Entrepreneurship shines at 5th annual Veterans Business Battle

Rice Business Veterans Association awards $14,000 in cash prizes

A nanotech indicator that seals medicine packaging and allows consumers to verify product authenticity won top honors and one of the largest initial investments at the fifth annual Veterans Business Battle at Rice.

Matt McGuire, CEO of SafeStamp, pitches his business plan for a product seal that uses nanotech reactions to help consumers verify medication authenticity.

SafeStamp, a Nashville, Tennessee-based venture with chief research and development conducted at Texas A&M University, created technology that glows orange with breath and blue with touch using complex quantum-level reactions that make it nearly impossible to counterfeit. It received a $5,000 prize for placing first in the venture category and also received a $50,000 initial investment offer from angel investing group Beachhead Investments, with opportunity for more financing.

Twenty companies from across the country pitched their ideas to a panel of investors April 12 as part of the two-day event hosted by the Rice Business Veterans Association, a student group of military veterans enrolled in Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business. The group awarded $14,000 in prizes from its funds as it hosted investment groups to listen to the pitches and meet with the business owners.

The top five businesses were invited to repeat their presentations April 13, and initial investment offers totaled $120,000. Additional investments, which are now being negotiated, have historically grown after the event; in 2018, the combined $550,000 offered to companies the day of the event grew to $950,000 funded after negotiations.

“Each of the contestants deserved serious consideration for investment, and the very close competition scores reflected that,” said Mike Mundey, the event’s co-chair. “We look forward to seeing these promising businesses develop and will do our best to continue to connect them with resources, mentors and opportunities.”

Sean Johnson, CEO of Houston-based Amor Oral, launched his business six months ago and asked for investment to help keep up with product demand.

Amor Oral, a Houston-based manufacturer of flavored personal lubricants, placed first in the owner-operator division with a $4,000 prize and received a $20,000 investment offer from Beachhead.

Off Duty Blue, a software management system for law enforcement agencies to manage third-party security services requests, received a $50,000 investment offer from Beachhead.

Additional prizes went to the following companies:

  • Randian, a Los Angeles company that integrates shopping with television shows, won second place in the venture category ($1,000).
  • Maco, a New York City company that uses crowdfunding for military care packages or any other gifts took third place in the venture category ($1,000).
  • Knifehand Nutrition, a Syracuse, New York, aproducer of frozen plant-based meals took second place in the owner-operator category ($1,000).
  • Zanbazan, a College Station, Texas, manufacturer of clothing for nursing mothers, won in the best one-minute pitch category ($1,000).
  • And I Like It Cheesecakes, a Dallas-based company that makes sugar-free, keto-friendly cheesecakes, took the prize for best business booth ($1,000).

Veterans Business Battle has helped bring more than $3.5 million of investments to veteran-owned businesses with the goal of launching as many as possible. The two-day event included learning sessions about financing and entrepreneurship as well as networking with investors and business leaders.

For more information, visit business.rice.edu/vbb.

About Jeff Falk

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