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U. Of Bridgeport Team's App Wakes Up Crowd At Statewide Business Contest

Giovana Soares, far right, with her winning team at the recent Connecticut Start-up Weekend. Other team members were: Reynold Dmello, Oyindamola Ogunjobi, Desmond Ntseh, Michael Xu, Chris Lut, and Janine Tougas.
Giovana Soares, far right, with her winning team at the recent Connecticut Start-up Weekend. Other team members were: Reynold Dmello, Oyindamola Ogunjobi, Desmond Ntseh, Michael Xu, Chris Lut, and Janine Tougas. Photo Credit: University of Bridgeport

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Four young entrepreneurs from the University of Bridgeport, whose team wowed the crowd at a recent statewide contest, snagged a plum prize -- rent-free space at a business incubator where they can develop their startup.

But thanks to the school’s new Student Entrepreneur Center, it will be just the icing on the cake, say university officials.

The 32-hour challenge, which was open to students and the general public, involved the skills and drama of speed dating, reality survival shows, and a Silicon Valley pitch to Wall Street.

Giovana Soares, a design major at UB’s Shintaro Akatsu School of Design, led the winning team after pitching “Brighten Me Up,” an app that rewards users for waking up on time. The fee-based app requires users to answer questions or complete simple tasks to verify that they are awake. It then rewards points and prizes.

As “Crowd Favorite,” Soares’ team won a spot at a Hamden incubator for three months.

The team included UB students Reynold Dmello, a computer science major; Oyindamola Ogunjobi, a mechanical engineering major; MBA student Desmond Ntseh; Michael Xu, a professional developer; Chris Lut, a student from Quinnipiac University; and attorney Janine Tougas.

The Student Entrepreneur Center opened at the Ernest C. Trefz School of Business in September, just weeks before the competition.

It is staffed by six entrepreneurs-in-residence who provide free help to students from any academic department who have ideas for start-ups.

Mike Roer, one of those experts, said 24 students who attended an opening event at the center and were told about the competition signed up.

“An executive from the reSET incubator in Hartford did say to me, ‘Wow! What is the secret to the enthusiasm at the University of Bridgeport?’” said Roer, who accompanied students to the competition. “I think it’s because we have an SEC.”

“It’s been an instant success,” he added.

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