OwlSpark showcases Rice’s entrepreneurship prowess

After 12 weeks of refining their business models and building their companies as part of an annual startup accelerator program, teams from Rice University’s OwlSpark and the University of Houston’s RED Labs pitched their innovations at the Bayou Startup Showcase held Aug. 1 at The Cannon and Bayou City Fellowship campus.

Recent Rice alumna Sylvie Kalikoff practices her pitch for DASH Innovations, which is developing UrinControl, a temporary urethral valve for pediatric patients with neurogenic bladder dysfunction.

The startups, whose offerings range from medical devices to consumer apps and enterprise software, had participated in the 12-week program held this year at Station Houston, an accelerator hub for startup technology companies, corporate innovation and entrepreneurship.

OwlSpark’s cohort featured seven startup teams – Adren, Auggie, DASH Innovations, KickedOC, LilySpec, Myze and Second Act — with 15 founders. RED Labs’ cohort consisted of nine teams and 22 founders.

OwlSpark has organized seven annual cohorts, trained 54 startup teams and helped 140 founders enhance their entrepreneurial and leadership skills since its launch in 2012. This year’s cohort includes a mix of undergraduate and graduate students, recent alumni, students from other academic institutions and professionals across various industries.

“Our partnership with RED Labs is a uniquely successful collaboration that has demonstrated how working together benefits an entire ecosystem,” said Kerri Smith, managing director of OwlSpark and associate managing director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship. “Our founders learn and grow in positive, lasting and measurable ways. Collaboration with partners like the University of Houston and other leading ecosystem providers help our entrepreneurs become better positioned to pursue their visions.”

Since 2014, OwlSpark and RED Labs have worked together closely with a common curriculum, mentors and a demo day at the Bayou Startup Showcase. In summer 2017, for example, they leased space in downtown Houston’s 1600 Smith building to host a program similar to this year’s that gave teams firsthand experience launching a tech startup.

OwlSpark is a leading Rice resource for helping entrepreneurs launch startups and experience startup life. It provides hypertargeted training and mentoring. It also introduces entrepreneurs to disciplined strategies that help accelerate startup innovation. OwlSpark partners with universities and leading community organizations, enabling the entrepreneurial aspirations of students, faculty, staff and recent alumni. To date, OwlSpark startups have raised over $19 million in funding.

(Video and photos by Brandon Martin)

About Jeff Falk

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