Students of the Week: Ashton Kennedy & Veena Somareddy

University of Texas, Dallas
Founders | Converse VR

Converse VR crowdfunded on SPURstartup, see their campaign here.

 


Why do you want to be an Entrepreneur?

Ashton | My dad became an entrepreneur when I was 11 and has been working on his passion ever since. He had an active role in my life and I appreciated that his work allowed him that flexibility. I have always hoped for the same in my own life. I’ve been a part-time freelancer for a very long time and enjoy creating and seeing projects through to completion. Creating a sustainable business around my skills has been one of my goals while working on my MBA. When it came to developing a business idea, I wanted to merge my skills with a new emerging market and saw virtual reality content development as that opportunity. With that focus, I now have a purpose and mission behind starting a company and a channel to continue creating stories that impact people and applications that improve people’s lives.

 


How do you see Converse VR positively impacting the Texas VR community?

Veena | Converse VR will be a place for all VR/AR enthusiasts to read about news in Texas and also showcase their work. Its place for them to meet other like minded individuals to collaborate and  work on projects they are passionate about and create quality content for this emerging industry.

Ashton | In the last 6 months that I’ve been digging into the VR ecosystem I have yet to encounter a centralized community for VR creatives in Texas and the majority of the industry seems to be settling in SF and LA. Even with the magnetic pull to the West Coast, Samsung’s immersive product R&D is right here in Richardson, TX and there are active VR communities in Houston and Austin, but they are all relatively unconnected to one another. That’s why it is an important part of Converse VR’s mission to help unite these groups with the Dallas community so that we can help grow a strong virtual reality industry in Texas. It’s important to not limit the industry to a single geographical area and open up businesses where creativity meets technology.

 


Why are you passionate about virtual reality?

Veena | I grew up playing games and being able to play those games again without the barriers of a screen and feel like you are actually in the game environment gives a tremendous sense of presence. I also like to create my own environments, interactions in the virtual world and make it as immersive and enjoyable as possible. Since its a field that is growing and changing rapidly, there are lot of opportunities to explore the applications of VR, from games to training to listening to music in VR, a project that I had worked on previously.

Ashton | Virtual Reality opens up a new realm of ways to tell stories, to learn, and to experience our world. With its unique ability to provide interactive immersion, there are many opportunities to create powerful, empathetic films and applications that people can learn from and enjoy. Users have the ability to be an active participant in their experience giving the outcome more weight. VR also lowers the cost of simulations that can help train people for tough, highly technical jobs or help improve their lives by providing an escape from reality to cope with pain or other mental ailment. There are many other applications we haven’t yet discovered that could possibly enhance our everyday lives – that possibility of exploration and creation fuels my desire to work in the medium.

 


How has SPURstartup helped you with your startup journey?

Ashton | Jon and Maggie have been integral champions in getting our startup on its feet. Jon helped us with our logo’s design and Maggie helped us refine our campaign messaging and purpose to get our initial seed funding. The platform has been a great tool in getting the word out about what we’re trying to achieve, as well as a huge motivator in diving head first into defining our company and producing our first content and products.

 


Check out Converse VR on SPURstartup, here, and help them bring the VR community to Texas!

Student of the Week: Justin Elhert

University of Texas at Dallas
Founder | Fridgely

Why we love Justin:
Justin has found a unique way to combat an old problem: food waste. Fridgely notifies you when your food is going to expire, making the process of saving food (and money!) easy. The app will even suggest recipes utilizing ingredients that need to be used soon! He’s crowdfunding to make Fridgely better while feeding families in need.

Click here to see Justin’s campaign and feed families!

Justin Ehlert is a senior Computer Science major at the University of Texas at Dallas. He’s the founder of Jump Space Apps, University Eats and Fridgely. When he’s not developing you can find him on the baseball field where he serves as a student coach for the baseball team.

 


How does your campaign give back to the local community?

“One of the awesome things about my campaign is that I’m donating meals to the North Texas Food Bank for every pledge. This means that my backers are not only helping me, but they are helping feed underprivileged families and children as well. Food waste affects everyone, and it’s important to be able to help out those around us as well.”

 


What inspired you to start Fridgely?

“I was tired of opening my fridge and seeing so much expired food. I was living in an apartment with three other male college roommates. As you can imagine, our fridge was pretty disgusting. Food would get pushed to the back and I would quickly forget what food I had. Then I would discover it later after it had already expired. This waste of food and money really annoyed me and I wanted to come with a system that would remind me when my food was going to expire.”

 


What would having a successful campaign do to help Fridgely and the fight against food waste?

“Helping Fridgely through the campaign would allow me to build out the last couple of features that will really make Fridgely an amazing application. These features are mainly centered around the ability to scan the barcode of an item and immediately get an estimated expiration date, this would make the item entering process significantly faster for our users. The donations would also help me build out a system where you can simply take a picture of our receipt from the grocery store and have all of your food automatically added into the app.”

 


Why are you passionate about helping people waste less food?

“Food waste not only hurts us, but it hurts the environment as well. The food we don’t eat and throw away ends up in our landfills and negatively impacts our planet. By eating the food we already have we also cut down on our dependence for food. When someone is trying to decide whether or not they want to get fast food after work, Fridgely will remind them that they have leftovers that are going to expire soon. Hopefully this makes the user chose to eat the leftovers instead. Fridgely keeps excess food from being thrown away and helps save that person money.

 


To see Justin’s crowdfunding campaign for Fridgely, click here!