In addition to the robust lineup of resources available to Darden students through the Batten Institute (Vp(x)2, Startup Academy, a host of speaker series, Batten Venture Internship Program, year-round programming… the list goes on and on), the University of Virginia maintains an entrepreneurship hub which serves to connect the many Entrepreneurship Centers around the University and “catalyze entrepreneurship efforts”. There’s even a map of all the makerspaces at UVA on their website. Need access to metalworking, 3D printing or virtual reality? MakerGrounds might be able to help.

Another University-wide platform available to student founders is the annual Entrepreneurship Cup, or E-Cup, competition. Open to all UVA undergraduates, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, the competition is made of three stages which each have its own competition and come with its own prize money. Darden students were named finalists and award winners in 11 unique ventures in Discovery and Launch phases of the E-Cup. Some of the finalists may even look familiar — we recently shared a story about the KPI Club, featuring a group of female founders who teamed up to motivate each other and hold each other accountable.

Stage I: Concept

The purpose of the Concept stage of the competition is to surface and seed ideas from all parts of the university at every stage of development. Students are encouraged to come up with out-of-the-box ideas that could be translated into compelling projects.

Stage II: Discovery

The Discovery Competition is based upon the principles of effectuation, a problem solving process that expert entrepreneurs undertake after they have conceived of their idea (Stage I: Concept), but before they invested significant time and money into the project. This stage of the competition requires students to—and rewards students who—demonstrate that they have taken steps to “de-risk” their idea, perhaps the most crucial step in the startup process. In the 2021 E-Cup Discovery Stage Competition, Darden students founders represented six out of the ten finalists and award winners.

Discovery Finalists and Award Winners from Darden:

Coton – Elizabeth Blankenship, Darden School of Business, 2022 | The first fully-sustainable luxury fashion brand with a focus on existing textiles. (Discovery Stage award winner)

Curate Mental Health – Erik Frost and Marina Peddy, EMBA Darden School of Business, 2022 | Curate Mental Health is an online platform designed for individuals struggling with mental illness.

RAYNA – Megan Nash, Darden School of Business, 2022; Katie Burke; Max Berg | RAYNA makes the world’s first and only dedicated female pubic hair trimmer. (Discovery Stage award winner)

The Million Word Challenge – Daniel Dickey, Darden School of Business, 2021 | The Million Word Challenge is a classroom tested program that encourages students to read via a friendly competition. Specifically, the initiative uses students’ intrinsic competitive nature as a way to motivate them to read one million words before the end of the school year. (Discover Stage award winner and Launch stage finalist)

Touchpoint – Jeremy Perdue, Darden School of Business, 2021 | Touchpoint is a relationship management tool for students that improves the job search experience.

Zalence – Alex Zorychta, Darden School of Business, 2021  Zalence is a platform where connectors curate pools of people they think should meet one another one-on-one. Connectors invite connectees into their pool(s) of endorsed people they would stake their reputation behind, and connectees can accept or request into these pool(s). (Discovery Stage award winner)

Stage III: Launch!

The Launch! Competition is the third and final stage of the UVA Entrepreneurship Cup, and its goal is to showcase and provide seed capital to the most compelling student ventures. In past years, upwards of $50,000 in total prize and in-kind resources have been awarded.

In this year’s E-Cup, Darden student founders showed up in force, representing a wide variety of ventures, from fully sustainable luxury fashion (Coton) to an online platform for those struggling with mental health (Curate Mental Health) to a friendly reading competition for classrooms (The Million Word Challenge). In the 2021 E-Cup Launch! Stage Competition, Darden students founders represented six out of the ten finalists and award winners.

For all the plant parents out there who have collected a jungle of houseplants during the pandemic (not that we know anything about that…), Second Year Amanda Wiggans (Class of 2021) may have just the solution for your post-pandemic travels. Winner of the Launch stage (a $20,000 prize), Wiggans developed Grome, the first device of its kind that keeps houseplants alive while their plant parents are away.

Launch Finalists and Award Winners from Darden:

Device Manufacturers of Virginia – Andrew Kohler and Korosh Yazdanpanah (Darden School of Business, 2022); Krista Kohler; Daniel Bounds | A physician-owned, patient-centered medical device R&D company providing a non-invasive solution to obstructive sleep apnea.

Fantasy4, LLC – John Palmer and Ethan Silverman, Darden School of Business, 2021 | Fantasy4 (“f4”) is a best-in-class dues management service for fantasy sports competitions that empowers participants to support their favorite charities through fantasy.

Grome – Amanda Wiggans, Darden School of Business, 2021 | Grome is the first device of it’s kind that keeps houseplants alive while their plant parents are away. (First Place, $20,000)

HUMMINGBYRD – Coco Woeltz and Isabelle Kayal Madison, Darden School of Business, 2021; Masloff, College of Arts and Science, 2021 | The first-ever invisible, front-zipper, horizontal pocket sports bra that fits smartphone, credit cards, keys and other essentials.

Joie de Sans – Cecilia Rios Murrieta, Darden School of Business, 2022 | Joie de SANS is an alluring alcohol-free cocktail company that is inclusive, empowering and sophisticated.

Hear from a few of our founders in their podcast episodes featured on Experience Darden, including a bonus episode from Grome founder Amanda Wiggans from August 2020 when Grome was but a seedling idea. 

Header image: Cecilia Rios Murrieta (Class of 2022) presents her video pitch for the UVA E-Cup Launch! final competition.

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