Guide to Entrepreneurship at Rice University

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Entrepreneurship at Rice

Rice University is known for its entrepreneurial activity. The Rice Business Plan Competition has the largest prize of any university competition of its kind, and the Rice Alliance was ranked the No.1 University Business Incubator in the world in 2013 and 2014 [1].

In the 2016 Princeton Review rankings[2], Rice was ranked 6th for graduate entrepreneurship and local rival U of H was ranked 3rd for undergraduate entrepreneurship[3].

Rice recently hired Jones Graduate School of Business Professor Yael Hochberg to lead the new campus-wide Rice Entrepreneurship Initiative.

There are a variety of Rice entrepreneurship courses across multiple disciplines, with a total of 21 classes offered to undergraduate, graduate and MBA students.

Campus-wide Institutions

The five main institutions supporting entrepreneurship across campus are the Rice Entrepreneurship Initiative, the McNair Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, OwlSpark, and the Rice Entrepreneurship Club. Together, these institutions maintain a public Slack channel [4] that anyone may join that shares events and opportunities related to entrepreneurship at Rice University and in the Houston area.

Rice Entrepreneurship Initiative

The Rice Entrepreneurship Initiative, also known as Entrepreneurship@Rice and REI, is "a collaborative effort of students, professors, mentors and the Houston entrepreneur community to foster innovative entrepreneurial spirit and help launch successful ventures through education, guidance and connections"[5]. The initiative, launched in 2015, is led by Yael Hochberg, Head of Rice Entrepreneurship Initiative and the Ralph S. O'Connor Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship, who is supported by Dr. Abby Larson, Director of Rice Entrepreneurship Initiative [6] [7]. In March 2016, Rice alumnus Frank Liu and his family gave $16.5 million to establish the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (Lilie). Headed by Dr. Hochberg and Dr. Larson, Lilie gives students access to the expertise and experiences that will help them launch their own enterprises. Beginning next spring, courses offered through Lilie will encourage students to solve real-world problems while working with faculty and entrepreneurs. The Lilie New Entrepreneurs Grant will help incoming freshmen, starting with the Class of 2020, to fund their business ventures. Before matriculating, freshmen can apply for the $10,000 grant that funds the most creative and compelling business ideas.

McNair Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

The Baker Institute's McNair Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation has a mandate to conduct policy-relevant research and advocate for entrepreneurs and innovators. The center develops academic papers intended for publication in peer-reviewed journals, as well as policy reports, issue briefs, white papers, Op. Eds., wiki pages and blog articles. In this work the center develops our understanding of entrepreneurship and innovation as phenomena that create economic growth, and conveys this understanding to academics, policy-makers, entrepreneurs, students and the public. The McNair Center also takes an active role in helping entrepreneurs and developing entrepreneurship ecosystems.

The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship

Founded in 2000, the Rice Alliance is devoted to the support of technology commercialization, entrepreneurship education, and the launch of technology companies. Its mission is to support creation of technology-based companies and commercialize new technologies at city and statewide levels.

The Rice Alliance provides education, guidance, and connections to its recipients. It works closely with the George R. Brown School of Engineering, the Wiess School of Natural Sciences, and the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business. The program has launched more than 230 startups, collectively raising over half a billion dollars in early-stage capital. They have awarded more than $1.3 million [1] in prizes. Recipients have a high success rate in their business ventures, with over 133 past competitors in business today having raised in excess of $394 million [2]. The Rice Alliance is best known for its Rice Business Plan Competition.

OwlSpark

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.


Rice Entrepreneurship Club

Rice Entrepreneurship Club [8] is a student-run campus organization designed to introduce prospective entrepreneurs to available resources within the Rice and Houston communities. It aims to provide Rice undergraduate students with the resources and opportunities to grow their professional network, engage with entrepreneurs, connect with like-minded peers, and develop the skills necessary to start their own company. The club originated in 2013 as Rice Launch when three different entrepreneurship clubs, OwlSquad, Rice Business Collaborative - Entrepreneurship and Rice Sprout, combined.[9] In 2016, Rice Launch merged with Rice Conversations, a club that began in 2015 to organize informal conversations between local entrepreneurs and Rice students, to create the Rice Entrepreneurship Club. Notable for co-hosting 3 Day Startup, Entrepreneurship Summit, and the Owl Open, Rice Entrepreneurship Club collaborates with OwlSpark and University of Houston's RED Labs.

Competitions and Programs

Rice Undergraduate Elevator Pitch Competition

The Rice Undergraduate Elevator Pitch Competition is an annual 90-second product pitch contest supported by the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK), Rice Alliance, and Rice Center for Engineering Leadership (RCEL). The pitches identify a problem, describe a solution to that problem, and the advantages and commercial potential of the concept. This competition is open to all Rice undergraduate students. Entries may be at any stage of development. These competitions are often sponsored by Industry partners and Rice alumni. Cash prizes are given to winners.

Owl Open and the Rice Business Plan Competition

The Owl Open is an annual Rice student start-up competition, started in 2015. It has both an undergraduate and graduate track; first place undergraduate teams win a cash prize and an invitation to Rice OwlSpark Summer Accelerator (if qualified), while the winning team of the Owl Open graduate track receives a cash prize in addition to automatic entry into the Rice Business Plan Competition.

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. [10]

Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program

The Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program (REEP) is designed to equip K-12 school educators with a business school education centered around entrepreneurship. According to their website, REEP is the nation’s foremost leadership development program for highly motivated educators committed to leading public schools. Housed at the Jones Graduate School of Business, the REEP program focuses on leadership development, with the goal of turning school leaders into better educators and business leaders. Currently, there are three REEP programs being offered: the REEP MBA for School Leaders, the REEP Business Fellowship for School Leaders, and the REEP Summer Institute for School Leaders.

Other Organizations

The Jones Graduate School Entrepreneurs Organization (JGSEO) is a member organization of the Jones Graduate School of Business alumni and Rice University Alumni. JGSEO's goal is to teach graduates how to manage, grow, and network their business ventures. The JGSEO system mirrors peer-to-peer groups such as the Young Presidents Organization and The Entrepreneurs Organization. JGSEO facilitates the bringing together of Jones Business School alumni to help them achieve their entrepreneurial goals. This includes social events, education based presentations, industry panels, business plan competitions, access to CEO Round Tables and the Rice-owned Business Directory.The Jones Graduate School of Business Entrepreneurship Club is open to current Jones Business School students.

The Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen or OEDK provides a space for undergraduate STEM students to design, prototype and deploy solutions to real-world engineering challenges. The OEDK is a 20,000-square-foot space, including a central work area with over 75 work tables, conference rooms, a classroom, a wet lab, rapid prototyping equipment, large format printers, designated woodworking area, a machine shop, and access to a welding shop. OEDK provides a collaborative hub where STEM students tackle real-world design challenges, many of which are proposed by industry and partners in the Texas Medical Center and abroad.