Skip to main content

Rice U's Startup Competition, World's Largest & Richest, Goes Virtual

Published Jun 23, 2020 by Javier Vargas

The Aurign team from Ga. State U. presents at the Rice competition

A music publishing startup from Georgia took home the top prize in this year's Rice Business Plan Competition. The world's largest and richest graduate-level student startup competition awarded more than $1.5 million in cash and prizes to teams from around the world at its 2020 event this month. 

The competition is hosted and organized by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, which is Rice University's internationally recognized initiative devoted to the support of technology commercialization, entrepreneurship education, and the launch of technology companies.

The competition is designed to give collegiate entrepreneurs the real-world experience needed to fine tune their business plans and elevator pitches and generate the funding that will successfully commercialize their product. Judges evaluate the teams as real-world entrepreneurs soliciting start-up funds from early stage investors and venture capital firms. 

The 20th Rice Business Plan Competition took place on June 17-19, 2020. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has caused mass-cancellation of notable events across the world, the competition took place virtually with help from the Partnership. 

“For over a decade, the Partnership has enjoyed working alongside Rice University to show the most promising student entrepreneurs from around the world why Houston is the ideal place to bring their technologies to scale,” said Susan Davenport, Chief Economic Development Officer of the Partnership. “During these unprecedented times, we are glad that our support has allowed for the first-ever virtual Rice Business Plan Competition.”

This year, the 42 teams that competed represented 39 of the top universities in 8 different countries. The teams were selected in February from more than 400 applications to compete in three categories: 

  • Life Sciences
  • Energy/Clean Technology/Sustainability
  • Tech innovation. 

The event kicked off with each team making its case in a rapid-fire, 60-second elevator-pitch contest on the first day of the competition and in 10-minute investment pitches during Round 1 on the second day. Seven finalists competed in the second round on Friday. 

Aurign, a startup from Georgia State University in Atlanta that combines music publishing with blockchain technology, was selected as the startup with the highest investment potential and took home $375,000 in cash and prizes. The startup develops plug-ins for popular music recording software to create a record of a song as it’s being recorded. When the song is completed, its technology creates a publishing contract for each of the artists involved. The data from the work is stored securely on a blockchain application, a type of secure digital ledger. You can watch Aurign's elevator pitch here

Since the competition’s inception in 2001, more than 235 competitors have gone on to successfully launch their ventures, which are still in business today or have has a successful exit. Past competitors have raised over $2.6 billion in funding and created more than 3,700 jobs. Additional details on the impact of the competition, including total successful business, exits, and industry breakdown can be found here

For a comprehensive list of this year’s prizes and winners, click here

To learn more about Houston’s strengths as a hub for digital technology, click here

Executive Partners