Through its signature summer incubator program for new ventures and its many resources for growing start-ups, the University of Virginia’s i.Lab has helped cement Charlottesville’s status as a growing hub of entrepreneurship. But UVA’s community of innovation extends far beyond the boundaries of Central Virginia, and now, the i.Lab does, too.
The “Virtual i.Lab” went live this summer, allowing entrepreneurs in 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 start-up, Nimbus,” he said. “In NatGeo’s case, we scaled the platform to over 20,000 users and 400,000 posts.”
He saw an opportunity to do something similar for i.Lab’s Incubator class, to expand members’ access to other innovators in the University community who may not be able to come to Charlottesville in person. The platform has its own direct chat feature, discussion forums, a video archive of mentor and participant presentations and a newsfeed of all the latest updates from the i.Lab. Users can also search the profiles of mentors and participants to find shared points of interest and experience.
“The group in the incubator is mostly here in person and they all know each other, but as the network recruits more and more mentors, we’re trying to position the platform to be this connective tissue back to the incubator program,” said Yates McCallum, the i.Lab’s virtual program coordinator. “It provides a window into the ventures, their curriculum and their status updates.”
Read more about the program at UVA Today.