In total, more than $1 million in investment and cash prizes are expected to be awarded at the 2024 Rice Business Plan Competition. While prizes are still being confirmed, we anticipate many of the same 2023 prizes, plus a few new opportunities. Check out the standard prizes below!
Notes Related to All Prizes—Bottom of Page
Each of the 42 startups will walk away from the 2024 Rice Business Plan Competition with at least $950 in prizes, no matter how you place in the competition. We have prizes ranging from no-equity, cash, investment prizes from active investors, invitations from Houston accelerators with contingent investment prizes—and in-kind prizes to provide you the expertise to grow your startup.
With that in mind, please make sure you review the terms of each prize to understand eligibility, the process for delivering funds (some are subject to due diligence), and your responsibility. They are available at the bottom of the page.
Prizes for Placement in Competition
GOOSE Capital is proud to sponsor the Grand Prize Investment Award (“Grand Prize”) for the Rice Business Plan Competition this year, as it has since 2005. GOOSE Capital is an early stage investment firm comprised of successful serial entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 executives. GOOSE Capital invests ~$10 M annually in early-stage breakthrough technology ventures typically raising Seed and Series A rounds. GOOSE prides itself on helping startups navigate the complexities of business with the deep industry experience and business expertise within the GOOSE ranks.
Through the Grand Prize, GOOSE aims to develop a close relationship the winner, and help the entrepreneurs launch and build a successful business. GOOSE is committed to the mission of the RBPC and the success of its Grand Prize winners.
The investment structure for the Grand Prize is a convertible note, the key terms of which are summarized in a separate document. This structure is intended to be concise, simple, and founder-friendly, and are "better than market” terms for a Company of this stage (no valuation cap, interest rate of 8%, discount rate of 20%). Thus, GOOSE expects that the Company will sign the term sheet within two weeks of winning and close the investment within one month of the RBPC.
As it has done in the past, GOOSE is interested in opportunities to invest capital beyond the Grand Prize amount. For example, the largest initial investment in a Grand Prize winner to date has been as high as $2,500,000. The largest total investment in an RBPC winner (over several rounds) has been over $6 million. In total, GOOSE Capital has invested more than $20 million in past RBPC winners. To expedite funding of the Grand Prize, however, GOOSE prefers to explore and negotiate these additional investment opportunities after the initial $350,000 Grand Prize investment is closed.
The second place finisher at the Rice Business Plan Competition will receive a $100,000 investment. The investment prize will be provided by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, and is sponsored by Finger Interests, the Anderson Family Fund at the Greater Houston Community Foundation, Greg Novak, and Tracy Druce. The investment structure for the 2nd place overall prize will most likely be a convertible note, intended to be concise, simple, and founder-friendly, with “better than market” terms for a Company of this stage (no valuation cap, interest rate of 8%, discount rate of 20%, no board seat).
The third place finisher at the Rice Business Plan Competition will receive a $50,000 investment. The investment prize will be provided by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, and is sponsored by Finger Interests, the Anderson Family Fund at the Greater Houston Community Foundation, Greg Novak, and Tracy Druce. The investment structure for the 3 nd place overall prize will most likely be a convertible note, intended to be concise, simple, and founder-friendly, with “better than market” terms for a Company of this stage (no valuation cap, interest rate of 8%, discount rate of 20%, no board seat).
All finalists will be awarded a prize with 4th-7th place receiving $5,000 cash each sponsored by Norton Rose Fulbright, EY, Chevron Technology Ventures and Shell Ventures
Teams that finish first or second in the First Round flights on Friday will advance to the Semi-final Round. In addition, Friday’s highest-scoring third place team overall will also advance to the Semi-Final Round.
These fifteen teams will compete in the Semi-Final Round, split into three flights. The top 2 teams in each of the 3 Semi-Final flights will advance to the Final Round.
Teams that compete in the Semi-final round that do not advance to the finals will receive the following cash prizes:
- Semi-Final Round – Flight 1: 3rd Place: $2,000; 4th Place: $1,500; 5th Place: $1,250
- Semi-Final Round – Flight 2: 3rd Place: $2,000; 4th Place: $1,500; 5th Place: $1,250
- Semi-Final Round – Flight 3: 3rd Place: $2,000; 4th Place: $1,500; 5th Place: $1,250
All other startups that do not make the semi-finals will be awarded $950 each.
