Researchers Selected for Startup Business Plan Competition

Chemical engineering researchers Taylor Harvey and Aaron Chockla will represent The University of Texas at Austin to compete against some of the world’s top universities for more than $1 million in prizes at the 15th annual Rice Business Plan Competition at Rice University in Houston, Texas April 16-18.

Harvey and Chockla will pitch product information and a business plan about their solar technology startup company, Lucelo Technologies, to venture capitalists and investors from around the country. The investors will evaluate and judge 42 teams as real-world entrepreneurs soliciting start-up funds and rank presentations based on which team they think offers the best investment opportunity. The winners will take home a grand prize valued at more than $450,000, including seed funding and the opportunity to ring the closing bell at NASDAQ Marketsite.

Lucelo Technologies develops low-cost, ultra-lightweight and printable solar cells that can take power to remote, off-grid areas. The company’s technology will enable mass production of solar material for cell-phone chargers, roll-up solar tarps, and even for direct integrated into tents to deliver electrical power where access to an electrical grid isn’t possible, particularly in developing countries.

The company is considered a spin-out from UT Austin, as its technology builds on nanotechnology-based research with solar applications performed in the lab of chemical engineering Professor Brian Korgel. Harvey and Chockla both recently completed their Ph.D.s in chemical engineering under the supervision of professor Korgel.Round button explaining to vote for UT Austin Team Lucelo

The duo will also get the chance to win a $5,000 people’s choice award as part of the event. The People’s Choice Competition challenges the spirit of each university by encouraging fellow students, faculty, alumni, and family and friends to vote for their university’s team via Facebook.

Teams for this year’s Rice Business Plan Competition were chosen from nearly 400 entrants to compete in four categories: life sciences; information technology/Web/mobile; energy/clean technology/sustainability; and other.

More than 153 former competitors have gone on to successfully launch their ventures and are still in business today and another 13 have successfully sold their ventures. Past competitors have raised in excess of $1.3 billion in funding and created more than 2,000 new jobs.

“The competition has served as the launch pad for a great number of successful entrepreneurial ventures, and the success rate exceeds the national average,” said Brad Burke, managing director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship at Rice University, which hosts the event.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship are the driving factors for economic growth in the United States. We are pleased to do our part to support these young entrepreneurs who are willing to take risks to commercialize technologies that not only drive economic growth, but also lead to advances in health care, energy and other improvements in the lives of all people.”

More than 140 corporate and private sponsors support the business plan competition, which includes 275 judges from the investment sector and awards more than $1 million in prizes. Top prizes include the $250,000 Investment Grand Prize from The GOOSE Society of Texas, two OWL Investment Prizes totaling at nearly $250,000 and the $100,000 Mercury Fund Tech Transfer Investment Prize.

Earlier this year, Lucelo Technologies won the energy and sustainability category at the 1776 Challenge Cup in Austin, a competition to identify the most promising startups focused on solving the world’s biggest challenges. The startup will now advance to the global competition in Washington D.C. in May 2015.


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