Get to Know a Few Members of our 2017 Cohort

Over the course of the summer, we’re sitting down with each of the i.Lab ventures to help them share their stories, which we feature each week over on our “Nash News” blog.  Recent weeks have allowed us to engage in enlightening conversations with 7 of the companies under our roof this summer.  To read more about these founders and their impressive backgrounds and aspirations, explore the pieces linked/excerpted below:

* Rohvi | Rohvi’s co-founders Sara Whiffen and Beth Crooker talked about launching an all-female tech startup and delved into how to bring online shopping principles to the brick-and-mortar retail space:

“There’s something positive about the shopping experience – touch, feel, social.  We still see a role for brick and mortar stores,” says Whiffen.  “…Amazon was supposed to put all bookstores out of business but now they’re actually building bookstores.  We’re [now] seeing there’s something valuable about the tangible experience [even in this digital age].”

*The Kitchen Network | We spoke with The Kitchen Network founder Ian Pasquarelli about how starting a food business can be an accessible dream for folks from all walks of life and how the sharing economy has affected his life and business ambitions:

“But his passion clearly lay not just in nutrition, but in the intersection of the food and business worlds – from a young age, Ian had “always known that [he] wanted to create and do something for [him]self” and found himself continually drawn to many aspects of entrepreneurship.  And that’s where the sharing comes in – this fascination with entrepreneurship didn’t stop with just a curiosity for what that path could do for his own life, it actually fueled a deeper mission to help others explore starting their own businesses as well.”

*Brandefy | Brandefy founder Meg Greenhalgh chatted with us about how feedback has been both the impetus of her business idea and the main driver behind shaping and refining it:

“After spending four years in private label consumer packaged goods, she began to realize that sometimes the generic version and the brand version of a product are exactly the same.  However, that doesn’t always hold true across the board – she’s also seen instances in which the store version of a product doesn’t even come close to matching up to the brand-name model.  With a product like sunscreen, for instance, buying a bad approximation to use during a hot, sunny July vacation is a mistake you certainly don’t want to make.”

*InMEDBio | Ashwinraj Karthikeyan, the founder of InMEDBio, spoke with us about how his innate curiosity and need to ask “why” is helping him make a huge impact:

“As a young, curious kid, his parents ‘used to get slightly irritated… I’d always ask ‘why’ a lot – to the point of exhaustion on my parents’ part.’  As far as entrepreneurs go, this trait seems to come with the territory, and sure enough, Ashwin tells me, he dabbled with business ideas in the years before founding InMEDBio.  In keeping with his focus on the future, ‘in high school, I was into robotics’ in addition to exploring numerous other ideas in the consumer products space.  While none of these business ideas stuck for too long, he felt continually compelled by the notion of ‘building something on my own and seeing where I could take it.’”

*Gaona Granola | Gaona Granola’s founder Coco Sotelo shared her familial approach to entrepreneurism and how forging a bridge between her native Mexico and second home in Charlottesville gets translated into the food that she bakes:

“The business is deeply rooted in the notion of family – not only is it a labor of love to feed and nourish her family as well as families throughout the Charlottesville community, but Coco actually drew the idea’s inspiration directly from her family, specifically her startup-minded daughter.  The eldest Gaona daughter, now 13 years old, possessed an innate entrepreneurial desire from a very young age – perhaps a subconscious legacy from Sotelo’s business-owner parents back in Mexico.”

*Pivot | Co-founders Brig Leland and April Palmer talked about a life in constant motion and how they combined their two passions – fitness and supporting local businesses – into their new venture:

“Essentially, no matter which way you cut it, pivot is inextricable from the idea of motion and movement.  And if there were one perfect phrase to sum up Pivot’s energetic Co-Founders April Palmer and Brig Leland, it would be “on the move.”  Now, they help local fitness enthusiasts get on the move as well through hundreds of on-demand classes at several local Charlottesville gyms without prepaid or recurring fees.”

*StreamSense Medical | Cheng Yang, founder of StreamSense Medical, spoke with us about how biomarkers are the scientific wave of the future and how his participation in the new i.LabX program has informed and shaped his venture in powerful ways:

“They say that building a successful business takes plenty of ‘blood, sweat, and tears,’ and that sentiment couldn’t be truer for StreamSense Medical CEO Cheng Yang. But, given the nature of his business, he’d probably tack on ‘urine’ to the end of that phrase. Old adages aside, these substances fall under the category of bodily fluids containing important ‘biomarkers,’ which help medical professionals see and monitor potential health issues – and Yang, a recent Chemistry PhD graduate from UVA, sees the potential for big business.”