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Rice University announces the 42 teams competing for over $1.5 million in its student startup contest

The 19th annual Rice Business Plan Competition has revealed its finalists. Courtesy of Rice University

One of the world's largest startup competitions just got larger. Rice University revealed the 42 student-led teams from around the world that will be competing for more than $1.5 million in prizes this spring. Of the 42, two are from Houston universities — Curenav from University of Houston and LilySpec from Rice University.

The 19th annual Rice Business Plan Competition will take place from April 4 to 6 at Rice University's Jones Graduate School of Business.

"The true measure of success for the Rice Business Plan Competition is the number of teams that launch, raise funding and go on to succeed in their business," says Brad Burke, managing director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship at Rice University, in a release. "The competition has served as the launch pad for a great number of successful entrepreneurial ventures, and the success rate far exceeds the national average."

According to the release, a group of judges whittled down over 300 applications across in four categories: life sciences, medical devices, and digital health; digital, information technology, and mobile; energy, clean technology, and sustainability; and other innovations, investment opportunity.

A different set of 275 judges will review the business plans of the finalists for the competition. The organization has a new application, judging, and scoring system, which was created by Houston-based Poetic, a business tech company.

Here's some of the prizes that are on the line for these finalists, according to the release:

  • $100,000 Cisco Global Problem Solver prize
  • $350,000 Investment Grand Prize from The GOOSE Society of Texas
  • $100,000 OWL Investment Prize
  • $100,000 Houston Angel Network Investment Prize
  • $100,000 TiE Investment Prize
  • $50,000 NASA Space Exploration Innovation Award
  • $125,000 second place prize from Finger Interests, Anderson Family Fund and Greg Novak of Novak Druce
  • $25,000 nCourage Courageous Women Entrepreneur Prize
  • $25,000 Women's Health and Wellness Prize awarded by Sandi Heysinger and Dick Williams
  • $25,000 Texas Business Hall of Fame Prize
  • $25,000 Texas Medical Center Accelerator, TMCx, Prizes, plus a guaranteed spot in their accelerator.
  • $20,000 Pearland Economic Development Corporation Prize
  • $100,000 Texas Halo Fund Investment Prize
  • $50,000 Pediatric Device Prize
  • The winner of the grand prize will ring the closing bell at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York.

The fan favorite can also take home a prize. The fourth annual People's Choice Competition is officially open for voting on Facebook.

Over 210 former RBPC competitors are still in business — with 25 being acquired‚ and have raised over a cumulative $2.2 billion in capital and created more than 3,000 new jobs, according to the release.

These are the 42 companies facing off in this year's awards:

  • EnKoat — Arizona State University
  • Crystal Sonic — Arizona State University
  • Flux Marine — Boston University
  • Formally — Brown University
  • Tarseer — Carnegie Mellon University
  • Delta Band — Carnegie Mellon University
  • Colonai — Columbia University
  • Incite Analytics — Cornell University
  • Neutroelectric — Dartmouth College
  • Chord — Harvard University and MIT
  • Modulus — Housing Solutions IIT Madras (India)
  • Treyetech — Johns Hopkins University
  • Avesta76 — Johns Hopkins University
  • Zilper Trenchless — Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • AeroShield — Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Vita Inclinata Technologies — Mitchell Hamline School of Law
  • BetterLife — Nanyang Technological University (Singapore)
  • Sunthetics — New York University
  • Rhaeos — Northwestern University
  • Odin Technologies — Northwestern University
  • RagnaRock Geo — Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
  • Hearth Labs — Princeton University
  • LilySpec — Rice University
  • PL Biosciences RWTH — Aachen University (Germany)
  • NABACO — Texas State University
  • Embryologic — University of California, Irvine
  • MiVUE — UCLA
  • Tutorfly — UCLA
  • Vascugenix — University of Arkansas at Little Rock
  • Respira Labs — University of California, Berkeley
  • AC Biode — University of Cambridge (United Kingdom)
  • Beltech — University of Chicago
  • BrewBike — University of Chicago and Northwestern University
  • Curenav — University of Houston
  • Speeko — University of Iowa
  • Calcium Solutions — University of Michigan
  • Dough — University of Michigan
  • dermadiagnostics — University of Notre Dame
  • Resonado — University of Notre Dame
  • Heart I/O — University of Pittsburgh
  • HRG Infrastructure Monitoring — University of Victoria (Canada)
  • Astrolabe Analytics — University of Washington
Spaces plans to open a new location in Houston this month, Chevron Technology Ventures invests in autonomous vehicle tech, and more Houston innovation news. Courtesy of Spaces

A lot is happening in the Houston innovation ecosystem — so much that you may have missed a few key news items. Let's hit the highlights, shall we?

