Auditorium full of people

Judges

RBPC judges come from a wide range of sectors, and a number of them are investors. They are a critical component of the business plan competition by providing feedback to competitors in real-time and ensuring a fair and well-run competition. 

The RBPC is unique in its stature, size, format, participants—and most of all, the quality of its judges! RBPC judges act as (and often are) early-stage investors, evaluating startups’ investment potential. Thank you for all you do to support student entrepreneurs.

At the RBPC, judges are able to:

  • Watch 42 of the country’s and world’s top student startups pitch their companies
  • Evaluate investment opportunity of startups across the energy, life science, hard tech, consumer products and digital enterprise sectors
  • Choose which startups receive over $1 million in prizes and investments
  • Get early access to startups with real investment potential
  • Mentor student ventures with feedback, questions and advice
  • Attend or participate as much or as little as your schedule allows (judges are not required to participate all 3 days of the competition)

The 2024 RBPC will be held in-person at the Jones School at Rice University on April 4-6. For an overview of judging at the RBPC, please see the Details for Judges menu below, which will be continually updated as we get closer to the competition.

If you are new to the RBPC and would like to apply to be a first-time judge, or if you know a good candidate to be a judge, please fill out this form. Generally our judges are confirmed far in advance of the competition, but there may be a few positions open each year. New judges are invited on a case-by-case basis.

For 2023 Judges

All judges will receive their formal invitation to judge in February 2024. Please make sure to register yourself for the competition at that time. If you do not register, you'll not be provided access to the event platform. Thank you for the time you're committing—we appreciate your expertise and efforts to make this year's virtual competition a success.

Judge Resources

All the info needed to judge the RBPC!

  • The short version: Judges rank each startup on their investment potential.

    The long version: What to Expect at the RBPC--please familiarize yourself with the Instructions and Guidelines to get ready for April 4-6, 2024! The presentation is for 2023, but 2024 should be very similar. This is for all judges, new and returning.

  • RBPC 2024 Practice Pitch Round – What to Expect and How to Judge      

    The Practice Pitch Round takes place Thursday, April 4, from 2:00 – 5:30 PM. These sessions are an opportunity for startups to refine their pitches and presentation skills before the full days of competition. Judges review the pitch and offer feedback and suggestions. Please see this document or details below for how to have the best practice pitch session possible!

    Details for Judges

    Your personal schedule will show you which room you will be in.

    Practice pitches are 15 minutes (just like the real thing)

    Pitches are followed by 15 minutes of feedback from the judges

    There is a 5-minute break between pitch sessions

    Judges act as mentors and give feedback on the pitch, the content and the presentation.

    Judges will fill out a feedback form and give it to the startup when they are done.

    There will be a moderator/timekeeper in the room to help the proceedings run smoothly.

     

    Judge Feedback in the Practice Pitch Round

    This is a practice pitch session. Startups will run through their prepared pitch and their presentation slides, but it does not have to be perfect.

    Judges act as mentors and advisors, guiding the startup on what parts of their pitch are great, and what parts needs to be improved.

    Judges will give feedback on the pitch, but not ask questions about the startup, technology, etc. There will be Q&A sessions in the competitive pitches on Friday and Saturday!

    Judges should consider feedback such as:

    • “I did not hear your ‘ask’. What is it that you want from investors?” (You are welcome to give feedback on how to ask for investment and how much to ask for, or how to ask for funding but not give a concrete amount)
    • “You told us the amount of funds you are asking for. Consider expanding on that to tell us how you will use the funds (growth/scaling, additional research, testing, building, etc.)”
    • “Tell me a bit more about your IP/competitive advantage.”
    • “Tell us why your startup is a good investment. What are 2-3 reasons investors will want to support you?”
    • “You did not get a company valuation, and that is fine. Here is how to broach that question, should you be asked tomorrow.”

     

  • Coming soon!

  • Coming soon!

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    Travel

    Houston is served by two airports--Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and Hobby Airport (HOU). IAH is about 45 minutes from the Rice University campus; Hobby is about 20 minutes. Please use a ride share, taxi, or airport shuttle from the airport to Rice University or the Intercontinental Houston - Medical Center hotel. There is no reliable and quick public transportation. 

    Accommodation

    All judges and guests are encouraged to book their hotel stay at our conference hotel--the Intercontinental Houston - Medical Center (web). Book using this link to get the conference rate of $179+taxes&fees per night. The rate is valid through March 15.

