For Andre Ripley ’19, Facebook provides much more than a way to stay connected to friends and family.
The social media and technology company is giving him a chance at a lucrative career and success as a tech entrepreneur.
Ripley, who graduated from Florida Polytechnic University with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, was awarded a $120,000 partnership deal with Facebook and Oculus VR to develop and run virtual reality gaming tournaments for the new Pistol Whip VR game. His company, Virtualities, will track elements such as players, prize money, teams, rules, and cheating.
“We negotiated with Facebook for probably four months and we finally closed the deal on New Year’s Day,” said Ripley, chief technology officer of the Salt Lake City, Utah, company. “That was a great start to the year.”
The company is hoping to land a $1 million deal with Facebook this spring.
“We have to launch our platform and meet all the requirements for Facebook and as long as we keep our platform running, we have a good chance of closing the million-dollar deal,” Ripley said. “We’re almost done and ahead of schedule right now.”
He said the traditional way of running gaming tournaments involves many people working on spreadsheets to track scores and other data.
“That’s really outdated and hasn’t been automated. Since the demand for esports is getting higher, we’re trying to solve that with the Facebook deal,” Ripley said.
The U.S Virgin Island native said that Virtualities ran a Beat Saber tournament last year with competitors from 78 countries.
“With the power of Facebook, I can’t imagine how many people will compete in the Pistol Whip tournament, but we’re prepared for anything,” Ripley said. “I never expected to be funded by Facebook – my first round of funding was from my dad, who gave me $300 to develop a prototype for a box that does appraisals for diamonds.”
In addition to his work with the growing tech start-up, Ripley also works with flight simulators as a software engineer at Collins Aerospace in Salt Lake City.
He discovered his passion for entrepreneurship at Florida Poly after being encouraged to enter – and win – several entrepreneurship competitions throughout Central Florida and the state. This included a third-place victory in the 2018 Governor’s Cup competition with his team’s product, Insta-List – a product that captured, scanned, and listed items for digital selling in less than 10 seconds. His collegiate victories earned him 20,000 LinkedIn followers and a thirst to continue his efforts.
“The single best thing I’ve done was getting involved with the entrepreneurship program at Florida Poly because you don’t even need to have the best idea or be completely thought through, you just have to try and get feedback,” Ripley said. “Even when I’ve failed it’s like I’ve won because I got crucial feedback and I implemented it into the Facebook deal.”
Ripley said he plans to remember his alma mater as he continues achieving success in the gaming tournament technology world.
“I remember talking to Dr. (Randy) Avent after I won a competition and he said, ‘When you become a millionaire, hopefully you’ll donate to Florida Poly,’ and that’s the first thing I’ll do,” Ripley said. “Florida Poly gave me a bunch of cool experiences and it’s right to give back.”
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