UVa Students Changing the Face of Social Messaging


[Originally published at Newsplex.com]

2013 Winners

A University of Virginia student’s innovative idea has won him $15,000. Brent Baumgartner, a first-year computer engineering major, put his plan up against 37 other entries in the Vonage-OpenGrounds Future of Social Messaging Concept Competition and came out on top.

The contest challenged students to come up with the next great evolution in social messaging. Baumgartner’s award-winning idea connects people who are at the same event, like a concert.

“Attendr is a local, persistent social messaging platform so that people that go to events can communicate with each other and share media and comments about the events,” said Baumgartner.

The top teams presented their proposals to a panel, including Vonage CEO and UVa. alumnus Marc Lefar. Lefar said the students tackled real consumer issues.

“They had practical ideas for how to solve those problems and then thought about business models and how consumers might actually acquire or use their services,” said Lefar.

Lefar said Vonage may partner with some of the students to further develop their ideas. In other situations, the company will connect them with venture capitalists who might have an interest in pursuing their projects with them.

This is the first competition of its kind for OpenGrounds. Director Bill Sherman said it has inspired students and opened them up to networking possibilities.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for students to be exposed to the leaders in the communications industry, to have conversations with people who are making change in the world and to be inspired to make their ideas visible to the world,” Sherman said.

Nearly $30,000 total in prize money was awarded to the top teams.

Baumgartner said he’ll put his share of the cash toward turning his idea into a product. In the meantime, he might use some of it for some well-deserved celebration.

“I may buy myself a nice dinner tonight first,” he said.

OpenGrounds is part of a university-wide effort to create new kinds of connections both around the university and with innovative partners.

Vonage-OpenGrounds Future of Social Messaging Concept Competition Winners:

1st Place
Brent Baumgartner, computer science major in the School of Engineering and Applied Science
Clifton, VA

2nd Place
Damian Warshall, graduate student

pursuing his M.B.A. at the Darden School of Business
Washington, D.C.

3rd Place (Tie)
Niklas Philipsen, a systems engineering major in the School of Engineering and Applied Science
Benjamin Terner, a computer science major in the School of Engineering and Applied Science
Both from Richmond, VA

3rd Place (Tie)
Murali Varadaraj, an undergraduate student majoring in pre-med and pre-commerce in the College of Arts & Sciences
Stony Brook, NY