Founding Charlottesville: UVA's i.Lab goes Virtual

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- With social media like Facetime and interactive games like Pokémon GO, it isn't hard to connect with people all over the world.

Now the University of Virginia's Innovation Lab, or i.Lab, has joined the virtual community, allowing entrepreneurs and innovators all over the world to connect with each other in hopes of achieving their goals.

Jason Brewster, Incubation Director at the i.Lab said, "Much like Pokémon GO, this allows people to find the mentor that they need. The one that is most elusive."

The i.Lab at UVA allows students and members of the community to take courses and collaborate with each other on ventures in a robust entrepreneurial setting. And now, with the expansion of the i.Lab to the virtual realm, those connections can reach to mentors and alumni around the world.

"As a venture grows and develops, the venture has more specific needs and will need advice that is more particular to the industry that they're targeting and by having this Virtual i.Lab that will allow them to reach those mentors that they couldn't previously access through the physical availability of what exists in the Charlottesville community,” said Brewster.

That reach means a lot to a venture like The Mind Body Project.

Erin Henshaw, co-founder of the Mind Body Project, said, "So we are facilitating experiences that teach people to use bio-feedback. So their breathe, movement, heart rate, to understand their personal challenges and then use that information to feel better and lead them to have healthy and happy lives. So we are using the virtual i.Lab to connect with mentors who are giving us contacts not only in Charlottesville but in their networks all around the country."

Another venture taking advantage of the virtual i.Lab is Totem, a community-based philanthropy app that partners with businesses and nonprofits to incentivize community engagement.

Kyle Matthews, a UVA student and co-founder of Totem, said, “The Virtual i.Lab has been awesome because we can share all of our files. All of our documents. Anything we want people to see, especially our mentors at Darden or elsewhere, they can see everything we are working on right as we put it up there."

That sharing can also help these ventures to gain invaluable information.

"We are able to kind of learn from their mistakes before we make them ourselves and also just get all sorts of advice on marketing, sales, technological front, without having to do all the heavy lifting and burden of trying to find it. The resources are just right at our finger tips to be able to learn all about it and get to know people who have done it before,” Matthews said.

It will help developing these businesses who share one goal in common.

Matthews said, “Your creating your product because you have an idea and a vision and you want to create value and you want to improve people's lives."

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