Applications are open for major health tech awards program that is coming to town, a Houston corporate venture fund doles out cash to self-driving cars, new coworking space to deliver, a diversity-focused partnership launches, and more Houston innovation news.

Chevron Technology Ventures invests in self-driving cars

Voyage is growing its fleet of self-driving vehicles with the help of a Houston corporate VC fund. Photo via voyage.auto

Silicon Valley's Voyage, a self-driving car technology company, closed its series B round at $31 million. Houston-based Chevron Technology Ventures contributed to the round.

The round's funds will go toward expanding the company's fleet of G2 autonomous vehicles in California and Florida, as well as introduce Voyage's G3 self-driving car, Oliver Cameron, co-founder and CEO at Voyage, writes in a release.

"Chevron has been supporting the public's transportation needs for over 100 years. As our customers' mobility needs and preferences change, we want to continue to be part of their journeys. Our investment in Voyage affirms this commitment," says Barbara Burger, CTV president, in a release. "We established the Future Energy Fund in 2018 with an initial commitment of $100 million to invest in breakthrough technologies that enable the ongoing energy transition. The fund looks for technologies that lower emissions and support low carbon value chains. Our investment in Voyage fits well within the objectives of the Future Energy Fund while also informing our perspective on the changing energy landscape."

Accenture to close out health tech challenge in Houston

accenture

The national challenge will conclude in Houston. Courtesy of Accenture

Applications are open for the fourth annual Accenture HealthTech Innovation Challenge and close on September 22. Finalists will present to judges from global health companies at one of two regional events — in Boston on Nov. 7 or in San Francisco on Dec. 5. The final judging event will take place in Houston on February 6, 2020.

"We look forward to this year's submissions as we continue to identify bold ideas from startups that deliver new solutions for health organizations to improve the lives of consumers, clinicians and employees," says Brian Kalis, managing director of digital health and innovation at Accenture, in a release. "Since its inception, the Accenture HealthTech Innovation Challenge has brought healthcare organizations and startups together to tackle the world's biggest health issues where we have received more than 2,200 applications, invited more than 90 startups to compete and who have benefitted from the guidance of nearly 1,000 executive judges from the healthcare industry."

The submission form, including additional details about the challenge's criteria, eligibility, and requirements, is available at: Accenture HealthTech Innovation Challenge-Health.

GotSpot wins pitch competition

Reda Hicks claimed the win at a military spouse pitch event. Trish Alegre-Smith/Military.com

Reda Hicks, who founded Houston-based GotSpot Inc., won a $15,000 check from the StreetShares Foundation and Samuel Adams' Brewing the American Dream at the Great American Military Entrepreneur at the Military Influencer Conference in Washington, D.C.

GotSpot is a website that allows for people with commercial space — a commercial kitchen, conference room, spare desks, etc. — to list it. Then, space seekers — entrepreneurs, nonprofits, freelancers, etc. — can rent it.

"This award is a game-changer for me," Hicks says to Military.com. "This will allow me to hire more incredible military spouses and help GotSpot on its path to go global."

Rice University launches new sports business course

Rice University

Rice University has a new sports business program. Photo courtesy of Rice University

Rice University, along with the Houston Texans, is introducing a new program for the university's sport management students. Pro Sports: Management is a course designed to teach the business side of the sports world.

"We are thrilled to partner with Rice University on a curriculum that will provide their best and brightest students with insight into the real-world opportunities and challenges facing today's sports teams," says Houston Texans President Jamey Rootes in a release from Rice. "This program is rather unique because our leading executives will work alongside Rice professors to teach current best practices in franchise management across every discipline. We believe that this type of practical industry exposure is the best way to prepare the next generation of leaders in the field of sports management and a valuable contribution to the level of professionalism within our industry."

