Darden announces new business incubator class

i.Lab opens application process to broader community

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The Darden School, above, is the University’s primary graduate business school.



“We opened up the application process — in the past you had to have a Darden student involved, but now we take community ventures,” Toms said.

The 2014 W.L. Lyons Brown III Innovation Laboratory incubator announced a class of 26 ventures for its coming term, the Darden School’s Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation announced Wednesday. The iLab will provide selected businesses with access to a variety of training and other resources in developing their business models.

The iLab incubator serves to foster the development and growth of newly created businesses and to create an entrepreneurial learning community of mutual support.

Institute Associate Director Mary-Jo Toms said the incubator is furthering its outreach to the community.

“We opened up the application process — in the past you had to have a Darden student involved, but now we take community ventures,” Toms said.

Efficiency has increased with this change, and the program is seeing ventures already off the ground.

“[M]any of these companies already have revenue generation,” Toms said.

The iLab program is recruiting feedback from Charlottesville citizens by presenting ventures to be voted on at the Tom Tom Founders Festival.

“The Tom Tom Pitch night is another opportunity to reach out to the community in terms of students, faculty and staff,” Toms said.

The incubator panel has selected 10 finalists from 40 entries to pitch their ideas at the festival.

“Everyone will pay $10 to vote for the pitch, and the winner will either get the pot at the door or can get a spot in the incubator, which comes with a $5000 stipend — but you have to fully participate in this program,” Toms said.

The iLab incubator provides many resources for growing businesses, such as implementing a law clinic through the Law School for its participants.

“[This is an essential component to the program because] they help them think through the beginning business issues, which are very different for every business,” Toms said.

Sharing of experience and ingenuity is also a unique and vital aspect of the program, Toms added.

“In the summer there’s a one-on-one mentorship, and the companies are able to help each other with their different sets of skills,” she said.

Toms said some companies have developed straight out of University research.

“[The incubator program has] a range of business — from K2 Dental Arts, which will use 3-D printing technology for dentists to make quicker, less expensive crowns — to companies that are interested in shaking up the fashion world,” Tom said. “There’s one — Love that Fit — that helps you do online purchases, and how they’d fit with your actual body measurements.”


Published April 2, 2014 in News







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