All teams that do not advance to the Semi-Final Round will advance to the Wildcard Round on Saturday morning. The top scoring team from the Wildcard Round will advance to the Final Round. Teams must compete in the Wildcard Round and be present at the Awards Banquet to receive their cash prizes.
All teams will win cash prizes in the Wildcard Round. There will be six Wildcard Flights, and every team will win one of the following prizes, depend in on where they finish in their flight:
- 1st Place: $1,000
- 2nd Place: $900
- 3rd Place: $900
- 4th Place: $800
- 5th Place: $800
The top 3 overall teams in the Wildcard Round will receive the special Ed Molter Memorial Prizes sponsored by Egan Nelson, in lieu of the lesser prizes mentioned above. These 3 teams will win the following:
- Wildcard Round Winner: $2,000 prize and advance to the Finals
- Wildcard Round Runner-up (2nd place): $1,750 cash prize
- Wildcard Round Third Place (3rd place): $1,500 cash prize
All 42 teams are eligible for, and compete for, all of the Mercury Elevator Pitch cash prizes. Teams will present their elevator pitch on Thursday afternoon, April 7, 2022. Judges will score the elevator pitches based on their effectiveness and persuasiveness of their pitch!
Five top teams with the best elevator pitches will win cash prizes:
- First place overall: $1,000
- Runner Up in Each Sector: $500 each
You can re-watch the pitches on YouTube after the Elevator Pitch Competition by Friday, April 9 at YouTube.com/RiceAlliance.
$3,000 cash divided among 3 winners ($1,000 each)
The Anbarci Family is providing three $1,000 prizes for Company Showcase prize winners which will be voted on throughout the Company Showcase & Networking Reception at the Awards Banquet on Saturday, April 9, from 6pm to 7pm. Attendees will “vote” on their favorite showcased by placing stickers on the score sheets at each table. The 3 startups that secure the most stickers will each win $1,000. Teams are encouraged to attract attendees to their table and try to secure the votes (i.e., “stickers”) from attendees. All startups are eligible for this prize.
Three winners: $1,000 each
Individual Prizes (cash (equity-free)
In partnership with the Southwest National Pediatric Device Innovation Consortium (SWPDC.org) at Texas Children’s Hospital / Baylor College of Medicine, these annual pediatric medical device awards have been added to the Rice Business Plan Competition. Up to $50,000 in awards (cash) are available to support the advancement and commercialization of novel pediatric medical devices.
Eligibility: Eligible devices must be FDA-regulated medical devices with a pediatric indication (0 - 21 years of age). If no teams meet the criteria or requirements, the prize will not be awarded. The prize will be decided by the SWNPDC judging team.
As the fastest growing city in the Houston region, Pearland offers affordable housing, outstanding schools, safe neighborhoods and superb quality of life - everything a growing company needs to be successful. As the lead economic development agency for this thriving, business-friendly community, the Pearland Economic Development Corporation (PEDC), offers assistance with state and local incentives, relocation services, and workforce training and development.
Whether you need assistance with your business relocation, expansion, or start-up, the PEDC is perfectly positioned to help you discover all that Pearland has to offer. For more information, visit www.pearlandedc.com.
Eligibility: The $30,000 Pearland EDC Spirit of Entrepreneurship cash prize (non-dilutive) will be given to a team that exemplifies the spirit of entrepreneurship as determined by the Pearland EDC judge group at the Rice Business Plan Competition. All 42 teams at the competition are eligible for this cash award, regardless of where the team finishes at the competition.
The Eagle Investors are high-potential high school students from under-resourced communities across Houston who attend RBPC as Prize Judges. During this school year, they have been learning about innovation, entrepreneurship, and investing; visiting vibrant startup communities like the Ion, Greentown Labs, and the Cannon; and meeting dynamic founders, investors, and business leaders. RBPC attendance is the highlight of the Eagle Investors program. Students are excited to network with teams and judges, exchange business cards with you, and hear your best advice for sourcing internships and future opportunities. The Eagle Investors thank Chevron and the Baker Tilly Foundation for sponsoring their attendance at the RBPC.
Eligibility: The Eagle Investors will award $10,000 in cash and investment prizes to RBPC teams based on the investability of the companies. Award criteria include the quality of the product or service, business model, viability, and coachability of the management team. The Eagle Investors thank the Andreson Family Fund and other donors for sponsoring these prizes.
