NuMat Technologies from Northwestern crowned Rice Business Plan Competition champion

The 2012 Rice Business Plan Competition (RBPC) crowned NuMat Technologies from Northwestern University as the world champion startup company Saturday night for its invention of a nanomaterial that can store gases just like a sponge soaks up water. The Northwestern team took home $874,300 of the more than $1.55 million in cash and prizes presented at the awards banquet.

NuMat Technologies is currently in discussions with some major chemical and technology and transportation companies to commercialize its nanomaterials. One potential application is for natural-gas tanks used in motor vehicles. The material stores gases at lower pressure and thereby reduces infrastructure costs and increases design flexibility, which allows tanks to be designed around current automobile underpinnings.

This is a record year for prizes at the RBPC, with The GOOSE Society of Texas tripling its prize purse from $150,000 to $450,000 as Jack Gill and Bob Brockman handed out the grand-prize check to the winning team. The competition’s grand prize was valued at $874,300 and included $775,000 in equity investments and $99,300 of business services, including office space, marketing support and business mentoring.    

In its 12th year, the world’s richest and largest business plan competition brought 42 teams from around the globe to Rice University to pitch their new technology business plans to more than 250 judges who themselves are successful venture capital investors, entrepreneurs and business leaders. More than 600 people attended the banquet that marked the conclusion of the three-day RBPC, which was hosted by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship and Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University.

Insperity, itself a Houston success story founded in 1986 that provides an array of human resources and business solutions to more than 100,000 clients and customers, served as the title sponsor for the third year in a row. Fortune magazine covered the competition again this year and will feature the winners, teams and competition in the May 7 issue of the magazine and on

In addition to the grand prize from The GOOSE Society of Texas, the overall winners took home the $125,000 OWL Investment Prize, led by Robert Winter and Susan Hardin, and supported by Fulbright & Jaworksi, PKF Texas and BBVA Compass Bank. This year 25 judges and investors came together to support the 2012 OWL Investment Prize.

The Northwestern team NuMat Technologies took home $874,300 of the more than $1.55 million in cash and prizes presented at the awards banquet.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) marked its first year as a sponsor and demonstrated that clean energy innovation and entrepreneurship are efforts that both the public and private sectors can, and must, support. Representing the Obama administration’s Startup America Initiative, Karina Edmond from DOE spoke to the importance of business plan competitions in driving technical innovation and entrepreneurship forward and handed out the inaugural $100,000 DOE Clean Energy Prize.

The teams competed in five categories — life sciences, information technology, energy, green technology, social ventures and other technologies — in the April 12-14 event. The teams presented 15-minute business plans and competed in a rapid-fire 60-second elevator pitch contest on the first night or the competition.

The Northwestern team’s grand prize includes:

  • $450,000 Investment Prize from The GOOSE (“Grand Order of Successful Entrepreneurs”) Society of Texas, comprising Bob Brockman, Rod Canion, Nancy Chang, Arthur A. Ciocca, Dino Cortopassi, Terry M. Giles, Jack M. Gill, Michael Holthouse, Eric Pulaski and Dan Steppe.
  • $125,000 OWL Investment Prize.
  • $100,000 Life Science Award from Opportunity Houston and the Greater Houston Partnership.
  • One year of incubation services at the Houston Technology Center and a year of computing support provided by 1-Service ($35,000).
  • Marketing and design services provided by BrandExtract and the Padgett Group ($25,000).
  • Website development and hosting services for one year provided by ContentActive ($30,000).
  • Treasury services provided by Bank of America ($5,000).
  • Best Energy Team Award sponsored by Energy Ventures ($3,000).
  • Roundtrip airline tickets on United Airlines ($3,000).
  • Business plan software provided by Palo Alto Software.
  • Opportunity to ring the closing bell at the NASDAQ Stock Market in New York.

