Applications open for Rice Business Plan Competition

World’s richest and largest student startup competition adds more prizes

Applications are now open for the 18th annual Rice Business Plan Competition, which will be April 5-7 at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business. Graduate students with an idea for a new startup company are encouraged to apply to compete.

Forty-two teams from the world’s top universities will be selected to vie for prizes expected to be more than $1.5 million. The deadline for applications is 5 p.m. CST Feb. 9. Students will need to submit an executive summary and an optional one-minute video pitch through the competition’s website, All applications will be reviewed by a selection committee comprising select members of the entrepreneurship and investment community.

More than 500 teams are expected to apply to compete in four categories: life sciences/medical devices/digital health; digital/information technology/mobile; energy/clean technology/sustainability; and other innovations. A cohort of more than 275 judges will select the winner based on the company that represents the best investment opportunity.

Top prizes in 2018 are expected to be similar to last year and include the $300,000 Investment Grand Prize from The GOOSE Society of Texas; the OWL Investment Prize, which totaled $200,000 in 2017; $125,000 Houston Angel Network (HAN) Investment Prize; and $200,000 TiE Houston Angel Investment Prize. The 2018 grand prize-winner will ring the closing bell at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York City.

The RBPC will again award a $50,000 Department of Energy Cleantech prize, and the winner will advance to compete in the DOE Cleantech University Prize Competition in June 2018.

New this year is the chance for an RBPC team to advance to the Cleantech UP Competition in the Department of Defense track. The team with the best operational energy technology (energy required for training, moving and sustaining military forces and weapons platforms for military) will advance to the national competition with a chance to win $35,000.

A goal of the RBPC competition is to encourage more women to start up venture-fundable, technology-based startups, and nCourage Entrepreneurs Investment Group, a group of successful women angel investors, will provide an investment prize to the top startup with female founders. Last year, the group offered two prizes that totaled $65,000.

The Texas Medical Center Accelerator, TMCx, offered two investment prizes totaling $50,000, plus a guaranteed spot in their accelerator, while the Texas Business Hall of Fame provided a $25,000 cash prize to the top finishing team from Texas. NASA provided a $20,000 Earth/Space Human Health & Performance Innovation prize.

“The true measure of success for the Rice Business Plan Competition is the number of teams that launch, raise funding and go on to succeed in their business,” said Brad Burke, managing director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship at Rice University, which hosts the event. “The competition has served as the launch pad for a great number of successful entrepreneurial ventures, and the success rate far exceeds the national average.”

For more information on the 2018 Rice Business Plan Competition and application information, visit

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.