The RBPC experience doesn’t stop once you walk out of the banquet hall on the final day of the competition—startups enter into the RBPC alumni network, where Rice Alliance strives to continue celebrating their successes and encouraging connection among competitors and the RBPC network. To support this ethos, the RBPC Alumni Network was formed in 2022. Launched by a group of companies that recognized a part of their progress and success can be owed to the RBPC, they are keen to “pay it forward” to current competitors in hopes of providing seed money to help launch their ventures. The prize is generously sponsored by NABACO.
Eligibility: All 42 startups are considered, but to ensure all startups, regardless of placement in competition, are provided that launching point, it is likely that a non-finalist will be chosen.
Founded by Rice Alumni, The Nixon Institute advocates for community development through its educational and charitable programs and events. The non-profit organization was further inspired by Michael Van Alstine, who made great advancements in healthcare software, and who displayed exemplary leadership, and even greater kindness in his many roles through his life.
Eligibility: The Michael Van Alstine Prize will be awarded to a RBPC team who best carries the values of beloved friend, innovator, & entrepreneur, the late Michael Van Alstine.
DK Innovation is the innovation arm of DelekUS, a downstream energy company with a passion for growth and a commitment to operating safely, reliably, and ethically. Founded in 2001, DelekUS Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: DK) has assets in petroleum refining, logistics, convenience stores, asphalt, and renewables. Delek is proud of their culture of excellence, strong financial position and track record of growth, and are committed to creating exceptional value for our customers and shareholders.
Eligibility: For their $3,000 cash prize, DK Innovation will consider all 42 teams at the RBPC, regardless of where the team places at the competition.
Individual Prizes (investment)
The OWL Investment Prize $100,000+ Investment
The OWL Investment Group will invest $100,000 and tends to do more. Previously, the OWLs have been known to invest close to $1 million in a single startup. The ultimate size of the investment will depend upon a straightforward due diligence process.
The OWL Investment was created to increase the total prize/investment monies of the RBPC, create a new community of involved judges, and continue to encourage and support the most promising teams to build successful companies. The OWL investment Group has invested close to $5M in a dozen RBPC companies over the past years, resulting so far in an acquired company and another having an initial public offering (IPO), providing substantial returns.
Eligibility: All 42 teams at the RBPC are eligible for the prize. The OWLs are committed to participating – looking for a strong team with leadership who have identified a significant problem and are bringing a compelling if not disruptive, solution/product to the market. As such, executing the investment is contingent on due diligence.
In some instances, the OWL Investment Group may tranche their initial investment based on milestones. Participation may be as a convertible note or preferred series financing in a C-corp. The OWLs can lead or participate and have significant venture capital experience and relationships; The OWLs seek syndicates of like-minded investors in participation. It is important that The OWLs see that the startup is properly funded to reach its milestones and a successful exit.
The Houston Angel Network (HAN) is the oldest angel network in Texas and has been ranked as the #1 most active investment network in the United States. Its members have invested more than $100M in more than 400 deals since its inception in 2001.
Eligibility: All 42 teams at the RBPC are eligible to receive this prize, but it is anticipated that the Houston Angel Network Investment Prize will be awarded to a semi-finalist or finalist, as selected by the Houston Angel Network. The prize is contingent on due diligence and usually includes pitching to the larger HAN team.
The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), founded in 1992 in Silicon Valley by a group of successful entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and senior professionals with roots in the Indus region, has grown to become one of the largest entrepreneurship groups in the world. TiE currently has 15,000 members in 61 chapters across 14 countries, including a vibrant chapter in Houston. TiE’s mission is to foster entrepreneurship by generating and nurturing our next generation of entrepreneurs. We do this through mentoring, networking, education, incubating, and investing. The TiE Houston Angel Investment Prize has been formed by TiE angel investors from Houston and globally.
Eligibility: All 42 teams at the RBPC are eligible to receive this prize, regardless of where a team finishes at the competition, but it is anticipated that the TiE Angel Investment Prize will be awarded to a Finalist at the RBPC, as selected by the TiE Angels, most likely in the form of a Convertible Debt Note, after due diligence is completed.
$250,000 investment prize + Health-tech bootcamp accelerator program invite
TMC Innovation partners with founders to help them access opportunities within the Texas Medical Center community towards building and growing their startups. We help you navigate opportunities for clinical validation and deployment into the world’s largest medical marketplace – the Texas Medical Center.