The five other finalists in the competition were:

Medtric Biotech LLC, Purdue University, which provides the measurable difference in wound management with its infection-fighting nanotechnology. The team won second place overall and a total of $146,000, which included the $100,000 Opportunity Houston Technology Prize from the Greater Houston Partnership and the $15,000 cash prize for second place sponsored by Finger Interests, the $25,000 NASA “Game Changer” Award, $3,000 Life Science Award from Essex Woodlands Health Ventures and the $3,000 Outstanding Written Business Plan Award from Palo Alto Software.

Lemm Technologies LLC , Purdue University, a startup medical-device company with the mission to develop a noninvasive device that performs sensitive blood-chemistry analysis. The team won third place from Murphree Venture Partners, the $100,000 DFJ Mercury Tech Transfer Investment Prize, the $3,000 Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award from the Pearland Economic Development Corporation and the Life Science elevator pitch award from Sante Ventures for a total of $111,500.

SolidEnergy, MIT, which improves the safety and energy density of rechargeable lithium batteries. Its battery technology is intended to help speed up the deployment of electric vehicles and be a game-changer in the oil drilling industry. The team won fourth place from Fulbright & Jaworski, the $100,000 U.S. Department of Energy Clean Energy Award and $15,000 Robert & Virginia Heinlein Prize Trust for a total of $120,000.

Solanux Inc., University of Idaho, which produces patented potato food ingredients with high amounts of resistant starch to help lower a person’s glycemic-index response, improve insulin levels, improve digestive health and lower fat and cholesterol levels. The team won $25,000, with the fifth-place award sponsored by Ernst & Young, the $20,000 Courageous Women Entrepreneurs Award sponsored by nCourage Entrepreneurs Investment Group and the $1,000 Elevator Pitch First Place Award sponsored by Austin Ventures.

Salveo Vascular, Johns Hopkins University, which developed the Sonicade, an innovative medical device that reduces the morbidity and mortality associated with central venous catheters. The team won the $3,000 sixth-place award sponsored by Comcast Business Class.

Eight prizes of $100,000 or more were awarded to:

$450,000 GOOSE Society of Texas Grand Prize – NuMat Technologies, Northwestern University.

$125,000 OWL Investment Prize – NuMat Technologies, Northwestern University.

$100,000 DFJ Mercury Tech Transfer Investment Prize – Lemm Technologies, Purdue University.

$100,000 Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Clean Tech Innovation Prize – NuMat Technologies, Northwestern.

$100,000 Waste Management “Think Green”® Investment Prize – Mimas Nanotechnologies, Northwestern.

$100,000 Opportunity HoustonSM Life Science Technology Prize – Medtric Biotech, Purdue University.

$100,000 Opportunity HoustonSM Technology Prize – NuMat Technologies, Northwestern University.

$100,000 U.S. Department of Energy Clean Energy Prize – SolidEnergy, MIT.

Other major prizewinners included:

Mimas Nanomaterials, Northwestern University, which manufactures a suite of next generation, high-margin, micro- and nano-scale materials by upcycling and reducing postconsumer plastic waste. The team won $101,500 in the competition, including the $100,000 Waste Management “Think Green” Investment Prize.

Innovostics, Johns Hopkins University, a for-profit social venture that produces point-of-care diagnostic technologies to save patients’ lives around the globe. Innovostics won $22,750, including the $20,000 NASA Earth/Space Life Science Innovation Award and the $1,000 Teen Judges Elevator Award.

SasaAfrica, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, e-commerce for the developing world. SasaAfrica connects craftswomen from developing countries to the global marketplace using a simple mobile phone. The team won $26,250, including the $10,000 Sheafor–Lindsay Social Impact Venture Award, the $10,000 Edward H. Molter Memorial Prize for Best Presentation sponsored by Miller, Egan, Molter & Nelson LLP and the $5,000 Courageous Women Entrepreneurs Award sponsored by nCourage Entrepreneurs Investment Group.

MoMo Scientific, Johns Hopkins University, which won $10,000, including the new $8,000 Women’s Health and Wellness Innovations Award sponsored by Sandi Heysinger and Dick Williams.

