13 April 2012
This year’s top honors in the annual UVa-Darden Business Plan Competition go to the founders of WalkBack, a mobile app that assists university students in walking home safely at night by creating a network of friends who keep track of one another as well as providing users with easy access to emergency resources.
"The WalkBack team and solution are a great example of the underlying entrepreneurial and technical talent present at U.Va. today,” said Kirby Farrell, one of three judges for the competition. “The WalkBack app is intuitive to use, has a real chance to go viral, and provides university administrators with an affordable and innovative approach to improving and enhancing the safety of its student population."
Ashutosh Priyadarshy and Duylam Nguyen-Ngo, both undergraduate students in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, were inspired to create WalkBack to address the lack of self-empowerment among students after a series of high profile crimes on campuses around the country. Their win comes a few weeks after winning the national student start up competition at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas.
The annual competition for the best new business plan featured a diverse range of highly innovative ventures representing several schools. An initial pool of 29 teams was narrowed to seven for the final round of the competition, which took place on 12 April at the Darden School of Business where a total of $15,500 in non-dilutive funds were awarded.
2012 Winners and Finalists
- First $10,000 – WalkBack Ashutosh Priyadarshy (School of Engineering and Applied Science Class of 2012) and Duylam Nguyen-Ngo (SEAS Class of 2013)
- Second $4,000 - RadioFetch James Muller and David Drewry (SEAS Biomedical Engineering Class of 2012), Gabriel Robins (Professor of Computer Science) and Kirti Chawla (SEAS graduate student of computer science)
- Third $1,000 – Chatter Sports Scott Caras (Class of 2013), Jeff Willis (Class of 2013) and Matt George (Class of 2013)
- Fourth $500 – Planner B Brooke Lloyd (Class of 2012) and Brad Gambling (Class of 2012)
- Finalist – Mixìon LLC Whit Walker (Class of 2012), Tripper Dickson (Class of 2012) and Casey Lichtendahl (Assistant Professor of Business Administration)
- Finalist – 501 Auctions Jonathan Carrier (Class of 2012) and Ryal Tayloe (Class of 2012)
- Finalist - activeHi Jacqueline Wilde (Class of 2012) and Nicole Rufuku
- Finalist – Memoria Celine Heckel-Jones (SEAS Class of 2012), Luke Lu (SEAS Class of 2013), Alex Polchert (SEAS Class of 2013) and Virginia Robinson (McIntire School Class of 2012)
Judges for the 2012 competition included: Kirby Farrell, Founder and CEO, Broad Axe Technology Partners; Lucy Gibney, President and CEO, Dr. Lucy’s Cookies; and Douglas Muir, CEO, Credit Justice Services and Founder, Bella Restaurant.