Rice, University of Houston team up for Bayou Startup Showcase

As the semester drew to a close in early May, most Rice University students headed home for the summer, but a few groups of students got down to business on campus.

Over the past 90 days, eight teams consisting of entrepreneurial Rice students, faculty and alumni participated in a summer startup accelerator experience hosted by OwlSpark, a student-founded organization created in 2013 to ignite entrepreneurship at Rice. Using Willy’s Pub as a co-working space, the teams developed scalable business models for a range of innovative technologies through an intensive curriculum, ongoing mentorship and customer validation.

The teams will now have the opportunity to pitch their businesses Aug. 14 at the first Bayou City Showcase at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business. The event, which is jointly hosted by OwlSpark and the University of Houston’s (UH) RED Labs startup accelerator, will be from 2 to 7 p.m. in McNair Hall’s Shell Auditorium. There is no cost to attend, but preregistration is required. Registration closes at noon Aug. 12.

The Rice teams represent industries as diverse as information technology, consumer products, sports, education and social enterprise. They are Big Delta Systems, DiBS, One Jump, HospiTable, Rebel Putter, Nexus Software LLC, ProsthetiTech and YouHootMe.

The Bayou Startup Showcase provides an opportunity for startup teams from both accelerator programs to showcase their diverse businesses to the Greater Houston community and publicly launch them, according to event organizers. A total of 13 teams from both universities will present their companies. Each program has held similar, separate events in the past, but this year the joint effort will allow members of the Houston entrepreneurial community to maximize their time by attending one larger program, organizers said.

Rebel Putter is the brainchild of Ray Simar ’83, Rice professor in the practice of computer architecture and electrical and computer engineering, and Rice electrical engineering graduate student Yize Zhao. Rebel Putter is a multisensory high-performance putter that targets beginning and intermediate golfers and delivers visual, audio and tactile feedback in real time.

“A lot of startup companies fail because they have a nice product, but no one wants to buy it,” Simar said. “We have to determine why people would use our product then figure out how to crystalize key concepts to bring value to our markets, which will drive our technology from there.”

“Houston is a city built by entrepreneurs,” said Kerri Smith, managing director of OwlSpark. “In the last few years, the tech entrepreneurship ecosystem here has grown quite a bit. Both Rice and the University of Houston responded to needs of their respective university students by separately launching new startup accelerators in 2013. These programs allow students to gain invaluable experience as entrepreneurs and the opportunity to convert their ideas into reality.”

For more information about the event and the participating Rice teams, visit the Bayou Startup Showcase website, http://bayoustartupshowcase.com. To register, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/bayou-startup-showcase-tickets-6516124905.

The event is supported by the Jones School, UH’s Bauer College of Business, the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership and Rice’s George R. Brown School of Engineering.

About Jeff Falk