UVA Student Entrepreneurs Get Innovative with "Hack Cville"
Student entrepreneurs from the University of Virginia are crowding into a hideaway space above a bar on the UVA corner to create their own startup businesses. They call the underground incubator "Hack Cville".
UVA alumnus Spencer Ingram is piloting the project to give student innovators a place to develop their dreams.
"They make decisions around here," Ingram said. "They decide what it should look like, what they need. They drive interactions in their projects."
Fourteen teams interact on white boards, laptops, and tablets around the one-room workspace above Coupe Deville's on Elliewood Avenue.
Recent UVA grad Harry Whelchel designed the Bump It phone app. It allows users to control the music playlist at concert venues and clubs.
Whelchel describes it as "kind of like a crowdsource jukebox, so the song with the most votes gets played next." He says it's already been tested at The Jefferson Theater and Boylan Heights bar.
Third-year student Veronica Manuel stumbled upon the Hack Cville headquarters when it opened in May. She's drawing up plans for a computerized high heel to track a woman's gait. Her fellow hackers are providing feedback to help improve her idea.
"We have those discussions every day," said Manuel. "It's good to be surrounded by those fresh ideas."
Rory Stolzenberg created the computer coding for an app called Foodio along with his friends. "It was really just us in our own dorm rooms, working alone, late nights," said Stolzenberg. At Hack, they're meeting with business mentors and advisers to market the food-ordering app to local restaurants.
"We're all sort of facing the same problems and getting a good sense of how we do this whole business thing after all," Stolzenberg said of the entrepreneurial process.
Whelchel agrees, "The combination of just the space itself and the like-minded people creates a really great energy that keeps you motivated."
Hack Cville is open 24/7 for student members, and they hope to welcome new entrepreneurs when classes resume in the fall.
"This is about bringing noise to the Charlottesville entrepreneur scene," Ingram said.
The program is also welcoming input from business leaders and investors around Charlottesville to come mentor the students.