Lindner students among winning team in 2018 Cincinnati Bell Innovation Challenge

Lindner College Team members take home top honors for re-envisioning Cincinnati Bell's 'Connect Cincinnati' application

UC Forward, in partnership with the UC Office of Innovation and UC’s newest corporate partner, Cincinnati Bell, organized an inaugural one-day Corporate Challenge Innovation Sprint at the university’s new 1819 Innovation Hub. From more than 200 UC student inquiries and 120 applications, 50 finalists representing 15 different disciplines were selected to compete for the top prize of $2,500. This year’s winning team and audience favorite included students from both the Lindner College of Business and College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning:

  • Karl Blevins III, a fourth-year Marketing and Information Systems double major and Business Fellow
  • Akshay Kher, a first-year Master of Science in Business Analytics student
  • Nonso Okonji, a second-year Operations Management and Economics double major, Circle of Excellence scholar and Business Fellow
  • Mariana Sosa Saldana, a third-year Fine Arts major
  • Zea Zhou, a third-year Master of Design student

The workshop, held November 3 and 4, was facilitated by local marketing firms, Fusion Media and Curiosity 360, and challenged students to help re-envision one of Cincinnati Bell's key digital touchpoints, the CONNECT CINCINNATI app, that people between the ages of 18 and 35 would want to use on a daily basis. The app had to be unique and different, help drive loyalty and value for Cincinnati Bell’s partners and consumers, and impact the local community with measurable results.

Participants spent Saturday exploring the challenge and collaborating with executives from Cincinnati Bell, local agencies, tech firms and innovation consultancies. “This event demonstrates the value of Cincinnati Bell’s collaborative relationship with the University of Cincinnati and its students,” says Kevin Murray, senior vice president and chief information officer at Cincinnati Bell. “This is another important step in our efforts to establish and maintain a pipeline of technical talent between UC and Cincinnati Bell.”

The workshop wrapped up on Sunday, November 4 with presentations from all 10 multi-disciplinary teams to a panel of judges who included Lindner alumnus and President/CEO of Cincinnati Bell, Leigh Fox, MBA ‘01; Cincinnati Bell’s Chief Culture Officer, Christi Cornette; Cincinnati Bell’s Chief Operating Officer, Tom Simpson; Fusion Alliance’s Director of Digital Solutions, Marty Samples; and CEO of Curiosity Advertising, Matt Fischer.

The winning team designed a free app that would help users decide the best places to eat (single or in a group) according to their preferences, such as cost, distance, wait time, dietary restrictions, cuisine, and more. The real-time data obtained through users could then be used by restaurant owners to decide where to open, what prices to set, what deals to offer, and how they could better analyze their competitors and improve their business. The restaurants would be charged a subscription fee, and furthermore, Cincinnati Bell could sell their Fiber Optics business to these restaurants to obtain real-time data analytics dashboards. Additionally, Cincinnati Bell could also market their current services to users who are subscribed to the app.

First place team member, Akshay Kher, was excited to apply classroom learning to this practical life challenge. “I used Tableau to create real-time dashboards which the judges really liked,” he says. “It was an amazing experience to work with the other four team members, all of whom come from different majors and different countries.”

About the Lindner College of Business

The Carl H. Lindner College of Business is committed to developing the next generation of business leaders. Through personalized career coaching and experiential learning, our students graduate with a competitive advantage in the workforce and are strongly positioned to address a multitude of today’s global business challenges. For more than 110 years, we’ve not only served as a catalyst for innovation and cutting-edge research, but our programs have also earned national acclaim in several academic areas. The best is yet to come in 2019, as we celebrate the grand opening of our new state-of-the-art building that promises to firmly position Lindner as one of the best business schools in the nation. We are Cincinnati’s extraordinary college of business.

About the 1819 Innovation Hub

As the new front door to UC’s innovation enterprise, the Office of Innovation, led by Chief Innovation Officer David J. Adams, offers a one-stop shop for industry to access the university’s extensive resources, including faculty expertise. The 1819 Innovation Hub serves as a physical manifestation of its collaborative approach to real-world, multi-disciplinary problem-solving.

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