It was billed as Battle Royal. More than 500 teams applied to take part in Rice University’s Business Plan competition, the richest in the world.
More than 40 teams fought tooth and nail last weekend in Houston for a slice of nearly $3 million in start-up funding. Rice’s is the largest student start-up competition in the world.
In past years, more than 155 competitors have gone on to raise more than $844 million in combined funding. Since 2002, the Rice competition has launched 156 actual businesses.
Last year alone, investors pooled $244 million into former Rice competitors' ventures. Eleven of those start-ups sold themselves, some for a tidy profit – including Auditude, which won in 2005 and sold to Adobe in 2011 for $120 million.
RWTH Aachen University’s team, flown in from Germany, took home the gold medal at the weekend. The students also netted more than $500,000. Their start-up developed a high-strength biodegradable surgical adhesive that can be used inside the human body to seal wounds within seconds.
It was the first time an international team won the competition. It was also the first time that two international teams made it into the top-six.
A-76 Technologies, Rice's own entry, came in second place. They bagged even more – a staggering $550,000 in combined investment, cash and other prizes. The students developed a corrosion inhibitor, initially targeting customers in the oil in gas industry. They plan to expand into transportation, marine, utilities and infrastructure.
But BetaGlide, from the Indian Institute of Technology (Kharagpur), will not be sore about losing. The students were awarded a gob-smacking $1 million investment prize from the Mercury Fund.
Reports suggest the announcement came as a huge surprise for the events’ 800 attendees. Although many previous competitors have received millions of dollars in venture capital investment, it is understood to be rare for a company to make a million-dollar investment decision at the competition.
The team developed a one-stop destination for mobile app developers to create better and efficient apps in a more intelligent way.
Competitors had to deliver a 60-second pitch in front of a packed auditorium in Houston. BetaGlide’s speaker delivered an assured and passionate display. “Of all the users who download an application, only four use it at the end of a year,” he enthused, raising a hand in the air.
“Our IP helps retain users in three ways: automatically detect and resolve issues; generalize the fix across [the] entire user base; increase customer engagement by targeting less engaged users.
“We have worked with more than 100 applications. We have had more than two million users on our previous versions and are one of the fifty start-ups selected for Mobile World Congress, Barcelona.”
The team initially stated they only wanted to raise $400,000 for product development and “expansion into the global market”.
Elsewhere in the competition, EcoBreeze, from the National Taiwan University, came third-place. They took home $22,000 for their cooling technology idea for customers in the ICT and LED fields.
Innoblative, from Northwestern University, came fourth place and bagged $20,000. They hope to innovate the treatment of breast cancer by delivering therapy more quickly.
Tympanogen, from Tulane University in New Orleans, came fifth. The team were awarded more than $44,000 for their patent-pending gel patch, which resolves a medical condition related to eardrums.
And the LymphoTech team, from the Georgia Institute of Technology, came sixth-place. They took home $38,000. They believe they have developed a revolutionary diagnostic that enables prevention of lymphedema, a debilitating disease that affects breast cancer survivors.
A number of individual prizes were also awarded to competing teams – ranging from $1,000 to BetaGlide’s $1 million pot.