Student Entrepreneurs Win Big in Final Round of UVA E-Cup

By Derry Wade

Student entrepreneurs across the University of Virginia won a combined $50,000 in prize money and in-kind services to further develop their ventures focused on an emergency action plan app, memory documentation, pickleball paddles and Indian spice mixes.

Ten startups competed in the final stage of the UVA Entrepreneurship Cup on 18 April, organized by the Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Technology at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. The E-Cup is an annual three-part series of pitch competitions for UVA students, including students at UVA’s College at Wise. The capstone competition, Launch, was held in the Irving Theater of the CODE building in downtown Charlottesville in front of an enthusiastic evening crowd.

Jacob Swisher (Nur ’25) and Anthony “AJ” Peppers (SEAS ’24) won first place and $20,000 for their venture, EZ-EAP. The undergraduates are partnering to create an app for athletes that offers easy access to emergency action plans.

Swisher said he got the idea for EZ-EAP while working as a sports medicine intern.

“I was frustrated by the current industry standard of paper emergency action plans (EAPs) which lacked functionality. I knew there was an opportunity to improve the standard, so I partnered with AJ to build a solution. We built EZ-EAP in hopes of helping athletic trainers and improving athlete safety,” he said.

Moment earned second place and $15,000 along with the Audience Choice Award worth an additional $5,000, which was determined in real time using polling software. Founded by Ayush Bhatia (Col ’24) and Rohit Rajuladevi (SEAS ’24), Moment’s product is an app that allows users to document memories in a variety of formats with different levels of privacy.

Darden second-year students Ellie Jamison and Grace Collins earned third place and $10,000 for their venture, Play Henry, which produces the first official pickleball paddles for UVA with plans to expand into clothing and other products.

Rounding out the awardees was Mom’s Magic, awarded honorable mention and $5,000. Founded by Darden second-year students Darshan Savalia, Garima Seth and Aniket Chaudhari, Mom’s Magic produces spice mixes for home cooks making Indian recipes.

The Entrepreneurship Cup series for 2023-24 began with the Concept competition in November and continued with the Discovery competition in February, in which student entrepreneurs apply principals of effectuation, a method developed by Professor Saras Sarasvathy, to their business plans to cut down on risk.

To participate in Launch, contestants must demonstrate serious commitment to their ventures, and convince judges that it is both sustainable and capable of growth. MJ Toms, director of education and experiential learning at Darden’s Batten Institute, finds that the competition attracts entrepreneurial students who are keen problem solvers.

“It’s fun and exciting to see what problems students are passionate about solving and the energy and creativity they bring,” she said.

Brett Brohl (MBA ’09), managing partner at Bread & Butter Ventures, was one of four judges for Launch. He said that participating as a judge has given him a special perspective on the support for entrepreneurship at UVA.

“As judges we are privileged to meet founders building companies in such a variety of spaces, from vertical SaaS, like our winner EZ EAP to our third-place finisher, Play Henry, which has a fun approach to pickle ball. It gives you an appreciation of innovation occurring across the entire UVA ecosystem,” Brohl said.

Additional judges included Wayman Newton (Law ’07), real estate entrepreneur and attorney with Community Lawyers; Dana Warren, venture partner with Canaan; and John Woolard (Col ’87, MUEP ’92), CEO of Meridian Clean Energy.

For EZ-EAP, and the other winners, the next chapter of their entrepreneurial journey is underway.

“We’re super excited for what the future holds, especially after this win. The prize earnings are going to be extremely helpful in launching our application, but the real prize was the validation from the four incredible judges and the support that has followed,” Swisher said.

Carr Award Goes to Entrepreneurial UVA Alumni with Health Care Startup

A photo of two women holding an enlarged check.

Rithika Kormath (SEAS ’23) and Haeley Wotnosky (McIntire ’23) received a $25,000 prize from Darden’s Batten Institute to further the progress of their venture, Synersia.


Rithika Kormath (SEAS ’23) and Haeley Wotnosky (McIntire ’23) received a $25,000 prize from Darden’s Batten Institute to further the progress of their venture, Synersia, which is developing a proprietary numbing cream technology to address the shortcomings of other local pain management products.

Wotnosky and Kormath met at UVA and quickly discovered a shared passion for making a meaningful difference in the lives of others. As students and alumni they found a robust network of support including mentors, workshops and the i.Lab Incubator program hosted by the Batten Institute.

“We founded Synersia after witnessing firsthand the inadequate pain management solutions available in dermatology clinics. The severe side effects and even fatalities associated with current treatments were particularly alarming. Synersia was born from a desire to provide safe, effective pain management, especially to women, who are the predominant patient population in aesthetic procedures,” Wotnosky said.

Each year the Kathryne Carr Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence is bestowed upon a venture that participated in the Darden i.Lab Incubator, whose founders best exemplify characteristics important to Carr, including determination and community spirit, while pursuing commercial success.

Jason Brewster, director of ventures for Darden’s Batten Institute, was pleased to see how many ventures qualified for consideration.

“The Kathryne Carr Award was especially competitive this year with the majority of the i.Lab cohort continuing to develop their ventures following completion of the incubator program. Above all, Haeley and Rithika of Synersia demonstrated ‘moxie,’ a quality we associate with Kathy. I like to think that Kathy would be thrilled to see what these entrepreneurial students have accomplished and the direction they are heading.”

For Kormath and her co-founder, the connection between their entrepreneurial journeys and Carr’s legacy is obvious.

“We draw inspiration from Kathy’s legacy as a mentor and leader, and her integrity, generosity, and commitment to innovation. We are grateful for the opportunity to share our journey, to give back to the community, and we are enthusiastic for the future,” she said.

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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