What do you need most when you start a new business? Money! And The Rice Business Plan CompetitionTM (RBPC) will be awarding more than $1 million in prizes to aid new start-up businesses at the 10th annual competition. The $1 million in prizes is a new record for the competition, which was already the world's largest and richest.
The 42 teams selected from nearly 420 entries, a 20% increase from 2009, for the 2010 competition come from some of the best universities around the world. Teams were chosen based on their executive summaries to compete in six categories: life sciences, information technology, energy, green tech, social and other technologies, in the April 15-17 event. The teams will present 15-minute business plans with the top six competitors vying for the grand prize valued up to $385,000.
Though it may be a down economy in the United States, Houston is thriving as a region that supports business and entrepreneurship. Supporters of the competition, both individuals and corporations, as well as the NASA Johnson Space Center, have stepped up this year to create new prizes which put the total prizes above the $1 million threshold for the first time. These include:
- $100,000 Waste Management "Think Green" Investment Prize
- $50,000 NASA "Game Changer" Commercial Space Innovation Prize sponsored by the NASA Johnson Space Center
- $15,000 Heinlein Commercial Space Award underwritten by Heinlein Prize Trust
- $10,000 "Courageous Women Entrepreneur" Award provided by nCourage Entrepreneurs Investment Group
All 42 teams will also compete in the elevator pitch competition, where one member has 60 seconds to entice a potential investor, and in the new TwitPitch Competition where teams post a 140-character Tweet to promote their business.
Each of the 42 teams invited to compete at Rice are guaranteed to take home cash prize money. But more important may be the opportunity to meet potential investors and receive mentoring from more than 200 judges, who themselves are successful venture capitalists, angel investors, entrepreneurs, and business leaders.
RECORD OF SUCCESS:
Besides the impressive prize money, the greatest statistic of the RBPC is the track record of past competitors. Of the 270 who have competed in the first nine years of the competition, 95 past competitors have successfully launched their business after competing at Rice, raising more than $223 million in early-stage funding. There are 95 companies are in operation today, and in the last year alone, have raised over $75 million in funding.
"This success rate is indicative of the quality of teams the competition draws, and the fact that good entrepreneurs can be successful even in a down economy," said Brad Burke, managing director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship at Rice University. "It is also representative of the increased focus on innovation and entrepreneurship in the U.S. Most of the job growth is driven by entrepreneurs, and supporting these individuals is vital to economic development and future of the U.S. and the world."
Some of the many promising teams and disruptive technologies competing in 2010 include:
- Wristwatch-sized, non-invasive, continuous glucose monitor
- Mass production of live, organic worm meal, replacing current fish meal and mitigating depletion of fish stock
- Continuous positive airway pressure system for infants to reduce infant deaths in developing countries
- Nanotechnology-based surfactant developed to harvest trapped oil from mature oil reservoirs using enhanced oil recovery
- Smart phone application able to translate foreign signage into person's native language
Seven international teams will be represented this year, hailing from the United Kingdom, Canada, India, China and Thailand.
The winner of three-day competition, hosted by the Rice Alliance for Technology & Entrepreneurship along with the Jones Graduate School of Business, Rice University, will ring the closing bell at NASDAQ OMX on June 25, 2010.
The Grand Prize winner of the business plan competition will receive a package valued at up to $385,000 in total prizes, including a $125,000 equity investment from The Goose Society of Texas, one of two $100,000 prizes given by the Greater Houston Partnership's Opportunity HoustonSM, $65,000 from the OWL Investment Prize, $20,000 in cash sponsored by Shell and Kenda Capital, as well as $80,000 in incubation and other services.
The first of the $100,000 Opportunity HoustonSM prizes will be awarded to the company with the best life science technology business plan. The second $100,000 prize will go to the team with the top business plan in one of the following four industry sectors: energy and clean technology, information technology, aerospace, or nanotechnology. These awards will provide seed funding to launch these companies in the Houston region.
The new $100,000 Waste Management "Think Green" Investment prize will be awarded to the team that has the best business plan in the area of clean technologies including: biofuels, biomaterials, clean water, waste to energy and recycling and re-use
The $100,000 DFJ Mercury Tech Transfer Investment Prize is looking for unique and marketable university spin-out technologies. The purpose of the award is to encourage the commercialization of university technologies, or those technologies developed by faculty, researchers, and/or students at universities. To be considered a university spin-out, the business plan can be based on a start-up company that licenses technology from a single or multiple universities, and/or a company led by a student team from a university.
The $50,000 NASA "Game Changer" Commercial Space Innovation Prize acknowledges the best business plan for commercial space endeavors, the $20,000 NASA Earth/Space Life Science Innovation Award and the two, $20,000 NASA Earth/Space Engineering Innovation ward acknowledges the best life science plan or engineering plan, respectively, with applications in earth and space. Winners will be announced at the Awards Banquet on Saturday night, April 17, 2010 at the InterContinental Hotel, Houston.