Rice entrepreneurs to pitch their businesses at Bayou Startup Showcase

Eight teams of business-minded Rice students and alumni will present their startup concepts to Houston’s entrepreneurship community during the second Bayou Startup Showcase at the University of Houston Aug. 11.

Alex Dzeda, left, a Sid Richardson College junior majoring in electrical engineering, and Senthil Natarajan, a Will Rice College senior majoring in electrical engineering, are the forces behind Ziel Solutions, which develops wearable devices for reducing the risk of injury from physical activity. Photos courtesy of OwlSpark

The Rice teams have been participants in a 12-week summer startup accelerator experience hosted by OwlSpark, a student-founded organization created in 2013 to ignite entrepreneurship at Rice. They represent industries as diverse as information technology, consumer products, sports and health care. The teams are Arovia, DigiChef, OcuCheck, Open Factory, SenseWatch, ShowCoach, Wholistic Advisors and Ziel Solutions.

The showcase is jointly hosted by OwlSpark and UH’s RED Labs startup accelerator and is free and open to the public. It will be from 1 to 7 p.m. at UH’s Student Center, Houston Room, 4100 University Drive. More than 600 people have signed up to attend so far and organizers at OwlSpark said the Rice community’s support is welcome and appreciated. Advance registration closes Aug. 7 and can be made at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/second-annual-bayou-startup-showcase-tickets-17740775136. Walk-up registration is available on the day of the event.

OwlSpark first collaborated with RED Labs last year for the inaugural Bayou Startup Showcase, and this summer, the two accelerators shared space in TMCx, the Texas Medical Center’s new 100,000-square-foot facility dedicated to supporting life science startup companies in Houston. OwlSpark provided the teams with the tools and resources needed to launch a tech startup, including a tailored curriculum and a mentor network of industry experts, according to Kerri Smith, managing director of OwlSpark.

“We believe these fundamental resources provide the necessary foundation for success beyond the showcase,” said Smith, who is also associate managing director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship. The Rice Alliance supports OwlSpark together with the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership.

The members of the ShowCoach team are, from left, Paine Matiscik, a Wiess College junior majoring in sport management, and MBA candidates Jimmy Comerota ‘10 and Daniel Purdy.

The OwlSpark experience has been inspiring for the forces behind ShowCoach, which is developing an online video platform to make professional private sports instructors accessible and affordable. The platform is the brainchild of retired minor league and Owl baseball player Jimmy Comerota ‘10, an MBA candidate at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business. Through the MBA program, Comerota connected with and recruited Daniel Purdy, a Web and software developer and marathon runner, to help build the product. The two were later introduced to Paine Matiscik, a Wiess College junior majoring in sport management and member of the Rice football team. When they saw Matiscik’s energy and passion for sports, Comerota and Purdy knew he’d be a great addition to the team.

“Whether it’s an interview with a customer, a presentation to mentors or just bringing it up in conversation with friends and family, the excitement of bringing a new technology to others is nothing short of a thrill,” the three said of their experience. “The energy of listening to all the startups and receiving an amazing amount of hopeful validation from a large audience will be incredible.”

For more information about the Bayou Startup Showcase, participating teams and agenda, visit www.bayoustartupshowcase.com.

About Jeff Falk

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