VCU Team "Rams" Complexity From Cloud Technology to Win International Innovation Challenge

Team Collaborates with AT&T on Innovative Approach to Help Small Businesses Benefit from the Power of Cloud Technology

Richmond, Virginia, January 27, 2012

It’s not just the Ram basketball team making a run to the finals on behalf of Virginia Commonwealth. Today, a team of VCU students “cut the net” with the top prize in the Innovation Challenge®, a tough international competition that pits the world’s brightest graduate school student teams against one another to find creative technology solutions for businesses.

A group of VCU Brandcenter advertising students won the overall challenge by taking the top spot in the final round of competition, going up against winning teams from the other sponsored divisions. The VCU team, which developed a cloud-based smart platform solution for small businesses, had earlier secured their spot representing the AT&T division by beating out 60 teams from around the world.

“After interviewing a handful of small business owners, we quickly learned that many didn’t understand the full value that cloud services could provide,” said the VCU team spokesperson Jennifer Clinehens, a creative brand management student at VCU Brandcenter. “Thanks to AT&T, our team was given an early look into the kinds of considerations that real businesses must address when deciding to incorporate cloud computing. This helped us to develop a tool from the small business owner’s perspective, something that gave them the opportunity to take control of their information.”

Participating teams in the AT&T division were challenged to present a detailed plan for addressing questions on emerging technology and how AT&T can better connect its cloud-hosting services with mobility applications to meet the needs of small businesses.

The VCU team proposed an innovative new tool to help small business owners take the mystery out of cloud computing.  The solution would function as a “digital business partner,” simplifying cloud and mobile applications to increase productivity and efficiency, while providing small and midsize businesses with the analytical firepower of a larger company at a fraction of the cost.

VCU’s team, consisting of an art director, copywriter, creative technologist and creative brand manager, will share the grand prize of $20,000. The first, second and third place winners were announced today during a special event in New York.  All the teams will ring the New York Stock Exchange closing bell this afternoon.

“Participants in the Innovation Challenge are the business leaders of tomorrow,” said Anil Rathi, CEO & Founder of contest organizer Skild. “Collaboration with companies like AT&T is critical to providing insight into core technologies so that our teams can come up with innovative solutions to real-life problems.”

AT&T’s involvement in the Innovation Challenge is spearheaded through its Innovation Group and its crowd-sourcing and collaboration program, The Innovation Pipeline (TIP). As part of  the program, AT&T has reached outside its  employee base to tap the minds of top students and help support the next generation of business leaders.

“We’re always looking for opportunities to encourage new, innovative technology solutions and thrive on the creativity provided by graduate students,” said Sam Zellner, AT&T’s Executive Director of Innovation. “The VCU team’s innovative approach to simplifying adoption of cloud computing for small businesses has a lot of potential and we’re thrilled to have been a collaborator in their winning submission.”