Student startups awarded $65,000 at 2021 Napier Rice Launch Challenge

Lilie Lecture

A mobile app to help prevent veteran suicide is one of the products created by three student startups that claimed the top prizes at this year's edition of Rice University’s H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge (NRLC).

The first-place winner, rutd: resources united. technology driven., created a platform to deliver mental health resources to veterans – with more than 14,000 resources available. It includes secure chat and document functions to provide support with significantly reduced response time.

The competition featured eight Rice-affiliated startups pitching their businesses to a panel of judges for a shot at equity-free seed funding. Named after Rice professor and entrepreneurship program founder H. Albert Napier, the NRLC is presented by the university's Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Lilie).

“With the biggest and most diverse field of competitors in the history of the competition, it shows that at Rice and Lilie, you don’t have to choose between being a student and working on your startup. We empower you to do both,” said Kyle Judah, executive director of Lilie. “These founders took advantage of all our resources and opportunities — which is why they had million-dollar partnerships and tens of thousands of users at competition time.”

More than 400 members of the Rice community and Houston’s entrepreneurial ecosystem watched the virtual championships on April 22 as teams delivered five-minute pitches followed by five minutes of questions from judges. This year’s judges included Rice alumni Claire Shorall ’10 (CEO and co-founder of Topknot), Sunit Patel ’85 (chief financial officer, Ibotta), Monica Pal ’84 (founding partner, How Women Invest), Chris Staffel ’17 (managing director, GOOSE Capital) and Brad Husick ’86 (CEO and founder, IdeaSense).

The top three teams that earned a share of $65,000 are:

  • rutd: resources united. technology driven. — first place, $27,500: rutd is an enterprise software and mobile application solution connecting veterans and resources, in a single click, to end veteran suicide.
  • Green Room — second place, $20,000: Green Room is building tools to power the local live music industry, starting by simplifying payments and tax compliance.
  • A440 — third place, $15,000, and the Norman Dresden Leebron Audience Choice Award winner, $2,500: A440 is bringing the creator economy to classical music, helping a centuries-old art form find new life in the modern era.

All competitors received personalized mentoring with experienced entrepreneurs, investors and subject matter experts from across Houston and Rice’s alumni community. They also received coaching on how to deliver pitches as well as help from the Lilie team refining their ventures and accelerating their progress.

Lilie Lecture

This year's NRLC was sponsored by Mercury Fund and T-Minus Solutions, with continuing support from the Napier family and the Liu Family Foundation.

To learn more, visit or Lilie’s website,