TriFusion Devices from Texas A&M wins 2016 Rice Business Plan Competition

Nearly $1.7 million awarded at world’s richest, largest student startup competition

The 2016 Rice Business Plan Competition grand prize winner was TriFusion Devices from Texas A&M University.

The 2016 Rice Business Plan Competition grand prize winner was TriFusion Devices from Texas A&M University.

TriFusion Devices from Texas A&M University emerged as the top startup company in the Rice Business Plan Competition (RBPC) Saturday at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business. The annual event is the world’s richest and largest student startup competition.

Selected by 275 judges from the investment sector as representing the best investment opportunity and taking home nearly $400,000 in cash and prizes, TriFusion Devices bested 41 other competitors hailing from some of the world’s top universities. TriFusion Devices offers breakthrough 3-D printed products and services aimed at revolutionizing the health care and sports-equipment industries in powerful and profitable ways.

Significant new prizes this year and the teams that won them include the following:

* $25,000 Rice Brown School of Engineering Tech Innovation Prize – Leuko, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

* $100,000, Cisco Internet of Everything Innovation Challenge Prize – Neopenda, Columbia University.

* $25,000 Cisco Internet of Everything Innovation Challenge Prize – Bold Diagnostics, Northwestern University.

* $10,000 Cisco Internet of Everything Innovation Challenge Prize – Gecko Robotics, Carnegie Mellon University.

* $25,000 TMCx Medical Device Accelerator Prize – TriFusion Devices, Texas A&M University.

* $25,000 TMCx Digital Health Accelerator Prize – Bold Diagnostics, Northwestern University.

* TMCx Life Science Accelerator Prize – Oncolinx, Dartmouth College.

Five TiE RBPC Angel Investment prizes totaling $370,000: $100,000 — Oncolinx, Dartmouth College; $100,000 – PreDxion Bio, University of Michigan; $60,000 – Gecko Robotics, Carnegie Mellon University; $60,000 — TriFusion, Texas A&M University; $50,000 – Bold Diagnostics, Northwestern University.

* Station Houston Engine of Innovation Prize – EximChain, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

* $50,000 Second-Place Investment Prize – Neurable, University of Michigan.

Flat Medical from National Taiwan University, Taiwan, won the $5,000 online People’s Choice Competition. The winner was determined by more than 16,000 people who voted for their favorite team via a Facebook survey held March 24 through noon Central Daylight Time Saturday.

The prizes were presented Saturday night at a banquet at the Hilton Americas-Houston that concluded the three-day event, which began April 14.

This year’s competitors were the most diverse in the history of the competition and came from top universities around the globe. The teams were chosen from nearly 400 entrants to compete in four categories: life sciences; information technology/Web/mobile; energy/clean technology/sustainability; and other. Each team made its case in 15-minute investment pitches and a rapid-fire 60-second elevator-pitch contest on the first night of the competition.

The top six finalists based on the judges’ overall score in the 2016 RBPC were:

TriFusion Devices, Texas A&M University — grand prize with a total value of nearly $400,000.

 The grand prize includes:

  • $300,000-plus Investment Prize from The GOOSE Society of Texas. 
  • 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).
  • Business Plan software provided by Palo Alto Software.
  • Opportunity to ring the closing bell at the NASDAQ Stock Market in New York. 

Neurable, University of Michigan — $50,000 second-place prize and $280,000 Owl Investment Prize. The second-place prize was awarded by one of the sponsors of the first RBPC in 2001, Finger Interests. It was increased from $15,000 to $50,000 by the Anderson Family Fund and the Greater Houston Community Foundation and by the Finger Family in memory of Jerry Finger.

Neurable has created the first noninvasive brain-computer interface that allows for real-time control of physical objects and software.

Gecko Robotics, Carnegie Mellon University — third place and $150,000 in individual prizes.

Gecko Robotics builds robots for industrial inspections, starting with power plants.

Bold Diagnostics, Northwestern University — fourth place and more than $45,000 in individual prizes.

Bold Diagnostics is an early stage Northwestern University startup that is developing the future of blood-pressure monitoring with an innovative platform. The company’s patent-pending technology is currently being validated through a 150-person preclinical study at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Oncolinx, Dartmouth College — fifth place and more than $100,000 in individual prizes, including one of the TiE RBPC Angel Investment prizes.

Oncolinx is developing targeted cancer therapies that both destroy the tumor and activate immunological memory to improve patient response durability.

MDAR Technologies, Northwestern University — sixth place.

MDAR has developed a 3-D vision system that eliminates the trade-offs of existing technologies, thereby enabling a new wave of robotics.

Since the RBPC’s inception in 2001, when nine teams competed for $10,000, more than 161 competitors have gone on to successfully launch their ventures and are still in business today; another 15 have successfully sold their ventures. Past competitors have raised in excess of $1.4 billion in funding and created more than 2,000 new jobs.

The 16th annual RBPC was hosted by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship and the Jones School.

For more information about the RBPC, visit

About Jeff Falk

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