Two recent McIntire graduates are embarking on a one-year program to pursue their entrepreneurial passions.
Chosen for HackCville’s Elliewood Fellowship, Yash Tekriwal (McIntire ’18, Engineering ’18) and Andy Page (McIntire ’18) are part of the select inaugural group launching HackCville’s initiative to give grads a path to start ventures in Charlottesville. HackCville, a student-run partner organization of McIntire’s Galant Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, will provide 11 UVA graduates with resources for starting their own ventures aimed at contributing to the Charlottesville business landscape.
The annual fellowship will keep the newly minted alums in the area through a combination of freelancing opportunities, dedicated office space, community startup resources, cohort member encouragement, and mentorship. The program plans to foster the area’s startup ecosystem through the students’ and alumni’s efforts, while mitigating some of the risk and negative cultural attitudes that normally dissuade recent graduates from taking a less traditional, entrepreneurial career path after completing their degrees.
For Tekriwal and Page, their journey starts by building on what they’ve accomplished at HackCville by teaching digital and entrepreneurial skills to other ‘Hoos. The former classmates say they’re ready to leverage the solid business knowledge they received at McIntire and apply it to their goal of providing affordable technology education access to a larger population. The two have already kicked their initial ideas for the fellowship into action by forming Radify Labs with Elliewood Fellowship co-recipient Allison Garrett (A&S ’18).
“One of my strengths is having the ability to dive deep into technical issues and concepts in a vast and growing field like data science, while still being able to take a step back and explain things more holistically,” Tekriwal says. “That’s why we’ve started Radify Labs, which is about getting students into applied learning through building technical projects. Code isn’t only for computer science majors, and digital strategy isn’t just the domain of marketing experts. You can—and should—be well-versed in all the modern skills that help keep businesses running. Making those skills easily digestible and fun is the challenge, and we’ve already been tackling it in full force this summer.”
Page says that entrepreneurship ventures like those he initiated through HackCville are important because they enable him to solve real issues; the fellowship provides an avenue for topics that resonate with him most. “Every single day, you’re working to find a solution that may or might not exist. When it does, it is incredibly fulfilling. Entrepreneurship is also so important because you can choose what problems you want to work on and try to find solutions for. I care deeply about access to affordable tech education, and so that’s what I decided to start with: finding ways to build more accessible opportunities.”
Another Elliewood Fellowship recipient, McIntire Entrepreneurship Minor Kaleigh Watson (A&S ’18), sees entrepreneurship as a democratizing means for innovation and an inspiration for creatively confronting large-scale issues that affect millions.
“Real-world problems like climate change or food insecurity can be improved by entrepreneurial endeavors,” she says. “It’s a reminder that anyone can work on solving big problems. You don’t have to have everything you need to take a first step on an idea.”
Watson finds the independence combined with the shared, structured experience of the cohort program an effective way to make progress. “The fellows and I are all challenged to improve and take action on our projects every single week,” she explains. “We have a lot of autonomy, but we’re given the resources and support we need to succeed. It’s like having a toolkit that allows us to create anything we want, and then it’s up to us to decide what that something is going to look like. Nobody is making the big decisions for us, and because of that, I’ve learned an immense amount about myself and what I am capable of in just the first month of the fellowship.”
As Tekriwal and Page are off and running with their ideas for Radify Labs, it’s apparent that their goals to help others achieve and connect with tech education remain strong motivators and emblematic of McIntire’s hope that its students use commerce as a catalyst for positive change.
“We all have different things that guide us, but for me, making an impact is most important. I accidentally fell into teaching after rescuing the first HackCville data science class, but I’ve found that teaching is not only something that I love, but something that can help me to make the most impact,” Tekriwal says.
Page says that he hopes the Elliewood Fellowship will entice future graduates to remain in the area to create positive changes of their own. “I’m very passionate about building tech communities in small cities and rural areas,” he says. “I see the Elliewood Fellowship as a way to start encouraging really awesome students to stay in Charlottesville, contribute to the local community, and hopefully make a big impact. The fellowship puts the idea of staying in Charlottesville after graduation into the minds of students and makes them aware of the opportunity.”