By Jessica Nelson
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business hosted the UVA and Charlottesville communities at the W.L. Lyons Brown III i.Lab for a showcase of the 2019 Summer Incubator — the flagship venture-development program of Darden’s Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
From workshops to demo nights to an off-Grounds visit to an innovation center in Richmond, Virginia, the 2019 cohort of founders leaves the program with the skills, connections and inspiration to take their ventures to the next level. At the event, each venture team had the opportunity showcase their products and give a short presentation about their business to an audience of over 100.
BraveX, founded by a team of UVA engineering students, showed off their wearable, exoskeleton device, which decreases the disconnect between reality and virtual reality in the gaming industry. Charity Dinko, a 2018 UVA graduate and founder of NorthShea, handed out samples of her ethically-sourced shea butter products, whose proceeds help alleviate poverty for women in Ghana. Fellow 2018 UVA graduate Solène De Clippeleir handed out sweet Parisian creations from her new business, The Crepe Society.
Among Darden representatives in the incubator program, Amanda Joseph (MBA’19) shared her love of travel and inspiration for creating Trulli, a platform that helps users build travel plans and find hidden gems based on personal recommendations.
PurPics Takes Home Kathryne Carr Award, $25,000 Prize
Following the showcase, the third annual Kathryne Carr Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence was awarded to the summer incubator venture that displayed the most potential for commercial success and whose founders exhibited exceptional character traits such as leadership and persistence.
This year’s $25,000 award went to PurPics, an app that allows student organizations to fundraise for charitable causes through social media while helping brands reach and engage their Gen Z consumers. Since their time as a 2018 member of the incubator, PurPics Founders Aneesh Dhawan and Victor Layne have grown their team to over 11 employees.
Dhawan will be taking a leave of absence from the University of Virginia this year in order to focus on entrepreneurship and participate in the esteemed Techstars Accelerator program in Austin, Texas.
As he presented the Kathy Carr award, Batten Institute Senior Director David Touve spoke about the personal relationship he has been able to develop with Dhawan and with all the venture teams working this summer in the i.Lab workspace.
“It blows me away to see how teams develop, manage challenges and come together around issues,” Touve said. “Aneesh is one of these people, I’ve watched the team for the entire summer struggle at times and continue to move forward.”
The award is named after the incubator’s first director, Kathryne Carr, whom Jason Brewster, the current program director, said “set an unbelievable foundation upon which I can build and everyone here benefits from today.”
Brewster shared notes from community members whose lives Carr touched. She is remembered for her leadership and kindness and was called smart, tough, nurturing, and a trailblazer who believed in community and showing up for others.
Dhawan thanked the Carr family, the friends of the Carr family and the wonderful mentors and staff of the Batten Institute, which supports i.Lab programs.
“It’s been a phenomenal year and we have a lot of thanks and gratitude to give to the UVA community, both Darden and all the undergrad schools and especially the i.Lab,” Dhawan said. “It’s an incredible community, an incredible experience.”