CS senior lauds entrepreneurship training at The Wond’ry

Michael Umenta, a CS senior, believes networking events can be more meaningful. He developed an app, called CNCT (for Connect), that allows those attending conferences and other professional events to connect before they arrive and begin to build relationships.

As he prepares for his post-Vanderbilt life, Umenta is weighing a software engineer job offer at Google, where he’s interned twice, against starting a company with friends, with CNCT as the first product.

The entrepreneurship option is attractive, in part, because Umenta is taking advantage of training at The Wond’ry, a cross-disciplinary space at Vanderbilt that brings together faculty, students, and industry representatives. The Wond’ry, opened last fall as part of the new Innovation Pavilion.

“The Wond’ry has played a significant part in my entrepreneurship,” he said, praising mentors-in-residence from the business world who meet with students each week and answer questions.

michael umenta vanderbilt
CS senior Michael Umenta (left) explains his networking app at VandyHack III.

PostFlight, a nine-session Wond’ry program, gets into the gritty details of starting a company. Upcoming sessions cover advertising and marketing; human resources and equity distribution; accounting and bookkeeping; fundraising; and leadership.

Enrolled participants who attend all nine sessions can vie for a $2,900 micro-grant. A faculty advisory panel will review the proposals and select award five such grants.

Umenta already has had some pitching experience – and success. He won third place in the elevator pitch competition at the National Society of Black Engineers’ Region III Fall Regional Conference, held in Atlanta in November 2016. The networking app was built during VandyHacks III, Vanderbilt’s annual hackathon. He and his team and decided to pursue the idea further.

Entrepreneurial spark ignited, Umenta is applying to accelerator programs and networking like a pro, meeting with event planning groups and other professionals in conference organizing.

Diverse opportunities at Vanderbilt School of Engineering prepped Umenta for entrepreneurship as well as a career with a larger company.

A graduate of the prestigious Bronx High School of Science, Umenta applied to the School of Engineering and moved in as a first-year without ever having visited the campus.

He felt like he knew the place. A high school friend who had enrolled at Vanderbilt a year earlier pounded Umenta with stories and photos of campus life. Those relentless raves drew Umenta here. He planned to become an engineer, and exposure to programming led him to major in computer science with an engineering management minor.

Now, Umenta is the one raving.

“I am doing exactly what I love to do,” he said. “I have never felt happier and more fulfilled.”

Pamela Coyle, (615) 343-5495
Twitter @VUEngineering