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Vonage, U.Va. Announce Winners of Inaugural Student Competition at OpenGrounds

Vonage Presents Students with Nearly $30,000 in Prize Money

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.

Eleven students spanning seven finalist teams were selected to present their concepts to a panel of judges in a closed session on November 29. The panel included Lefar; Chris Holden, Managing Partner of Court Square Ventures; Thomas C. Skalak, Vice President for Research at U.Va.; Baruch Sterman, a scientist and Vice President of Technology Research at Vonage; and Von Wright, former Vice President for AT&T Consumer & Mobility and CEO of 3 Points Strategic Solutions, LLC.

Additional finalists included Katherine Brock, Ari Greenberg, Jessica James, Nate Phalen, Herb Ryan and Chong Xu.

For information about the competition, visit the OpenGrounds website or read about the competition launch. 

About the University of Virginia
Founded in Charlottesville by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, the University of Virginia is a leading public university that serves as a national model for excellence through innovation and collaboration in its missions of teaching, research, public service and health care.

About Vonage
Vonage (NYSE: VG) is a leading provider of communications services connecting individuals through cloud-connected devices worldwide. Our technology serves approximately 2.4 million subscribers. We provide feature-rich, affordable communication solutions that offer flexibility, portability and ease-of-use for both landline and mobile phones. Our Vonage World plan offers unlimited calling to more than 60 countries with popular features like call waiting, call forwarding and visual voicemail – for one low monthly rate. Our Vonage Mobile app is a free downloadable app for iPhone® and Android™ that lets users talk and text worldwide for free with anyone else who uses the app.  Vonage's service is sold on the web and through regional and national retailers including Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Kmart and Sears, and is available to customers in the U.S. (, Canada ( and the United Kingdom (

Vonage Holdings Corp. is headquartered in Holmdel, New Jersey. Vonage® is a registered trademark of Vonage Marketing LLC, owned by Vonage America Inc.

To follow Vonage on Twitter, please visit To become a fan on Facebook, go to To subscribe on YouTube, visit


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