UVA Darden’s Revamped Summer Incubator Returns to In-Person Startup Acceleration

By Jay Hodgkins

The University of Virginia’s summer startup incubator hosted by the Batten Institute at the Darden School of Business returned as an in-person program this year with a new model to accelerate student startups.

Nine ventures were named to the 2021 cohort of the updated program, Venturing Project Squared or VP(x)2, which provides a goal-oriented, guided-learning summer program for student founders of innovative ventures addressing problems with meaningful solutions.

As a member of the cohort, ventures and their founders receive up to $10,000 in grant funding for each venture; access to core workshops led by Darden faculty and experts in key skills for entrepreneurs, online resources, and special events; legal support; mentorship and advisory support from experienced founders and industry experts; access to the UVA and Darden networks; and immersion in the principles of effectuation, the principles of successful entrepreneurs discovered by Professor Saras Sarasvathy. Members of the cohort are also eligible to apply for the Kathryne Carr Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence.

“This is an exciting time for the incubator. We have a new i.Lab space in the heart of Darden that provides ventures an ideal environment to navigate the effects of COVID on the workplace,” said Jason Brewster, director of the summer incubator. “We host all of our meetings in a hybrid virtual and in-person format, and while a lot has changed over the last year, our core teaching around effectuation and startup business skills remains consistent and valuable.”

This year, VP(x)2 has expanded on its previous 10-week summer incubator model. The cohort was welcomed in March for the virtual (U)nderstand phase, which involved founders incorporating and submitting plans to accomplish goals, outcomes and deliverables during the program. The (V)alidate phase, running June through August, comprises the traditional in-person summer incubator experience, while the (A)ccelerate phase was added for September through November to provide additional check-ins and engagement as ventures pursue greater adoption and refine business models.

“VP(x)2 has greatly helped to accelerate our progress through providing a template for goal setting and reviewing these goals weekly to ensure we stay on track,” said Gretchen Pace (Class of 20202), founder of Goose & Willow. “Access to incredible professors, incubator staff, mentors and classmates have been life changing. VP(x)2 has helped accelerate important relationships and improve our resource and time management skills to take our ventures to the next level.”

2021 VP(x)2 Startups

Cobouchy, founded by Jing Xu (Class of 2022), sells coffee kombucha, a fermented coffee beverage that is all-natural, sparkling, probiotic and caffeinated. cobouchy.com

Coton Clothiers, co-founded by Elizabeth Blankenship (Class of 2022) and Alyssa Clarke, is the first fully sustainable luxury fashion brand, connecting cause-conscious consumers with stylish, zero-waste clothing. thecoton.com

Fantasy4, co-founded by John Palmer (MBA ’21) and Ethan Silverman (JD/MBA ’21), is a dues-management service for fantasy competitions that empowers participants to support their favorite charities. fantasy4.org

Goose & Willow, founded by Gretchen Pace (Class of 2022), sells home goods made in the United States featuring original designs by American artists. Gooseandwillow.com

InColorStock.com, founded by Claritza Jimenez (EMBA ’21), is a digital content platform selling downloadable stock photos and footage depicting people of color. incolorstock.com

Periop Green, founded by Pumoli Malapati (COL ’21) is a software-as-a-service product that converts scrub table images into actionable data that can eliminate unnecessary waste and reduce operating room cost. periopgreen.com

Piiq Piquette Wine Seltzers, founded by Josh Rombach (Class of 2022), leverages the concept of piquette to bring a low-alcohol, better-for-you-and-the-planet “wine seltzer” to the U.S. market. drinkpiiq.com

Redwood Learning, co-founded by Ed Radion (COM ’21), Jacob Melman-Rogers (COL ’22), and Lukas Houpt (COL ’22), is an augmented reality math game backed by learning science that delivers highly engaging 3D lessons based on student ability and interest. redwood-learning.com

Ultra EM, co-founded by Malcolm Roberson (MD/MBA ’21), Carson Lunsford, David Agumya, and Ramey Elsarrag, is a high-fidelity dynamic ultrasound simulator that teaches learners to accurately and quickly capture and interpret FAST Exams. ultraem.netlify.app

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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