Big Money Follows Big Talk at Rice University’s Startup Competition

All weekend long, Rice Alliance director Brad Burke needled members of the Goose Society with affectionate trash-talk, urging them to live up to their reputations as generous investors.

After all, the “Grand Order of Successful Entrepreneurs” has provided much of the drama over the years on the final night of the Rice Business Plan competition. Since the first Goose prize in 2005, members have, upped the ante in the award presentation’s final moments, sometimes doubling the prize or creating an entirely new prize to the delight of a second student startup.

But the gleam in Aziz Gilani’s eye as he bounded onstage to give Mercury Fund’s $100,000 prize was a clue that this year, the excitement would come from a different place.

“What, there was talk about tripling, quadrupling checks?” the Houston venture capitalist cheekily asked. “Well, let’s just 10X that.”

As the crowd gasped in appreciation, Gilani turned around to add a zero to the oversized check for Beta Glide, a startup led by students from the Indian Institute of Technology. The company, which offers software that helps mobile app developers track and communicate with users, was now the recipient of a $1 million prize.

(Mercury also gave a $100,000-prize to TheraBracelet, a medical device startup out of the University of Louisville in Kentucky.)

Welcome to the Rice Business Plan competition, the self-proclaimed biggest and richest startup competition in the world. (This is Texas, folks. The talk—and the money around it—is always outsized.)

The awards were announced at a gala dinner Saturday evening with the Rice Alliance’s Burke as emcee, moving through a program of more than 50 announcers. A video flashback of this year’s contest kicked off the program while Burke encouraged waitstaff to keep the glasses filled with wine. (The soundtrack, which featured the Pet Shop Boys and the Steve Miller Band, was older than most of the contestants.)

Six of the 42 teams came to Houston from foreign universities and, for the first time, half of the six finalists were foreign students. For the first time this year, the top prize of $200,000 from Goose went to an international team, Medical Adhesive Revolution from the University of Aachen in Germany. The duo is marketing a liquid injectable adhesive that it says can seal wounds in 30 seconds.

The globalization of the contest is a small illustration of that growth in the Houston economy itself. India-based members of TiE, or The Indus Entrepreneurs, coached the Beta Glide team and then handed them off to their Houston counterparts as the team readied for competition at Rice. Aruna Viswanathan, … Next Page »

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3 responses to “Big Money Follows Big Talk at Rice University’s Startup Competition”

  1. Aruna says:

    This is a really great piece – really celebrates the amazing stories from the event. Thanks Angela! Brad is going to have a real challenge in 2015!

  2. Ashok Kamal says:

    Always great going back to where it all started for many of us! Thank you RBPC.