Today and tomorrow I’ll be judging the Rice Business Plan Competition again for the fifth time, enjoying the event thoroughly and proud to be a part of it.
This one, now in its 11th year, has prize money totaling $1.3 million. Its also covered in Fortune Magazine and elsewhere, and rivals the University of Texas Venture Labs (formerly Moot Corp), the SuperBowl of business plan contests, in prestige. It’s a real coup for Rice University, Brad Burke, The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship (Brad is managing director), and Brad’s very-well-organized team.
At the kick-off elevator speech competition last night, Brad had some interesting numbers: in 10 years, after a humble beginning, the Rice contest has had 128 competing companies funded, for a total of $450 million.
That number highlights the evolution of these contests. What started at the University of Texas in 1984 as an academic exercise (hence the name “moot corp”) is now a launching pad. There are dozens of these contests every year now. Most of them have ties to MBA programs, and startups need to have at least one member enrolled in an MBA institution. The best of these contests attract very real startups with very real prospects. It used to be that a few were actually launched, and nowadays the majority are launched and funded.
Then, after we heard that number, we saw 42 teams present one-minute elevator speeches. They were timed, 60 seconds each. And there are some very impressive startups in that group. Today will be interesting.