Senseye, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark, software that makes it possible to activate and operate a mobile device using the eyes. The team won $5,000, including the $3,000 Disruptive Technology Award sponsored by InContext Solutions.

Other prizewinners (in alphabetical order) were:

Action Figure Laboratories, Rice University, took home $7,300. Action Figure Laboratories is a retail concept that will provide young boys with the experience of creating custom-built toys, similar to Build-a-Bear Workshop.

Amaethon, Rice University, won $7,750. Amaethon provides an alternative sugar source using a proprietary sweet sorghum seed. Compared with corn or sugar cane, Amaethon sweet sorghum yields more sugar per hectare of farmland with minimal water requirements and produces sugar at a fraction of the price.

ArborVita Associates, University of Chicago, is a biotechnology company that developed a proprietary platform technology to rapidly modify DNA in biomedical research, drug development and the production of novel human therapies. The team won $700.

Athena Laboratories, University of Texas at Austin, won $7,000. Athena Laboratories is a medical device company that provides a patented laser technology to physicians. The laser will be sold under the name FemtoSmooth and will be used to treat cellulite.

BeFree!, Johns Hopkins University/ Harvard University, is developing a vaginal drug-delivery platform technology. The company, which won $700, has received funding through Obama’s Qualifying Therapeutic Discovery Project and has patents pending.

Bladepad, Brigham Young University, won $2,000 for its razor-thin gamepad for iPhone and iPod touch.

Cleanoventions, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India, won $600. Cleanoventions is a clean energy startup by IIT Kharagpur students driven to make India energy self-sufficient.

DrilLight, LLC, Northern Institute of Technology Management, Germany, won $1,000. DrilLight LLC offers oil-rig operators a patent-pending solution for monitoring and compensating harmful drill string vibrations to ensure faster, more profitable and safer oil drilling.

Dynamo Micropower, Duke University, won $1,250. Dynamo Micropower is a small power products company that provides a unique generator tailored to its target market’s needs by leveraging a proprietary novel micro-gas turbine architecture.

eBiogen, Lancaster University Management School, England, won $500. eBiogen is an in-vitro diagnostic device for noninvasive tests that suffer from low accuracy and lead to delays in diagnosis.

Elemental Enzymes, University of Missouri, won $1,000. Elemental Enzymes is based off a platform production technology that reduces process steps, lowers costs and produces ultradurable enzymes for use in the remediation of soil and groundwater.

Global Paradigmz LLC, Carnegie Mellon University. Global Paradigmz is a software-development company founded on the principle of leveraging outcome-driven innovation to forge new paradigms in defying global challenges. The team won $500.

House Inc., Dartmouth College, won the ELEC 394 Elevator Pitch Competition Award and $2,000 total. House enables homeowners to manage home energy-efficiency modifications as investments instead of purchases, including one-stop online management, financing, microloans and return-on-investment calculations.

IOMI Technologies, University of Illinois at Chicago, won $700. IOMI Technologies develops innovative, sustainable and socially responsible water remediation and reclamation solutions to improve public health and environmental welfare.

Jola Venture, Northeastern University, won $1,000. Jola will set up a village technology center, create and distribute sustainable technologies to Common Initiative Groups and sell high-value, packaged foods to local and regional African markets.

Kentucky Chia, University of Louisville, won $2,000, including the Company Showcase award sponsored by McGuire Woods. Kentucky Chia aims to be the premier distributor of domestically produced chia seeds, an ancient grain with benefits for people and animals alike.

Lifetime Instruments, Stanford University, won $500. Lifetime Instruments is an optical instrumentation company founded by scientists and engineers. Its goal is to apply the latest breakthroughs in optical imaging to solve pressing real-world problems, including the use of forensic science and portable medical diagnostics.

Ligadon, The University of Utah, won $500. Ligadon provides a simple, more effective device for orthopedic and hand surgeons to treat ligament and tendon injuries. .

