Texas ChE Grad Students to Represent UT Austin at Rice Business Plan Competition

Texas ChE graduate students Meghali and Sonali Chopra 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 17th annual Rice Business Plan Competition at Rice University in Houston, April 6-8.

Their team, which also includes Ph.D. student Rahul Verma from the Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, will pitch their startup company, Sandbox Semiconductor, to investors from around the country. The investors will judge 42 teams as real-world entrepreneurs soliciting start-up funds and rank presentations based on which team offers the best investment opportunity. The winning team will take home a grand prize valued at $300,000.

SandBox Semiconductor provides software solutions to dramatically accelerate process development for semiconductor chip and tool makers.  The semiconductor industry spends more than $1.2 billion per year creating etch and deposition recipes using slow and expensive experiments that limit sales across the entire value chain. SandBox Semiconductor will dramatically speed up the process with their patent-pending method and software, RODEo. RODEo enables process engineers to create optimal etch and deposition recipes three times faster and at a fraction of the cost of current methods.

With RODEo, the semiconductor industry will benefit from faster time to market and savings of $800 million annually.

Meghali and Sonali 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.

RODEo is an outcome of Meghali’s PhD research at the UT NASCENT Engineering Research Center with her advisor, Dr. Roger Bonnecaze, who is co-founder of SandBox Semiconductor.

“Meghali and Sonali are very smart and creative, plus they have always thought about their research as entrepreneurs as well as scientists,” Bonnecaze said. “Combining that with their excellent communication skills, I expect they will go far in the competition and indeed can win it.”

Teams for this year’s Rice Business Plan Competition were chosen from more than 400 entrants. Nearly 165 former competitors have gone on to successfully launch their ventures and are still in business today and another 18 have successfully sold their ventures. Past competitors have raised more than $1.8 billion in funding and created 2,000 new jobs.

More than 180 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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted on: