Teams receive funding, mentoring and training to launch innovative ventures and compete for $50,000

The Department of Engineering and Society at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science has announced its newest class of Pike Engineering Entrepreneurship Fellows.

The highly selective program, now in its second year, is designed to challenge student teams working on early-stage entrepreneurial ventures with potential for commercial success. Each team receives:

  • Hands-on learning, including enrollment in a spring semester course designed to help them develop critical skills for launching their businesses
  • Networking and mentoring with well-known industry experts, executives and investors
  • Up to $5,000 of initial funding
  • Eligibility to compete for the Pike Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship ― up to a $50,000 prize ― to launch their new businesses

In the spring, the teams will present their ventures to a panel of seasoned investors to compete for the Pike Award. Six teams of student entrepreneurs comprise the 2018-2019 cohort of Pike Fellows:  

CHIEF, a designer of outdoor gear that emphasizes user experience as well as functionality

MetaCTF, providing cybersecurity training and competitions

MIST, a team of engineers and surgeons working on a treatment for scoliosis

Ocean.Loans, providing software as a service for private real estate lenders and investors

PurPics, a platform that connects brands with student organizations for a cause

uBall, a version of basketball meant to be played on beaches and fields that allows average players to dunk the ball

Read more about the 2018-2019 teams here.

Eric Pike and Will Pike (electrical engineering, 2016), chairman and vice president of engineering of Pike Corporation respectively, established the fellowship last year as part of a $250,000 gift to the University. They wanted to create a unique program in the Engineering School to nurture the kind of innovative spirit that turned their family business into a leading service provider to electric and gas utilities across the nation.

It was important to them that the program provide not just funding opportunities, but the resources and community environment to enable the students to launch their products or services. Their sponsorship builds on the strong entrepreneurial culture that already exists at UVA and produces successes such as last year’s Pike winner, Ashwin Karthikeyan, a 2018 aerospace engineering graduate and founder and CEO of InMEDBio.

Will Pke headshot

"We are thrilled to see the increased diversity of student business plans and are excited for a competition that will draw interest from across Grounds and the greater Charlottesville entrepreneurial community."

Will Pike ’16, Vice President of Engineering, Pike Corporation

It’s clear that the members of the 2018-2019 cohort fully grasp the value of what they are being offered. When asked, all of the teams pointed to entrepreneurial education, networking and mentoring as enormous benefits of the program.

“As we have moved forward with our product, we have seen the costs and additional resources we will need for bringing uBall to market,” said second-year pre-commerce student Tim Shields, who is teaming with his sister, Molly, a third-year neuroscience major. “The Pike Fellowship offers incredible networking and mentoring opportunities to grow our business and take our product to the next level.”

Eric Pike said he appreciates that this year’s fellows bring a wide range of venture concepts to the program, and include students from the College of Arts & Sciences and the Darden School of Business, as well as the Engineering School.

“I continue to be amazed by the talented students at the University,” Pike said. “I look forward to supporting these teams over the course of the program and beyond as they begin to pursue venture financing and guidance for scaling their respective businesses.”

Will Pike also likes the makeup of this year’s cohort.

“We are thrilled to see the increased diversity of student business plans and are excited for a competition that will draw interest from across Grounds and the greater Charlottesville entrepreneurial community,” he said. “These teams are extraordinarily driven and have missions with a significant opportunity for commercial success, which only continues to reaffirm to us the importance of supporting entrepreneurship at the University.”

Joseph L. Vaughan Professor of Humanities W. Bernard Carlson, chair of the Engineering and Society Department, notes the cohort represents some of UVA’s most promising student entrepreneurs ― just as it was intended to.

“Pike Fellows are selected because they’ve already done the hard work to show that their ideas are marketable. These outstanding students have demonstrated they have the drive to convert an idea into a product or service that will make a difference in people’s lives. That is the promise of the Pike Engineering Entrepreneurship Fellowship, and we are very grateful to Eric and Will Pike for helping to make this program poss