Mekong Green Tech, Georgia Institute of Technology, won $600. Mekong Green Tech provides a clean alternative to Vietnam’s brick-making industry through simple, low-cost, culturally sensitive rice husk gasifiers. 

NovoView Diagnostics, University of Illinois at Chicago, won $2,250. NovoView Diagnostics is an early stage medical device company created to safely and effectively assess the risk for stroke through conjunctival blood-flow measurement.

PhoneSoap, Brigham Young University, won $4,500, including the $3,000 Best Sales and Marketing Award sponsored by ContentActive and Houston Business Journal. PhoneSoap is a cell phone accessory company focused on keeping smartphones sanitary.

PiezoPowerTech, Wayne State University, won $600. PiezoPowerTech develops batteryless technology for mobile wireless sensors.

reNature, Arizona State University, won $500. ReNature is a biotech company with a goal of developing economically viable sustainable alternatives to waste production and energy consumption.

Samriddhi Water Solution, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, India, won $600. Samriddhi Water Solutions aims to commercialize biosorption technology from the proprietary technology developed in-house for wastewater effluents from industries.

Saturnis, Washington University in St. Louis, won $600. Saturnis is commercializing a patent-pending process that involves a single-step conversion of biomass to a refiner-ready synthetic crude oil and looks to raise $750,000 for process optimization.

SlideStacks, The University of Chicago, won $600. SlideStacks is online presentation software that provides a simple user interface that makes it easy for presenters to introduce the right slides, at the right time, based on the flow of the conversation.

SpatiaLink Solutions, University of Arkansas, won $700. SpatiaLink is reinventing the shelf-planning process by integrating with the supply chain to improve on-shelf availability. Its algorithms optimize product assortment to maximize retail sales and market share for product manufacturers.

Stanford Nitrogen Group, Stanford University, won $1,000. The Stanford Nitrogen Group has developed a new wastewater treatment process that recovers renewable energy from waste nitrogen.

T3D Nanotech LLC, University of Delaware, won $600. T3D Nanotech is a high technology startup spun off from patented nanotechnology research from the University of Delaware. 

Think Innoventions Pvt. Ltd., Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India, won $1,000. Think Innoventions aims to provide advanced, low-cost digital pen products and solutions based on its patented “intelligent image capture technology.”

Vasculogic, the University of Pennsylvania/Harvard University, won $700. Vasculogic is a medical device company developing blood-flow regulator technology to reduce cardiovascular complications in end-stage renal disease patients.

Other major sponsors of the Rice Business Plan Competition included NASDAQ OMX Educational Foundation, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, SURGE Accelerator, ConocoPhillips, UK Trade & Investment – British Consulate-General Houston, VS Elgohary & Associates, Sim-Tex LP, FLS Associates, Haynes and Boone LLP, Oracle, Comerica Bank, Access Global, Bennu, S3 Ventures, The Indus Entrepreneurs, Minuteman Press, Silver Fox Advisors, NCIIA, and Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

The Rice University Business Plan Competition is the largest and richest graduate-level business plan competition in the world.

The competition has grown from nine teams competing for $10,000 in prize money in 2001 to 42 teams from around the world competing for more than $1.55 million in cash and prizes.

More than 130 corporate and private sponsors support the business plan competition. Venture capitalists and other investors from around the country volunteer their time to judge the competition, with the majority of the 250-plus judges coming from the investment sector. The 128 competitors that have gone on to successfully launch their businesses are still in business today. They have raised more than $450 million in funding and employ more than 1,000 people.

The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship is Rice University’s nationally recognized initiative devoted to supporting technology commercialization, entrepreneurship education and the launch of technology companies. The Rice Alliance was formed as a strategic alliance of three Rice schools: the George R. Brown School of Engineering, the Wiess School of Natural Sciences and the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business.

Since inception in 1999, the Rice Alliance has hosted more than 1,400 startup companies at its programs, which have raised more than $2.5 billion in early stage capital. For more information on the Rice Alliance, visit

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.