42 student startups to compete for over $1 million in first virtual Rice Business Plan Competition

Public is invited to watch events online

In its 20th year, the Rice Business Plan Competition (RBPC) — the world’s largest and richest student startup competition — is going virtual. Register to watch at rbpc.rice.edu/agenda.

Forty-two startups from eight countries and 39 universities will compete for over $1 million in cash, investments and other prizes beginning June 17, with technological support for the online event provided by the Greater Houston Partnership.

The RBPC helps student entrepreneurs enhance their odds of success by providing mentoring, feedback on their pitches and startups, and connections to investors. Of this year’s entries, 45% are related to life sciences, 31% to energy, 12% digital% tech innovation, and 5% consumer applications.

The competition kicks off June 17 with the Mercury Fund Elevator Pitch competition, a fast-paced, 60-second glimpse of all 42 startups. Round 1, set for June 18, will feature 10-minute pitches from each startup followed by a Q&A session with expert judges, and seven winners will advance to the live finals June 19. Each finalist will have 10 minutes to sell itself, followed by a Q&A with judges. Scores will then be tallied and prizes announced.

“The RBPC creates an environment for competitors, judges, sponsors, volunteers and attendees to connect, learn from each other, pursue big ideas and make a powerful impact on people’s lives,” said Brad Burke, managing director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship. “While we won’t be able to gather in person, and we’ll miss the energy of 500 people in the Jones Graduate School of Business, the virtual competition will still achieve its mission of providing connections and capital to promising graduate student-led startups. We believe this is essential for startups in this challenging economic environment.”

McNair Hall, home of Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business.

The RBPC, hosted by the Rice Alliance and Rice Business, has seen more than 235 startups go on to successfully launch their companies and raise more than $2.6 billion in funding.

This year’s prizes are expected to be similar to last year, including the $350,000 Investment Grand Prize from Goose Capital and the $100,000 second-place investment prize and $50,000 third-place investment prize from Jon Finger and Finger Interests, David Anderson and the Anderson Family Fund at the Greater Houston Community Foundation, Greg Novak and Tracy Druce. All finalists will receive prizes, with those placing fourth through seventh winning $5,000 each, sponsored by Norton Rose Fulbright, EY, Shell Ventures and Chevron Technology Ventures, respectively.

Other notable prizes include the $100,000 Houston Angel Network Investment Prize, the $100,000 Artemis Fund Investment, the $100,000 TiE Houston Investment Prize and the $100,000 Texas Medical Center Innovation Healthcare Investment Prize. Additionally, the Owl Investors, who have invested over $3.5 million in RBPC startups since 2011, are participating again this year.

Additional cash and investment prizes sponsors include:

  • $50,000 — Southwest National Pediatric Device Innovation Consortium
  • $50,000 — NASA Johnson Space Center
  • $25,000 — Texas Business Hall of Fame
  • $25,000 — nCourage Women Entrepreneurs Investment Group
  • $25,000 — Pearland Economic Development Corporation

About Avery Ruxer Franklin

Avery is a media relations specialist in the Office of Public Affairs.