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Computer Science Students Connect to Build Internet Phone Venture

From the time Luke Escude and Caleb Devany first met in a computer science class in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at UT Dallas, they experienced a creative synergy that drew them from a classroom friendship to a joint business venture.

Seven months ago, Escude launched PrimeVOX Communications, a Voice Over Internet Protocol business that provides companies with custom-tailored phone services over the Internet. He brought on Devany as his sales rep in December.

Escude developed the specialized software in response to a customer who asked him to develop the best possible phone service. Devany sells companies their Internet-based telecommunications products, which are just a fraction of the cost of a regular phone service.

They’re about to hire a third employee, a director of operations, to handle their company’s FCC compliance and regulation, legal work and internal operations.

PrimeVOX Communications already has more than a dozen clients, from private schools to call centers. Escude and Devany are leasing office space in Addison and have joined the Plano Chamber of Commerce. They are optimistic their business will draw $1 million a year within five years.

What makes their business unique, Escude said, is that they offer an encrypted phone message system, which automatically scrambles voice messages. The messages are later unscrambled on PrimeVOX Communications servers.

UTD News - CS students Phone VentureBecause the phone service is cloud-based, clients can retrieve calls through an app on their mobile phone.

Escude hopes to patent his software product in the next year.  

Being an entrepreneur is nothing new for Escude, who began developing software at age 14 and launched his first business at 15. Although he was not yet old enough to drive, Escude began offering his computer networking and server management abilities to companies within walking distance of his home.

“I’d go in and say, ‘Hey, do you need a better IT guy?’ No one would take me seriously until they saw what I could do,” Escude said.

Devany also had sales experience before he linked up with Escude. He became customer-savvy by working in retail service from the time he turned 16.

“Talking to people is not as much a problem for me as it might be for some computer science students,” he said.

The two computer science juniors agreed that their UT Dallas courses have helped to finesse their self-taught skills. Escude has refined his software design processes, and found entrepreneurial mentors in faculty members such as Dr. Stephen Perkins, who co-founded NetMass Inc., a cloud-based backup and archiving service provider company.

“Luke is one of those students who stands out in the crowded field of smart UT Dallas students. He has the drive and knowledge to be highly successful as a computer scientist,” Perkins said. “More importantly, he has the drive and leadership skills necessary to make a startup successful. His knowledge, drive and determination provide a strong foundation for the company.”

Because the culture at UT Dallas encourages initiative and creativity, becoming entrepreneurs has not conflicted with the students’ full-time studies, Devany said.

“It doesn’t interfere with my schoolwork. It feels integrated with what I’m doing,” Devany said.

At 21, Escude said he already recognizes he wants to leave a legacy.

“I want to change the world, and be remembered for it,” he said. “But I also want to redevelop what it means to be the next Bill Gates. It doesn’t take a Bill Gates to be a Bill Gates. I was just a middle school kid when I started.”

Source | UT Dallas News Center

About the UT Dallas Computer Science Department

The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 1,600 bachelor’s-degree students, more than 1,100 master’s students, 160 PhD students, and 80 faculty members, as of Fall 2015. With The University of Texas at Dallas’ unique history of starting as a graduate institution first, the CS Department is built on a legacy of valuing innovative research and providing advanced training for software engineers and computer scientists.

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