the group itself, he’s enthusiastic that two members with MD MBAs joined in the last several months, strengthening the group’s ability to conduct due diligence on ventures in the medical space.

“[Executive Vice President for Health Affairs] Dr. Craig Kent really supports entrepreneurialism and healthcare, and we’re going to have a formal program with MD MBAs, or doctors who need to be a little bit more in tune with the business opportunities that might be out there. So we’ve got the Medical School.

“And I’ve got to mention the Curry School,” Diemer adds excitedly. “A company we invested in recently, Trilogy Mentors, is an all-in-one platform for tutoring groups and freelance tutors to enable virtual tutoring. The founder was mentored by [McIntire Professor] Eric Martin. When we pitched the company to our members, Eric introduced the founder. Who better to do that than your real mentor and a member of the UVA community? The Chief Learning Officer of Trilogy Mentors is out of the Curry School, so now I can include that school, too.”

The Trilogy Mentors leadership team includes recent alumnus Michael Jarvis (EMBA ’20). Other portfolio companies with Darden alumni leadership include RelishCareers, Safeguard Cyber and Traffk.

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.


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Sophie Zunz
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Darden School of Business
University of Virginia