Thomas Marcoux and Joseph Kready successfully competed as team Face-to-Face in the 20th annual Governor’s Cup.

Joseph Kready and Thomas Marcoux won $10,000 by placing third in the Walton Family Foundation Graduate Division of the 20th annual Arkansas Governor’s Cup Collegiate Business Plan Competition. The duo competed as team Face-To-Face introducing an innovative technology that creates Avatar-based chatbots that replace existing text-based chatbot solutions. Face-to-Face is the first University of Arkansas at Little Rock team to place in the Graduate Division since 2009.

This year, the competition was conducted with the help of videoconferencing technologies. 18 teams from eight Arkansas universities virtually presented their innovative ideas and business plan which were judged by volunteers from Arkansas’s private and public sector business, industry, and government entities. 

“We feel honored by this award,” doctoral student Thomas Marcoux said. “We have put a lot of time and effort in the business plan and are very excited to see our work pay off and receive some validation for our ideas.”

Face-to-Face’s technology was developed based on research conducted by Dr. Mariofanna Milanova, a professor of computer science.   “The idea stemmed from Dr. Milanova’s research on measuring mood through text and tonality,” Thomas said. “While we were exploring different markets for the competition, we realized the potential to apply that research to improve chatbots and give them some emotional intelligence.”

The team created a unique chatbot product through the use of audio-visual technology providing a unique value for customers and thus a distinct competitive advantage. 

“With avatars, we can display emotion during the conversation at a level that’s never been done before,” senior computer science major Joseph Kready said.

Dr. Nitin Agarwal, director of COSMOS, said, “Thomas and Joseph have all the right instincts to be successful entrepreneurs. We are happy they started their entrepreneurial journey from COSMOS. We are super proud of their accomplishment and wish them all the best.”

We congratulate the team on their phenomenal success. 

About the Governor’s Cup:

Since 2001, more than $3 million has been contributed by sponsors to support competing teams and grow Arkansas’ future entrepreneurs and business leaders, an average of $150,000 annually. The purpose of Governor’s Cup remains the same as when the competition was launched 20 years ago to promote and support college students in their entrepreneurial endeavors and new venture creation; to encourage commercialization of promising ideas emerging from colleges and universities; to build bridges between these collegiate institutions and the entrepreneurial community; and to become one of the premier business plan competitions in the United States.

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