Startups From Asia, Germany, and Texas, Kick Off Rice Student Contest

Rice University kicks off its prestigious business plan competition this week with 42 student companies from universities all over the United States and as far as Hong Kong, Germany, and Bangkok.

The Rice Business Plan Competition, now in its 15th year, begins Thursday evening with a catered barbecue dinner—this is Texas, folks—followed by two intensive days of pitches before dozens of judges. The finalists present Saturday afternoon, and the winners will be announced at a gala that night.

Last year, investors in the self-described “world’s richest business plan competition” were expected to invest about $2 million into the winning companies.

But many investors decided to double and triple checks at the podium, including Mercury Fund’s Aziz Gilani, who announced he was converting a $100,000 investment into a $1 million one for Beta Glide, a startup of students from the Indian Institute of Technology.

Mercury Fund’s partnership with Beta Glide, which offers software that helps mobile app developers track and communicate with users, is still ongoing, Gilani says. Mercury Fund extended an initial $100,000 investment last year by recruiting angel investors from Rice University and The Indus Entrepreneurs, as well as Indian investors, to get to $1 million.

The full investment was hampered somewhat by delays for Gilani to travel to India to conduct due diligence as well as some “performance-related issues based on Android fragmentation,” is now focused on understanding why users uninstall apps based on feedback from its first cohort of customers, he added.

The winner of last year’s contest was a student company from Germany, Medical Adhesive Revolution, which is developing a “super glue” for use on both the skin and internal tissues. It was the first foreign company to do so and today is part of the first class of TMCx, the Texas Medical Center’s new accelerator.

Originally known as the “Southwest Business Plan Competition,” the first Rice contest took place in 2001 and had nine startups competing for just $10,000. Over the years, more than 400 teams have competed, launching more than 200 startups. Rice says 155 teams are still in business today and have acquired about $1.2 billion in funding. Between 2013 and 2014, funding jumped from $781 million to $1.2 billion.

Here are the Texas-based startups in this year’s competition:

AcCell, Rice University: Offers software to help doctors analyze health care data.

BioLum, Southern Methodist University: Has a smartphone-based imaging system that can determine the severity of asthma in less than a minute.

DexMat, Rice University: Manufactures high-performance carbon nanotube fibers to make light-weight cable for aviation and aerospace markets.

Lucelo Technologies, the University of Texas at Austin: Makes photovoltaic “cells” that can be printed and attached to flexible plastic and paper.


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