This year’s top honors in the annual U.Va.-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 U.Va. School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), were inspired to create WalkBack to address the lack of self-empowerment among students after a series of high-profile crimes on college and university grounds around the country. Their win comes a few weeks after winning the national student startup 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 University of Virginia Darden School of Business, where a total of $15,500 in prize money was awarded.
The 2012 prizes and winners include:
- First place award of $10,000 won by U.Va. students Ashutosh Priyadarshy (SEAS Class of 2012) and Duylam Nguyen-Ngo (SEAS Class of 2013), for their venture, WalkBack
- Second place award of $4,000 won by U.Va. students James Muller and David Drewry (SEAS Biomedical Engineering Class of 2012), Kirti Chawla (SEAS graduate student of computer science) and Gabriel Robins, U.Va. professor of computer science, for their venture, RadioFetch
- Third place award of $1,000 won by Darden MBA students Scott Caras (Class of 2013), Jeff Willis (Class of 2013) and Matt George (Class of 2013), for their venture, Chatter Sports
- Fourth place award of $500 won by Darden MBA students Brooke Lloyd (Class of 2012) and Brad Gambling (Class of 2012), for their venture, Planner B
The 2012 finalists include:
- Darden MBA students Whit Walker (Class of 2012), Tripper Dickson (Class of 2012) and Darden Professor Casey Lichtendahl, for their venture, Mixon LLC
- Darden MBA studentsJonathan Carrier (Class of 2012) and Ryal Tayloe (Class of 2012), for their venture, 501 Auctions
- Darden MBA student Jacqueline Wilde (Class of 2012) and Nicole Rufuku, for their venture, activeHi
- U.Va. students 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), for their venture, Memoria
Judges for the 2012 competition included: Kirby Farrell, founder and CEO of Broad Axe Technology Partners; Lucy Gibney, president and CEO of Dr. Lucy’s Cookies; and Douglas Muir, CEO of Credit Justice Services and founder of Bella Restaurant.
For more information, contact Derry Wade in Darden’s Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which co-sponsors the competition.