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Vonage, U.Va. Announce Winners Of Inaugural Student Competition At OpenGrounds





CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Dec. 3, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The University of Virginia and Vonage, a leading provider of communications services connecting individuals through cloud-connected devices worldwide, today announced the winners of the Future of Social Messaging Concept Competition, the first-ever student competition at U.Va.'s OpenGrounds. Students competed for first-, second- and third-place prizes of $15,000, $7,000 and $3,000.

Marc Lefar, Vonage Chief Executive Officer and a 1985 graduate of U.Va.'s McIntire School of Commerce, revealed the winners during an awards ceremony at the OpenGrounds Corner Studio. 

"We challenged U.Va. students to develop ideas that could define the next evolution of social messaging, and they delivered," Lefar said. "The breadth and depth of the ideas were excellent. We saw some fantastic work that addressed real-world problems and provided practical solutions."



Brent Baumgartner from Clifton, Va., a computer science major in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, won the $15,000 first-place prize for Attendr. Attendr is a localized social messaging virtual event platform that facilitates information sharing between attendees at the same event, even if they do not have previously established social media relationships.

Damian Warshall from Washington, D.C., a graduate student pursuing his M.B.A. at the Darden School of Business, won the $7,000 second-place prize for Listen-In. Listen-In is a location-centric information and social media aggregation service that connects users and businesses to comprehensive venue-relevant information based on geographic proximity.

Representing the first winning concept in a two-way tie for the third-place prize of $3,000 were Niklas Philipsen , a systems engineering major in the School of Engineering and Applied Science from Richmond, Va., and Benjamin Terner , a computer science major in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, also from Richmond. They developed Planr, a social messaging platform for events, enabling users to seamlessly discover and organize dinners, concerts, movies and other activities with friends.

Murali Varadaraj from Stony Brook, N.Y., also earned third-place recognition and $3,000. Varadaraj is an undergraduate pre-med and pre-commerce student in the College of Arts & Sciences. He created SORT, a social media platform that conveniently and intelligently aggregates social media and extracts social views as they develop. 

"We are thrilled with the success of this first OpenGrounds challenge," said Bill Sherman, founding director of U.Va.'s OpenGrounds. "Both the quality of the submissions we received and the potential that these ideas represent for the University's engagement in the world will enhance the culture at U.Va. This extraordinary partnership with Vonage has opened doors for students and demonstrates the potential of these new collaborations between the University and innovative partners."

Thirty-eight student teams competed for the prize money. Their ideas were reviewed by more than 50 professionals, including technical experts, business development leaders and venture capitalists.

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