Monday, October 20, 2014

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U.Va. and Vonage Challenge Students to Invent the Next Big Thing in Social Messaging

The University of Virginia and Vonage, a leading provider of communications services connecting individuals through cloud-connected devices worldwide, are teaming up to challenge U.Va. students to invent the next evolution of social messaging in the Vonage-OpenGrounds Future of Social Messaging Concept Competition. 

Students are making change around the world in how they use texting, message walls and other social messaging tools. The goal of this competition is to spark innovation among U.Va. students to discover and define the next step forward. Students will compete for $25,000 in prize money.  

“Universities are among the most diverse organizations on earth and offer comprehensive learning and research opportunities, creating fertile ground for disruptive thinking and integrative advances,” said Thomas C. Skalak, U.Va. vice president for research. “Corporations have to take new thinking to markets, and are best-in-class in selected domains and markets. Combining these attributes via the OpenGrounds collaboration model is a powerful way to create new value that benefits society.”   

Marc Lefar, Vonage CEO and a 1985 graduate of U.Va.’s McIntire School of Commerce, and Bill Sherman, founding director of U.Va.’s OpenGrounds, a collaboration hub and think tank launched earlier this year, will kick off the competition on Monday on the south steps of the Rotunda. This marks the first “grand challenge” sponsored by OpenGrounds. 

Vonage will also sponsor a separate, related research project at U.Va. into what makes things “go viral” in social media. The project is underway, and details about the research will be made available in the coming months.  

“The competition and research will challenge both Vonage and U.Va. to break out of conventional thinking and business-as-usual to gain new insights into social messaging and the impact it can have on society,” Sherman said. “This is exactly the role we envisioned for OpenGrounds.” 

Sherman continued, “The partnership with Vonage presents a terrific opportunity for collaborative exploration, with potential outcomes ranging from concrete strategic knowledge to an enriched culture at both Vonage and U.Va.”  

“Universities have the largest concentration of expertise in multiple disciplines making them breeding grounds for innovation, yet these resources remain largely untapped by corporations,” Lefar said. “Our work with OpenGrounds will help to harness that creativity to stimulate disruptive thinking and innovation, benefiting business and society.” 

The competition is open exclusively to U.Va. undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral students. Technical and non-technical submissions are welcome. Presentations can include, but are not limited to, new platforms, interfaces, media, apps or hardware. All submissions will be reviewed by a panel of judges that will include representatives of U.Va. and Vonage.  First, second and third prizes of $15,000, $7,000 and $3,000 will be awarded to students who come up with the most innovative ideas. 

Submissions are due Oct. 16 and finalists will be presented to judges on Nov. 30. Details are available on the OpenGrounds website.

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