Where to Start? OpenGrounds and Student Entrepreneurship

OpenGrounds is an exciting and ambitious new initiative at The University of Virginia. By acknowledging the interdisciplinary nature of questions and problems University folk wrestle with day in and day out, OpenGrounds strives to facilitate more effective connection, collaboration, and creative solutions to these problems.  As a student entrepreneur, I can think of a myriad of ways this initiative will be valuable to me and to other student entrepreneurs, hopefully inciting more students to action.

Creating a startup is an iterative process, often beginning with a personal frustration. Brandon Richardson, a professor in the McIntire School, gave his class a simple but effective exercise to come up with three things that we found personally frustrating everyday. After creating a large list of annoyances, he encouraged us to brainstorm cheaper, simpler, or better solutions to alleviate these frustrations.

My group realized we wanted more say in the music played at bars and parties. In an attempt to improve the quality of music played, Chris Greenwood and I developed an App that allows one to create a playlist of desired music. Guests  vote on available songs and the song with the most votes is played next. In theory it is a simple idea with a predecessor already  prevalent in bars, coffee shops, and restaurants. But the App, named Bump-It, takes the functionality of the jukebox and presents it in a cheaper and simpler way.

Many believe the creativity of an initial idea is the critical element in determining success. However the ability to execute iteratively and quickly is just as important if not more so. People suited for startups are individuals marked by a balance of determination and flexibility – determination to keep working in the face of indifference or rejection for months or years at a time, but also the flexibility to realize customers want something other than what you are offering.

Successful cofounder teams must enjoy each other’s company. Teams of self-starters that are not only passionate about the project but also get along well with each other, can move much quicker to develop products or services than established companies. Finding the right people is critical to startup success.

In its goal of connection, OpenGrounds should acknowledge that successful teams require not only connection of people but also require these people to enjoy each other’s company. This can only be proven through sustained relationship. I therefore hope the OpenGrounds space and network improves ones ability to facilitate with other successful startup teams through both the initial connection and the building of relationships.

OpenGrounds is an incredibly opportunity for UVa students. I strongly encourage others to come to the space; the University needs innovative thinkers in all departments or disciplines. Moreover the University needs innovative doers. One of the most valuable elements of OpenGrounds is the location on the corner. With such an incredible space open to students, I hope it can be used not only to connect and ideate but also to facilitate the creation of new products, movements, and organizations. Today fewer and fewer limitations exist to impede successful projects, but one must practice entrepreneurship  to reach success. Hopefully OpenGrounds will serve as such as a vehicle for future entrepreneurial teams to gather and collaborate.


Submitted by Harry Whelchel, 4th year Religious Studies and Economics student. For more information visit bumpit.net
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