TMC Innovation will select a promising startup to participate in our Accelerator Bootcamp, a one week immersion with clinicians, experts, investors, and our team to help them identify opportunities and champions at TMC. Following Bootcamp, a subset of companies are invited into the Accelerator, a six-month program focused on furthering these strategic relationships.
Eligibility: All healthcare and life science startups at the RBPC will be considered for this prize. Upon successful completion of the Accelerator and due diligence, the TMC Venture Fund will seek to invest $250,000 in your startups.
The Softeq Venture Fund will provide 2 (two) investment prizes worth $125,000 each at the Rice Business Plan Competition. The investment structure for each prize will be a convertible note, and Softeq's standard terms (which may negotiate around) are 5% interest, 20% discount, $3-5mm valuation cap. The investment prize includes $50,000 cash and $75,000 of in-kind services including but not limited to development services, marketing support, legal, etc.
Eligibility: All 42 startups are eligible, but those that are solving challenges with a software solution are preferred. Additionally, Softeq requires any investment prize winner to participate in our SofteqVenture Studio which is a 3-month YC/Techstars-like program in exchange for 6% in common stock. Softeq is a dedicated, hands-on team of entrepreneurs and investors who will work closely with the founders to grow their business leverage Softeq's engineering expertise, network, and know-how.
The nCourage Entrepreneurs Investment Group members are successful women entrepreneurs and investors from across the US who believe in supporting passionate entrepreneurs who are making a difference. nCourage is celebrating its 13th year in supporting the RBPC this year with this award. The group will select a team to award a $25,000 investment prize to a team that includes:
- A woman as CEO or as a member of founding leadership team, and
- At least one woman on the RBPC presenting team in Houston
Eligibility: The nCourage Entrepreneurs Investment Group will consider all 42 teams at the RBPC that meet the above criteria, regardless where the team places at the competition. The investment prize will be in the form of a Convertible Note and dependent on due diligence.
Urban Capital Network (UCN) was established to make investing in venture capital opportunities affordable, diversified, and de-risked for a broader and more diverse pool of investors. UCN partners with established venture capital firms who believe more people should have access to premium investment opportunities. Driven by a shared interest and aligned values, UCN and its partners have helped more than 200 investors grow their wealth beyond traditional investments like 401K, IRAs, stocks and bonds.
UCN’s investors get access to VC-backed funds and portfolio companies for under $12K. Additionally, UCN invests a portion of their revenue exclusively in founders of color and women who may not be VC-backed, but who have a sound and viable business, strong management team, and demonstrate a company with high-growth potential. UCN also encourages and offers opportunities to their investors to invest alongside of UCN’s in those same companies. UCN’s goal is to help underrepresented investors generate VC-like returns, and provide education and support to help them identify opportunities to re-invest in their own communities and interests. We leverage capitalism to generate capital for social impact.
Eligibility: UCN will invest $25,000 in the most investable company, as determined by the UCN Management Team, with at least 50% founders of color and or women. The investment will be in the form of a convertible note. UCN is also interested in investment participation in future rounds as a lead or co-investor, and we will present the winning company to our VC partners for additional investment consideration. Prizes are contingent on due diligence post-competition.
“New Climate Ventures (“NCV”) is an early-stage Houston-based venture capital fund that invests in innovative companies that decarbonize our planet using technology. NCV believes in supporting passionate entrepreneurs who are making a difference by speeding the new energy transition. The group awards a $25,000 investment prize to a startup in the energy, cleantech and sustainability sector.
Eligibility: all startups that have a technology or application in the energy, cleantech or sustainability space will be considered for this prize. The investment prize will be in the form of a Convertible Note, post due diligence.
Individual Prizes (In-kind)
CFO Consulting Prize - $10,000 for 3 months in-kind for 1st Place Overall Winner
New York Technology Capital (NYTCP) is a full-service financial advisory firm to startups and growth companies. Our services include interim/full-time CFO consulting, debt and equity capital raising, and M&A strategy. We look forward to building long-term relationships with management teams and investors. We will provide the Grand Prize Winner with CFO Consulting for 3 months. NYTCP is run by Rohit Gandhi and Gautam Gandhi. Gautam won the Grand Prize at the 2004 RBPC.
