Finding Charlottesville: i.Lab Summer Accelerator Program

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (NEWSPLEX)-- University of Virginia's Darden School of Business has had an incubation activity for a dozen years, but about three years ago it was time to expand, so a number of alumni donated money to renovate a space on grounds and turn it into the i.Lab Incubator.

According to its website, i.Lab is an initiative that creates a nexus point for entrepreneurship and innovation education at UVa.

There is an admissions process to be in the incubator.

It takes place each january and ventures are chosen by a diverse selection committee.

"Not everybody is cut out to be an entrepreneur, but there are a lot of people who've never been entrepreneurs or they didn't grow up in a family where there were entrepreneurs. What we give them is an opportunity to try it out for themselves and see if they like it and understand that failure of the enterprise is not necessarily failure of the entrepreneur. That the two are really different," said the director, Philippe Sommer.

On Wednesday, the 2015 companies will begin the 10-week intense course that runs each summer.

There are 10 Darden ventures; nine UVa ventures and five community ventures, which include Wildrock, which was selected during the crowdfunded pitch night at this year's Tom Tom Fest.

Sommer said, "We require that you be here full time and that this be your only job. So people have to really sort of put whatever else they're doing on hold."
"Entrepreneurship, as I say, is a contact sport. It's about community and you have to be here. If you're not here and if you're not interacting with other people, you don't have that experience and you don't learn as much."

He adds that aside from offering that contact and sense of community, i.Lab must also drive home a very important point to his entrepreneurs.

"By the end of the summer, they really understand what the issues are, what the problem is and they have a really clear idea of who their customer is," Sommer said.

The i.Lab summer accelerator program begins on May 27 and runs through August 5.

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