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Ecosystem Institution
OwlSpark Logo
Institution Information
Cohort Information
Director Information
City Houston
URL http://entrepreneurship.rice.edu/accelerator/
Date Founded 2013
Cohort Size 33
Percent Funded 0%
Percent Acquired 0%
Percent IPO 0%"%" can not be assigned to a declared number type with value 0.
Number of Directors 5
Experienced Directors 0
© McNair Center, 2016

Part of the Start-Up Guide (Issue Brief) Series


OwlSpark is a Houston-based, non-profit university accelerator founded in 2013. It advertises a wide array of services, including funding, access to experts, office space and mentorship. OwlSpark has five directors, none of whom have direct entrepreneurship experience as an established entrepreneur. Of the 33 startups which have enrolled in the OwlSpark program, none have received venture capital funding. No company which has participated in the OwlSpark program has been acquired or exited in an IPO.

Contact Information

Website http://entrepreneurship.rice.edu/accelerator/
Address Janice and Robert McNair Hall, Loop Rd, Houston,TX 77005
Email Upon Request


Name VC? Acquired? IPO?


Name Bio Class
Yael Hochberg Head of Rice Entrepreneurship Initiative, Ralph S. O’Connor Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship None
Abby Larson Director, Entrepreneurship Initiative Research and Undergraduate Education None
Eric Floyd Assistant Professor None
Haiyang Li Professor None
Doug Schuler Associate Professor None

Services Provided

Office Space

Old Stuff


Founded in 2013, OwlSpark is a program that allows Rice students, faculty, staff, and recent alumni to launch their own companies. As a university accelerator, OwlSpark provides entrepreneurship education, teaches business fundamentals, pairs teams with knowledgeable mentors, features office hours with successful entrepreneurs, and provides connections for high-growth, technology-based ventures. By providing a platform in which students have access to curriculum, collaborative co-working space, a monthly living stipend, and relevant industry mentorship, OwlSpark provides founders with the hands-on understanding of what it takes to launch a startup.

The program is as follows:

  • a 12-week summer program for up to 10 startup teams, including:
  1. curriculum
  2. collaborative working space
  3. monthly living stipend
  4. industry mentorship
  • Following the summer program, startup teams participate in the Bayou Startup Showcase to showcase their businesses

OwlSpark also works in collaboration Houston’s startup community to promote entrepreneurship and innovation at the city and state levels.



  • Open to all Rice undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff, and alumni (up to 5 years after graduation)
  • Startup teams of 2-5 people, one of whom must be affiliated with Rice. The Rice affiliate is considered the team leader.

Program Requirements

  • Completing pre and post-assessment surveys
  • Setting and reporting performance tracking metrics
  • Actively engaging in 60+ sessions, workshops, events, as well as weekly meetings with peers, mentors, and leadership teams
  • Conducting a minimum of 100 customer interviews
  • Developing basic marketing materials (i.e. logo, executive summary, website or landing page, etc.)


  • Application divided into two sections:
    • Technology: explain your technology or business idea in a simple, specific statement
    • Team: demonstrate each founder’s relevant, but diverse, skill set, attributes, and contribution to the team.
  • Review comprehensive list of application questions here
  • Submit one application per team. The application must be submitted by the team leader. There is no option to save the application and finish later, so teams are encouraged to review application questions prior to beginning the application itself.
  • If selected, an OwlSpark Leadership Team member will contact you to move on to the next phase of the application process.
  • Apply for OwlSpark 2016 here

Past Teams

2013 Cohort

A total of nine teams, ranging from software to consumer products to social ventures:

  1. Checked Twice
  2. Concept Node
  3. Emergency Core
  4. Coached Schooling
  5. Medical Informatics
  6. Owl Engine
  7. Parkil
  8. Sweat Analyzer
  9. Village Innovators

2014 Cohort

A total of eight teams, ranging from IT, medical, consumer products and sports, and education/social enterprise:

  1. Big Delta Systems
  2. DiBS
  3. One Jump
  4. HospiTable
  5. Rebel Putter
  6. Nexus Software LLC
  7. Prosus Health
  8. YouHootMe

2015 Cohort

A total of eight teams:

  1. Arovia: Arovia makes 20+ inch electronic displays that collapse to easily fit inside your travel bag.
  2. DigiChef: DigiChef is creating a mobile solution designed to provide consistent meal plans, recipes, and digital coupons based on the patient’s medical history, lab results, and fitness goals.
  3. OcuCheck: OcuCheck provides early detection of sight threatening eye diseases through on-site eye screening services.
  4. Open Factory: Open Factory is producing an open stereolithographic 3D printing platform for material scientists.
  5. SenseWatch: SenseWatch provides cloud-based APIs for gesture recognition and vital sign interpretation for smartwatches.
  6. ShowCoach: ShowCoach is developing an online video platform to make professional private sports instructors accessible and affordable.
  7. Wholistic Advisors: Wholistic Advisors is a web-based platform that connects conventional and holistic practitioners.
  8. Ziel Solutions: Ziel Solutions develops wearable devices for reducing the risk of injury from physical activity.



  • Kerri Smith, Managing Director
  • Noy Shemer, Assistant Managing Director, Operations
  • Jessica Fleenor, Assistant Managing Director, Marketing and Communications
  • Ben Baldazo
  • Andy Zhang

For more detailed information, see OwlSpark's Leadership website