U.Va. Student Startup Wins Pitchfest at SXSW Interactive Conference

University of Virginia students Duylam Nguyen-Ngo and Ashutosh Priyadarshy, founders of WalkBack, won the Student Startup Madness inaugural pitchfest at the South By Southwest Interactive Conference. WalkBack is a personal safety mobile app that targets college students who help friends walk home late at night by synching their smart phones with one another and check their safety and location.

As winners, Nguyen-Ngo and Priyadarshy walked away with a prize package valued at more than $3,000 and one-on-one networking session with the pitchfest judge Brian Cohen, chairman of New York Angels.

Each selected team was given 15 minutes to pitch their ideas and answer questions from a panel of judges that included Cohen, his son Trace, president of Launch.it, Elisa Miller-Out, president of Singlebrook and Nancy Spears, president of genConnect. The students’ ideas were judged on business merit, investment opportunity, strength of the idea and the team and market size and traction.

“All five teams did a great job describing their product or service and answering questions from the judges, but the top teams really stood out with their understanding of their market and articulating their business model,” said Sean Branagan, SSM founder and director of the Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, in a press release. “The WalkBack app got the attention of the judges because it solved a growing problem on many college campuses.”

For more information, see the conference press release.

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