Rice Business Plan Competition

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According to their website, the Rice Business Plan Competition is the world’s largest graduate-level student startup competition. The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship acts as organizer and host. Since its conception in 2001, it has grown from nine teams competing for $10,000 in prize money in 2001, to 42 teams from around the world competing for more than $1 million in cash and prizes. In 2014, more than 1200 applications were submitted. More than 170 corporate and private sponsors support the business plan competition. 155 past competitors have gone on to successfully launch their businesses and are still in business today, raising in excess of $844 million in funding.

The competition is designed to give collegiate entrepreneurs a real-world experience to fine tune their business plans and elevator pitches to generate funding to successfully commercialize their product. Judges evaluate the teams as real-world entrepreneurs soliciting start-up funds from early stage investors and venture capital firms. 76% of judges surveyed considered investing in a team that presented at the 2014 RBPC or referred a team to a third-party investor. [1]

The Rice Business Plan Competition last three days. Over the course of this weekend, students participate in:

  1. Practice Round and Elevator Pitch Competition
  2. First Round and Feedback Session
  3. Semi-Final Round, Challenge Round and Final Round


  • Student Enrollment: The competition is for students currently enrolled on a full- or part-time basis. Students who graduated in the preceding academic years are not eligible to participate. Appropriate adjustments are made for teams from non-US universities that have a different academic calendar.
  • Team Size: Team sizes can range from two to five students. At least two students must travel to Houston to compete and both must participate in the oral presentation of the business plan. Non-student team members are welcome to travel to Rice with the competing student team, but are prohibited from participating in the presentations or Q&A sessions. More than five students can travel to Rice with the team, but only five students can serve as presenters. Faculty advisors or other team mentors are encouraged to attend.
  • Team Composition: This is a competition for graduate students, and at least one currently enrolled graduate student must be a member of the venture’s startup management team, and must be part of the team that presents in the competition (competing team). A team with some undergraduates will be allowed to compete, and the undergraduates may participate fully. All graduate students, not just MBA candidates, are eligible to participate in the competition. This includes executive MBAs, MD candidates, JD candidates, other Masters Candidates, and PhD Candidates. Students in Certificate programs or other non-degree programs, and Post-docs are excluded. Non-students may be members of the venture’s founding/management team and may participate in planning the venture. However, only students may compete (present the plan and answer questions from the competition judges). The maximum number of student competitors on a team participating at Rice is five, although there is no restriction on the total size of the venture’s founding team.
  • All ventures must be for-profit.
  • It is anticipated that students on the competing/presenting team should own at least 50% of the equity that is allocated to the management team OR at least 20% total equity.
  • The business plan must be prepared under faculty supervision.
  • The competition is for new, independent ventures in the seed, start-up, or early growth stages. Generally excluded are the following: buy-outs, expansions of existing companies, real estate syndications, tax shelters, franchises, licensing agreements for distribution in a different geographical area, and spin-outs from existing corporations. Licensing technologies from universities or research labs is encouraged, assuming they have not been commercialized previously.
  • New technologies can only enter the competition once.
  • No prizes will be awarded without the required forms submitted. International Teams and students will also be required to submit proper documentation to be awarded prize money, and will be instructed on an individual basis on the required forms.