Startup Virginia kicks off entrepreneurship tour at Darden School

University serves as first stop on group's six-city tour

The Darden School was the first stop in Startup Virginia’s six-city tour across the state Monday afternoon, drawing a crowd eager to discuss Charlottesville’s future plans to create what entrepreneurial enthusiasts called “strong startup ecosystems.”

Startup Virginia, a community of Virginia entrepreneurs and investors launched in January, aims to support new business ventures. “Through Startup America Regions, like Startup Virginia, we are working with entrepreneurs in local communities to help them craft bold visions for the future of their local ecosystems, bring them resources … and highlight their successes,” Donna Harris, managing director of Startup Regions for the Startup America Partnership, said in an email.

The Darden School event featured speakers such as Aneesh Chopra, former White House Chief Technology Officer; Thomas Skalak, the University’s vice president for research; and Mark Crowell, executive director of U.Va. Innovation and associate vice president for research.

Charlottesville was selected as the tour’s kickoff location because of its status as a potential hub for entrepreneurship.

“When you think about how jobs have been created in our nation, we tend to think of really big corporations,” Harris said. “But the data shows that it’s actually young, high-growth companies that are responsible for nearly all net new job created in the U.S. in the last 30 years.”

The Virginia Innovation Partnership — a fund that supports startups and is managed by the University, Virginia Tech and SRI International, an independent, nonprofit research institute — received a $1 million federal grant in September as part of the Department of Commerce’s i6 Challenge, an annual initiative promoting innovation-based entrepreneurial projects.

Two University student groups pitched original business concepts to the room as part of the event’s agenda.

First-year College student Evan Slotnick was a team leader of one of the groups.

“The insight the panel of business professionals had was terrific for any aspiring entrepreneur,” Slotnick said. “We got some great tips from many people with very interesting and successful business backgrounds.”

Startup Virginia also plans to stop off in Arlington, Blacksburg, Hampton Roads, Richmond and Roanoke.

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