University announces winner in concept competition

Vonage-OpenGrounds collaboration awards $25,000 prize for innovative social messaging concept


The University in collaboration with communications service provider Vonage announced the winners of the Vonage-OpenGrounds “Future of Social Messaging Concept Competition” Friday.

Thirty-eight student teams competed for the $25,000 in prize money, pitching their ideas about the next generation of social messaging.

Vonage Chief Executive Officer Mark Lefar, a 1985 graduate of the Commerce school, announced the winner — first-year Engineering student Brent Baumgartner, who designed “Attendar.” Baumgartner envisioned a medium that allowed individuals to exchange their thoughts and experiences about certain events and issues on a shared platform.

“The concept came to me when I went to concerts at Charlottesville Live — people are taking a lot of photos, pictures and putting them on their own Facebook page,” Baumgartner said. “It would be great if we could get a platform where they can share their ideas with others and we could see it.”

The panel evaluated the proposals on several criteria: whether the concept identified and filled a consumer need and whether the idea was implementable.

The group of seven finalists pitched their ideas Thursday to a panel of judges comprised of corporate executives and prominent venture capitalists.

The winners will now have to commercialize their ideas as part of the competition, Lefar said.

“OpenGrounds was created to be a catalyst for this kind of innovation at the University,” OpenGrounds Director Bill Sherman said. “We are encouraging thinking in new ways and we certainly saw the fruits of that today.”

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