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AppVue wins UB Panasci prize

AppVue LLC, which aims to improve a smartphone user's experience, won the $25,000 first prize in the University at Buffalo's Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition.

The two-man team of Matthew Epstein, of Great Neck, and Andrew Cassetti, of Rochester, made their winning pitch Wednesday night to a panel of judges. Five teams competed in the finals.

The AppVue app allows users to see what apps their friends are using and how they are using them, to help users identify which apps are most relevant. AppVue can also be used with Facebook to enhance the service.

Epstein and Cassetti competed in the Panasci contest with their idea last year, when only a first-place prize was awarded, but did not win. But they did not give up. "We stayed resilient," Epstein said. "We went out and got investors, and we kept going."

The team made their Panasci pitch this year with their app already launched and support from investors enthusiastic about AppVue.

Cassetti said he looks forward to hiring locally as the company grows. "We want to keep the best and the brightest of engineering talent from going to the Valley."

Along with $25,000 in seed funding, AppVue will receive in-kind legal services from Jaeckle Fleischmann & Mugel; accounting services from Kopin & Co.; human resources start-up services from the People Plan by HR Foundations Inc.; and office space from North Forest Office Space. The in-kind services bring the first-place prize package's value to more than $35,000.

A $10,000 second-place prize went to Vonvo, a social media platform dedicated to real-time idea sharing and news. Its team members were Alex Chaplin, of Woodmere, and Max Ringelheim, of Atlantic Beach.

Nineteen teams entered the competition. The field was cut to five finalists based on their written business proposals.

The program is funded by a $1 million endowment from Panasci. The competition, in its 12th year, has been a launching pad for a number of businesses that remain in operation.