By Lauren Wallace

In December, Darden hosted its third International Partner Program with the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS). Thirty-eight MBA students, two administrators and one professor from CEIBS made the trek from Shanghai to participate in 2016’s “Entrepreneurial Ecosystems and Networks in the U.S.” international partner program in which they learned from Darden professors, guest speakers, and entrepreneurs from around the world.

The week-long program began in Charlottesville where participating students took part in class sessions led by Darden faculty and guest speakers, including Jerry Peng (MBA ‘03), CEO and founder of Vastly. Two of the class sessions involved “surprise” appearances from Tom Bandy, CEO of BandyWorks, and Manoj Sinha, co-founder of Husk Power Systems, both of whose respective businesses are subjects of case studies published by Darden. One student lauded the surprise guest appearance of Tom Bandy, who led the BandyWorks case study in a class session, saying it was “the most impressive case study I’ve ever seen.”

Beyond the Darden grounds, the CEIBS students met at one of Charlottesville’s newest startup accelerators downtown where they heard from local entrepreneur and businesswoman Tracey Greene, Founder and Executive Director of Charlottesville Business Innovation Council and the Charlottesville Angel Network. While in Charlottesville, the group also toured Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and UVA’s iLab, a startup business incubator. At the iLab, UVA student entrepreneurs Keaton Wadzinski and Jacob Hardin (both Class of 2017) shared about ReinventED, a startup company that they co-founded together in their early years at UVA. “[I] enjoyed very much hearing firsthand from the student entrepreneurs,” stated CEIBS student Helen Chen. It’s “really useful to provide startup [resources] for young talent,” another student observed about the iLab.

After experiencing the local Charlottesville entrepreneurial ecosystem, the group travelled to the nation’s capital to explore more about startup networks in the U.S. During the last two days of the program, students conducted visits to companies and incubators in the DC area to learn from their founders, managers, directors, and employees. The CEIBS group visited multiple entrepreneurial environments—shared office spaces and incubators that promote collaboration, provide support, and enhance community for startup companies and their visionaries—including Make Offices, WeWork, and 1776. Incubators and shared office spaces are “really good place[s] for startup founders to share ideas with each other and help each other. [They’re a] great place to start a business,” one CEIBS student stated.

At each of these locations, a panel of entrepreneurs shared their experiences, offered advice, and answered questions about their work, life, and startup ventures. Shy Pahlevani of HUNGRY and Gautam Chowdhry of LeagueApps formed the panel at Make Offices, and at 1776, Mason Chenn, CEO of MicroBenefits, and Chadwyck Cobb, Lead User Experience Designer at Sandboxx, both presented to the group. At WeWork, five entrepreneurs, all of whom operate their startups from the WeWork ecosystem in Crystal City, formed a diverse panel of speakers—each sharing about their respective entrepreneurial journeys with Cover6 Solutions, Tradeversity, Sunniva, Kevin O’Connell, and Curated Table.

Additionally, the group heard from other experts in the startup field, including a panel of speakers from LiveSafe, a mobile security platform founded to improve safety and crime prevention efforts; Chris Cummings, CEO of Curiosity Media, the world’s largest online Spanish translation service and founder of its interactive e-learning program Fluencia; and angel investor John May, Managing Partner of New Vantage Group and co-author three books including his latest Angels Without Borders: Trends and Policies Shaping Angel Investment Worldwide (World Scientific: 2015). These sessions provided “awesome insights about success and failure in entrepreneurship” and great opportunities to interact with entrepreneurs and businesspeople, commented CEIBS student Anant Mithal.

Darden looks forward to welcoming CEIBS back for another international partner program in Charlottesville and DC in 2017.

CEIBS students on the steps of Darden’s Saunders Hall.
Fourth-year UVA students Jacob Hardin and Keaton Wadzinski share about their startup, ReinventED, in the iLab.
The CEIBS group at 1776 in Crystal City on the last day of the program.