Through its summer accelerator program and its many resources for growing startups, the W.L. Lyons Brown III i.Lab at UVA Incubator located at Darden has helped cement Charlottesville’s status as a growing hub of entrepreneurship. But UVA’s community of innovators extends far beyond Central Virginia, and now, the i.Lab does, too.
As we add more users, we will reach a critical mass where entrepreneurs will have a robust network through which to seek help tackling audacious goals.
The “Virtual i.Lab” launched in May 2016, allowing the current incubator class to connect with UVA mentors and resources all around the world. The interactive digital platform is the brainchild of the new i.Lab Incubator director, Jason Brewster.
“I launched similar platforms for National Geographic magazine and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy at my previous startup, Nimbus,” he said.
The platform has its own direct chat feature, discussion forums, a video archive of mentor and participant presentations, and a newsfeed from the i.Lab. Users can search mentor profiles and enter a forum to crowd-source advice on common startup challenges.
The heart of the i.Lab will remain in Charlottesville, while the Virtual i.Lab will help expand the network of UVA entrepreneurs and create a space where they can connect with each other.
Brewster hopes to expand the network by inviting entrepreneurial alumni from other areas of the UVA community to join.
“As we add more users, we will reach a critical mass where entrepreneurs will have a robust network through which to seek help tackling audacious goals,” he said. “The UVA network of alumni is one of the best in the world, and with systems like this one, we can remove barriers of time and place to increase overall engagement.”