2023 i.Lab Incubator Launches with New Cohort of Up-and-Coming Ventures
By Molly Mitchell
The i.Lab Incubator has returned with 14 in-person teams and six virtual teams ready to grow new startups this summer. Hosted by the Batten Institute at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, the 2023 summer incubator provides a goal-oriented, guided-learning program for student founders of innovative ventures.
“We’re excited to welcome a large and diverse group of promising student ventures—and amazing student entrepreneurs from across schools at UVA—back into the iLab Incubator this summer. They stand on the shoulders of giants, from Rhoback to Brandefy, and embrace the fact that the best learning is by doing,” said Omar Garriott, Executive Director of the Batten Institute.
Solving real-world problems ranging from trying to find a sublease to building a better battery, these founders will find multi-faceted support in the i.Lab while they test, iterate and validate their solutions. As members of the cohort, ventures and their founders receive grant funding; 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; and eligibility to apply for the Kathryne Carr Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence.
Chen Cai (SEAS ’23) just graduated last month with his PhD, and is participating in the i.Lab with his co-founder and former professor at the UVA School of Engineering and Data Science, Gary Koenig. Together they are looking to commercialize the new battery technology Cai has been developing for the past five years, which has a higher energy density than any currently commercially available battery. It is a unique technology that could power wearable devices like insulin pumps or neuro stimulators. “We’re pretty confident in the technology side,” said Koenig, “[participating in the i.Lab] is more about the business side. Getting the experience and network, and learning what the market is to better refine that application, are things I think we really need to sort out.”
Peter Hamilton (JD/MBA Class of 2024), just finished his first year at Darden and is the cofounder of ema.ai, a personal assistant AI that calls users daily to record their memories and collects them in a digital journal. “It’s a really hands-on way to get immediate business experience,” he said. “It takes a lot of ownership and responsibility, which can be intimidating, but it’s also immediately rewarding.”
The i.Lab Incubator focuses on the principles of effectuation to guide entrepreneurship, and participating founders learn directly from the theory’s pioneer Saras Sarasvathy. By concentrating on effectuation, the incubator is able to serve many different kinds of ventures and founders. “We’re excited to serve a wide diversity of ventures and founders this year,” said Venture Programs Director Jason Brewster. “Our startups represent a wide variety of products and services, and our founders have a range of backgrounds and skillsets to offer through both online and virtual participation. The i.Lab Incubator embraces effectuation and its principles, supporting founders with their business demands around growth while cultivating common areas for founder collaboration. There is a palpable commitment from this year’s Hoos to build incredible companies together.”
2023 i.Lab Incubator Ventures
Boozy Frozen Treats
Boozy Frozen Treats, founded by Hoi-San Guan (Darden Class of 2024), is the Tostitos of frozen cocktails, bringing the party wherever you go: top-shelf liquor & real fruit creations to bring people together.
College Contact, founded by Leah Guesman (Col / McIntire ’23) and Sophie Smith (Col / McIntire ’23) is a fully remote, college counseling platform that connects underserved high school students to college undergraduates.
E-Z Numb, LLC founded by Rithika Kormath (SEAS ’23) and Haeley Wotnosky (McIntire ’23) is developing a proprietary numbing cream technology to address the shortcomings of current local pain management products.
Invest Capital AI
Invest Capital AI, founded by Erika Bahr (MSBA Class of 2023), uses machine learning to augment investor decision-making in startup success while bringing equity to female and minority entrepreneurs.
MatDash, founded by Ankita Biswas (SEAS Class of 2025), Ho Lun Chan (SEAS Class of 2025), Roberto Herrera del Valle (SEAS ’23), Ryan Grimes (SEAS Class of 2025) and Alen Korjenic (SEAS Class of 2025) offers a codeless ML platform to simplify industrial R&D and database curation via seamless model building, training and testing.
Ema.ai, founded by Peter Hamilton (Darden/Law Class of 2024), produces Emma, a personal assistant AI that calls users daily to record their memories and collects them in a digital journal.
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NewSublease, founded by Rooney Lee (MBA ’23), is a hassle-free platform helping students and other traveling professionals facilitate subleasing, unlocking affordable mid-term housing.
Pare, founded by Akhil Maheepathi (GSAS Class of 2025), allows small businesses to accept payments with 0% transaction fees and increase recurring revenue through a rewards program.
Petrichor, founded by Curie Chang (Darden Class of 2024), is an apparel manufacturing and disposal startup that creates sustainable, affordable, and high-quality basic apparel.
RedSide Custom Tools
RedSide Custom Tools, founded by Landon Campbell (SEAS Class of 2026), is a bike-tool brand that offers mountain bikers innovative tools and equipment for bike services and maintenance.
RoomMe, founded by Brian Bernard (McIntire Class of 2024), Sebastian Oliver (Col ’23) and Dmitriy Telemtayev (McIntire Class of 2024), is a roommate matching service for college students. Their platform allows students to find compatible roommates in their classes.
Torpel, founded by Chen Cai (SEAS ’23) and Gary Koenig, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, UVA School of Engineering and Data Science, enables longer duration and/or smaller size wearable devices through high energy density battery technology.
UVA Stepmom, founded by Mary Walton Peterson (Col Class of 2025), is an ironic college apparel brand of slogan t-shirts made from second-hand materials and marketed through original, humorous media.
2023 i.Lab Virtual Ventures
Chaku, founded by Emily Kahn (MBA ’23), empowers female anime fans to display their fandom through subtle, fashion-conscious, anime apparel.
Krity, founded by Aman Agasi (MBA ’23), Sahil Lamba and Aman Shrivastava (GSAS Class of 2024) is a platform where anyone can earn by creating audiobooks. It is a two-sided marketplace where payouts are based on listenership.
Le Breton Group LLC, founded by Erika Keough (MBA ’23), offers people and talent advisory & consulting services to Early Stage Startups.
Nonstop Points, LLC, founded by Payton Turner (Col Class of 2026), shares the latest travel news and tips for helping students and young adults maximize their travels while being financially responsible.
Play Henry, founded by Grace Collins (Darden Class of 2024) and Ellie Jamison (Darden Class of 2024), is a lifestyle sporting brand that makes pickleball paddles and apparel for a new generation of classic competitors.
VelocityRating, founded by Matthew Kemph (MBA ’23), is revolutionizing the world of college athletics and brand partnerships by providing the most comprehensive and accurate NIL assessments.
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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