Rice University's six student startup teams competed for thousands of dollars in investment prizes, and one company came out on top — but a few other companies walked away with fresh funding too.
The 2022 H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge doled out $75,000 to student-founded companies at Rice last week. Helix Earth Technologies, which has developed a filter that helps limit water waste in power plants, and its founder, Rawand Rasheed, a doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering at Rice University, won first place ans $35,000. The company been testing its technology on the power plants on campus.
The second-place team was EpiFresh, which created a protein-based coating doubles the shelf-life of fruit and vegetables, won $25,000. Guildata, which provides global health organizations with data that shows the greatest return on investment, won third place and $10,000.
The competition also included three additional awards:
- Guildata won the $1,000 RISE@Rice: The Sen Social Pioneer Prize
- SkySpace won the $1,500 Frank Liu Jr. Prize for Creative Innovations
- Aqualight Materials won the $2,500 Chevron Tech Ventures Climate Innovations Prize
- Berman Foods, an artisanal plant-based cheese and spread provider, won the $1,500 Norman E. Leebron Audience Choice Award
This year's competition saw participation from almost 200 students and a record 84 teams. The Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship whittled those entries down for judges, which included Thomas Ball, co-founder and managing director at Next Coast Ventures; Lisa Besserman, managing director at Expa; and Xiaodi Zhang, chief product officer at 1stDibs. On April 20, six finalists pitched in the championship round in five-minute pitches followed by seven minutes of questions.
Additionally, all competitors received personalized mentoring from experienced entrepreneurs, investors, and subject matter experts. The program started in 2017 with 15 student-run companies vying for a win. This year's NRLC was sponsored by Mercury Fund, T-Minus Solutions, and Chevron Technology Ventures.