Baker Botts has a leading emerging company and venture capital (ECVC) practice. Our ECVC team focuses on emerging companies and the legal issues surrounding them. We solve complex business problems, protect the newest technology, and help guide innovative, ambitious companies on the right path with an interdisciplinary approach that leverages deep real-world experience from our many practice areas. Our ECVC corporate and intellectual property lawyers offer diverse strengths and formation-to-exit experience and capabilities across a wide range of industries including high-tech, energy, and life sciences. Baker Botts will offer up to $20,000 of in-kind legal services for the top three winning companies at the 2023 competition.
Eligibility: Baker Botts’ in-kind legal services are subject to review by our Baker Botts lawyers. Prior to advising the winning RBPC companies, each company will be required to clear our business intake procedures for new clients, our standard firm conflicts check, and sign an appropriate engagement letter. Baker Botts will discuss firm engagement and conflict check procedures once the winning companies are selected. Absent any conflict, we look forward to having the opportunity to provide in-kind legal services to the winning companies provided.
Prizes for All Competitors (in-kind)
Entrepreneur Futures Network (EFN) mentors have offered pre-competition mentoring and advice to each of the 42 teams who have been invited to participate at the 2020 RBPC. They have provided advice in areas such as refining a business plan, refining financial models, and improving presentation skills.
Amazon Web Services will provide up to $5,000 in service credits for each of the 42 startup teams for 2 years. This comes with 1 year of Business Support (up to $1,500) and opportunities to Qualify for Additional Credits. The credits will expire one year from April 9, 2021, which is April 9, 2022
- In order to win any prizes, teams must fully participate in the competition:
- Elevator Pitch Competition (April 4)
- Round 1 pitches (April 5)
- Round 2 pitches - Semi-Final Round or Wildcard Round (April 6)
- Final Round (April 6)
- Awards Banquet (April 6)
Failure to participate in the above events of the RBPC may result in forfeiture of all prizes
These prizes are subject to change at the sponsor or competition organizers’ discretion at any time.
- Some prizes may contain certain restrictions, conditions, or eligibility criteria.
- There is generally not a geographic commitment associated with these prizes, except for the following:
- The TMC|X, which requires a team to participate in the TMC|X Accelerator program in Houston
- While we do not anticipate changes, the rules of the competition, criteria, and eligibility may be modified at any time.
- Several of the prizes involve Convertible Debt Notes or equity investment. These prizes are typically provided directly from the sponsor (e.g., Houston Angel Network) to the winning company and may be dependent on the sponsor and company mutually agreeing to the terms associated with this prize. These investment prizes typically require the winning company to provide standard company information to the investor in advance of receiving funding. This information is expected to include:
- Company incorporation documents
- Capitalization tables
- Copies of fully executed technology license agreements (if applicable)
- Founders agreements
- Most, but not all, angels and other investors require a company to be structured (or restructured) as a Delaware C corporation before receiving investment funding.
- Startup teams do not have to have their incorporation completed at the time of the competition.
- All cash prizes are considered income and will have appropriate taxes taken out before being awarded to the winning startup.
- All winners will receive the appropriate tax documents at the end of the current tax year.
- Startup teams do not have to have their technology license agreements completed at the time of the competition, but some investors may require these agreements be completed before closing an investment round.
- Prize winners and prize sponsors must make initial contact within one month of the competition ending.
- If prizes are not accepted and received by the recipient by March 31, 2025, then the sponsoring organization will be under no obligation to provide those prizes to the designated recipient. Please note that certain prizes may have an earlier deadline, as noted in the prize descriptions document.
Steps for claiming prizes:
- The RBPC Director will connect the winning startups with their prize sponsors by email within one week of the competition ending.
- Both parties will then begin the discussion of awarding theprize. This is in the event of an investment prize and/or an in-kind prize.
- Be prepared to work with your prize sponsors very soon after the competition. This means to save some time the week after the RBPC for video conferencing, telephone calls and emails on moving forward with your prize.
- Before receiving any cash prizes, a representative from the startup management team will need to register with the Rice University payments portal; this includes uploading a W9 or W8-BEN (for international citizens) and submitting contact details. The RBPC Director will work with each cash prize recipient on how to fill out the form, which will start the process of receiving your prize money.
- Please expect up to three months for cash prizes to be received from time of registering in the Rice University payments portal.