Rice Business Plan Competition Adds ‘People’s Choice’ Award

As if a couple of million dollars in prizes weren’t enough, the Rice Business Plan Competition this year unveiled a reality-show style “People’s Choice” award.

The voting for the $5,000 prize takes place on a special Facebook page; only one vote per customer, please. The polls close Saturday at 1 pm Central. As of mid-morning Friday, with about 16,000 votes cast, Tulane University’s Advano is in the lead. The New Orleans, LA-based company is making a nanoparticle which founders say can enhance the performance of lithium-ion batteries common in consumer electronics.

The next two favorites are student startups from Drexel University—Kegg Apps, which, yes, helps students find parties at their schools and those nearby—and the University of Manchester’s MyHelpster, an online platform for small business to source freelance skilled employees like marketers.

The Rice business plan contest, which is in its 15th year, kicked off Thursday with 42 student startups from universities both in the United States as well as in Asia and Europe. The teams will be whittled down over the weekend in a series of pitch competitions, and six finalists will be named at a gala dinner Saturday evening in Houston.

The contestants for this year’s competition span the innovation range from biotech and health IT, next generation batteries and insulation to social ventures in education and transportation.

“We started this (people’s choice) competition to bring the excitement and fun of university competition more typically associated with sports to the RBPC,” says Mary Lynn Fernau, director of marketing for the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepeneurship, which hosts the event each year. “We wanted to build team and school spirit, and build excitement around a school’s business plan team, similar to basketball and swimming.”

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