The classes will be held weekly in the executive offices of the Texans. The course will cover ticketing, public relations, event management, human resources and more.

Spaces plans to open second coworking location in Houston

Spaces, an Amsterdam-based coworking space company that entered the Houston market with a lease in Kirby Grove announced in 2017, plans to open its newest location this month. Courtesy of Spaces

The new Spaces CityCentre One location is planned to open on Monday, September 30. It's the Amsterdam-based company's second coworking space in Houston, with a third already in the works. The first location was in Kirby Grove in 2017, and Spaces Galleria at Post Oak will be opening in the second quarter of 2020.

The CityCentre One location will have over 60,000 square-feet of workspace with perks, including a business club, dedicated desk space, private offices, and seven fully-equipped meeting rooms. Plus, the building is just steps away from CityCentre, a mixed-use development with restaurants, entertainment, housing, and more. Membership pricing starts at $111 a month at the new location.

Cemvita Factory receives more backing from oil and gas industry

Cemvita Factory Cemvita Factory

Houston-based Cemvita Factory, a biotech company that can mimick photosynthesis and convert CO2 into glucose and other substances, has received equity investment from BHP. The amount of the investment was not disclosed.

The investment will help Cemvita Factory continue to develop its biomimicry technology for oil and gas applications to reduce the volume of greenhouse gas emissions.

"This strategic investment fits well with BHP's vision of the future: reducing operational greenhouse gas emissions, reducing environmental impact and the development of low-emissions technology, including increased application of carbon capture, utilization and storage technology," says BHP's chief geoscientist, Laura Tyler, in a release.

Last month, Occidental Petroleum's low carbon subsidiary, Oxy Low Carbon Ventures LLC, announced it invested an undisclosed amount of funds into Cemvita Factory.

Two organizations join forces to promote diversity in the Houston Startup Scene

Impact Hub Houston and The Cannon have teamed up to grow programming and events surrounding diversity. Photo courtesy of The Cannon

In an effort to promote diversity and inclusion within the Houston innovation ecosystem, The Cannon and Impact Hub Houston have teamed up. The collaboration will drive programming and events geared at growing the conversation and resources for startups and entrepreneurs.

"One of Houston's best differentiating qualities is that we are truly a melting pot," says Lawson Gow, founder and CEO of The Cannon, in a news release. "We want our community to reflect the amazing diversity across our city, so we have to move beyond simply discussing diversity and work to create an environment where innovation can thrive and real change can happen. We are confident Impact Hub will be the perfect partner to bring those aspects to our community."

Gow, who is the son of InnovationMap's parent company's CEO, opened the doors to its new 120,000-square-foot facility in July. Impact Hub Houston will have a presence in the space.

"Over the past few years, Lawson and I have brainstormed how we could work together to connect and grow our region's innovation ecosystem and demonstrate how organizations can evolve from competition to true collaboration," says Grace Rodriguez, CEO and Executive Director of Impact Hub Houston, in the release. "I'm so excited that those talks have developed into this partnership: Through The Cannon and Impact Hub Houston, we'll be able to effectively 'meet people where they are' geographically, socially, and culturally, helping diverse entrepreneurs and startups at the myriad intersections of place, purpose, demographics, psychographics, and business growth stages."

Houston innovator nominated for prestigious Silicon Valley award

Alley Lyles is up for an award for her work in digital transformation.

Alley Lyles, digital transformation manager at Direct Energy and Houston startup mentor, was nominated for a Women in IT - Silicon Valley award as Transformation Leader of the Year. The awards event is on October 9.

She is up against Emily Dunn at Anaplan, Windy Garrett at Atos, Manju Abraham at Delphix, Aashima Gupta at Google, Patricia Grant at ServiceNow, and Nataliya Anon at Svitla Systems.

"I am proud to represent Houston in Silicon Valley. The Houston hustle is real. I see it amongst my colleagues who got me here. The hustle isn't always glamorous, so I appreciate the moment when a kid from the East End can shine."