Human-sized checks and big ideas take over the Rice University campus this weekend as the 15th annual Rice Business Plan Competition (RBPC) gets underway. A panel of 280 judges made up of entrepreneurs, angel investors, venture capital experts and NASA employees will be on hand to determine the winner of the world’s richest and largest graduate-level student startup competition. Forty-two teams are set to pitch and compete for $1.6 million in prizes this year.
“For over a decade, the Partnership has truly enjoyed working alongside Rice University to show students from around the world what Houston has to offer. Houston rates so well on affordability, and when you layer that with the strong industry sectors that we have here, that gives any young company a huge advantage,” said Susan Davenport, senior vice president of Economic Development for the Greater Houston Partnership.
In the past two years, Houston has created and nurtured a large, active infrastructure to support early-stage companies. The cost of living in Houston is 3.8 percent lower than the national average. Couple that with a strong performance in the energy, health care, and manufacturing sectors and the opportunities are abundant. Startup teams are competing in life science, technology and energy categories and three of the 42 teams are from right here in Houston.
Houston Teams to Watch
It’s no surprise that Houston-based teams are proposing solutions to substantial questions in energy and life sciences. Botryonyx LLC, led by two Texas A&M engineering students, is developing innovative techniques to handle water waste that help customers improve efficiency and recover sustainable value.
Two other Houston-based teams are focusing on healthcare. CureNav, a digital health company, uses AI to analyze existing medical records and self-generated data to signal early-stage cancer, and reduce cancer-related deaths. LilySpec, most likely seeking the new “Courageous Women’s Health and Wellness” award, has drastically redesigned medical equipment to reduce the discomfort and anxiety experienced during an OB/GYN visit.
Winners will be announced Saturday night, with significant prizes from Houston area companies such as Insperity, Pearland Economic Development corporation, Houston Angel Network, and young high school group out of Houston called the Eagle Scouts to name a few. Follow the RBPC on Twitter for the outcome.