On Winning Rice’s $1 Million Business Plan Contest 0


What does it take to win a $1 million business plan competition? Try this: Technology, traction and team. The answer varies every year, but this year’s winner of Rice University’s “World’s Largest and Richest” business plan competition has developed a new medication that helps older people heal broken bones.

By the way, it’s not a $1 million first prize; it’s $1 million in total prize money. First place gets investment, cash and services worth a combined total of more than $385,000.

That first place prize this year was awarded to BiologicsMD, which is developing a new medication that builds better bones. It’s especially important for people over 50. There’s a long way to go–years, in fact–but the team from University of Arkansas had to impress a lot of judges and beat a lot of other impressive ventures to take first prize. I found an earlier (March) video of the company’s 60-second elevator speech available on YouTube, shown here below.

Winning a business plan contest like this one is a major achievement. A committee chooses the best 42 teams from among hundreds of entries. The teams are divided into seven tracks of six. For each, dozens of judges, most of them investors and business experts (I’m a repeating judge there), read their business plans. Then, last Friday, those same judges met the teams on campus at Rice to listen to their pitches, ask them questions and choose one finalist from each track. On Saturday all the judges met again to choose the final winner.

To win the first prize, BiologicsMD had to convince the judges that it had a realistic chance to get the medication through FDA approval, plus defensibility against competition, technology owners and an excellent management team.

If you’re interested, Fortune and CNN Money will have a lot more on the competition, including (I hope) some online video, next month.

I’m afraid I had to cancel my trip there at the last minute, for reasons completely unrelated to the contest, so I missed the first-hand experience this year for the first time in several years. I will be there next year. I was able to read six of the 42 plans entered, and I can say it was a very impressive field.

BiologicsMD’s first prize  includes a $285,000 equity investment, $20,000 cash and more than $80,000 in business services. The company also gets an entry to next month’s Moot Corp business plan competition at the University of Texas in Austin, the original business plan contest that now brings in the winners from many other contests and bills itself as the “Superbowl” of business plan contests.

The Rice contest is a lot more than “just” a business plan competition. Brad Burke, managing director of Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, said, “Through the mentoring and networking available at the RBPC, more than 70 percent of last year’s competitors have gone on to successfully launch their companies, raise funding and build their businesses. We look forward to watching the future successes of this year’s crop of competitors.”

That’s an interesting statistic.

About the Author Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry. Follow Tim on Google+ Read more »

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