  • Shuttle to RBPC

    The conference hotel is less than 1 mile from Rice University. A shuttle from the hotel to Rice University campus will be available each day of the RBPC to get you to and from the event.

    Coming in March 2024!

  • A number of judges screen applications for the RBPC! Each year we receive over 400 applications from student startups vying for one of 42 spots at the Rice Business Plan Competition. We need help narrowing down the field and identifying the best and most viable student ventures to compete. If you are interested in screening applications, contact the RBPC Director at csantamaria@rice.edu for more information. 

    The screeners' objective is to identify early-stage student startups that would be good competitors at the 2024 RBPC. Screeners do this by reviewing a batch of 8-10 applications and rating each one on its individual merits (not against the others the batch).

    Screeners rate the application on how thorough it is, and if the startup meets a set of 5-6 criteria. For each criteria, screeners give a rating of 1 - Excellent to 5 – Poor.

    All RBPC application screening is done online between Feb. 1-16, 2024. Full instructions will be sent to screeners the week prior.


    RBPC Screener FAQ:

    How many applications will you advance to compete in the RBPC?
    •    We will invite 42 startups to compete. If any of the invited 42 decline the invitation, we will fill their spot with an applicant we deem suitable for the RBPC. There is no official “waiting list” for applicants.

    Will an applicant see a screener's ratings or comments?
    •    No, the applicant will not be sent your ratings or comments

    How long does it take to screen an application?
    •    Each application consists of a maximum 5 page executive summary. After reading that, the screener will rate the application on 5-6 criteria. There is also an option to offer written feedback (that only the competition director will see). The length of time depends on your comfort with the process! I'd say 30-60 minutes per application.

    None of the applications I screened appear RBPC-worthy. I gave them all low ratings.
    •    That is fine. There will be some that are not up to par.

    All of the applications I screened are awesome! I rated them all highly. Does that mean they will all be at the RBPC?
    •    Most likely not, but your ratings will help us determine which startups to invite.  

    I screened about half of the batch of applications, but I can’t finish the rest by the deadline. What should I do?
    •    Screen as many as you can. I will manually review the ones you were not able to screen.  

    I am not able to screen any of the applications, I am just too busy. What should I do?
    •    Please tell Catherine (csantamaria@rice.edu) if you are unable to screen applications. I will assign them to another screener.

    The screening deadline has passed! And I was not able to screen my batch of applications. Can I still do it and send you my scores?
    •    Unfortunately not. Once the initial screening period ends, we start a second, internal screening process that must begin on Friday, Feb. 16.

Judging Schedule at the RBPC

Below is the proposed 2024 schedule. Please check here closer to the events dates for the confirmed schedule, but not that it is subject to change

 

Day and Time Event Description
Thursday, April 4
2:00 - 5:30 PM
Practice Pitch Sessions Get a sneak peak of the competitors; watch the startups pitch for 15 minutes and give feedback in this crucial session for startups preparing for the competition (not scored)
Thursday, April 4
6:00 - 7:30 PM
Elevator Pitch Competition All 42 startups give their 60-second elevator pitch before 200+ judges! Judges rate each pitch.
--Followed by Company Showcase and Reception
Friday, April 5
8:30 AM - 4:30 PM
Round 1 Round 1 of competition + Feedback session
--Followed by Semi-Finalist Announcement and Reception
Saturday, April 6
8:00 - 11:00 AM
Semi-Final Round and Wildcard Round 15 startups compete in the semi-finals for 6 spots in the finals, while 27 startups compete in the wildcard round for one spot in the finals
Saturday, April 6
Noon - 4:00 PM
Final round Watch the top 7 startups pitch to win!
--Followed by the Awards Banquet 6:00 - 9:30 PM)

 

Person Painting

Values and Code of Conduct

The Rice Business Plan Competition is a unique and potentially life-changing event, rich in opportunities for learning, discovery, friendship and both personal and professional growth. Let us work together to make the RBPC the most impactful, positive and amazing experience for all participants. Read more about our values and code of conduct. 

We are committed to fostering an environment that is inclusive and nondiscriminatory. Judges’ evaluations should not be influenced by race, gender, sexual orientation or national origin. We expect all judges to treat all participants respectfully and equally and be conscientious of their biases.