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Students pitch ideas at 3 Day Startup challenge


By Vi Burgess and Rishab Ramapriyan     10/25/17 2:36am

More than 40 Rice undergraduate and graduate startup hopefuls teamed up to develop a company for the 72-hour 3 Day Startup (3DS) program this past weekend.

According to Ben Herndon-Miller, the lead student organizer, the program began on Friday with an ideation workshop and then participants pitched their individual ideas. Top ideas were chosen and seven teams were voluntarily assembled.

Herndon-Miller said participants spent the rest of the weekend engaging in a variety of workshops, receiving guidance from prominent figures in the Houston startup ecosystem and conducting research outside of Lilie.

Neomi Fletcher, a Brown College senior, said that she appreciates the mentorship aspect of 3DS.

“The mentors that they brought in have lot of valuable advice,” Fletcher said. “It’s good to see people from all over the nation willing to help us get started on our projects.”

Hesam Panahi, 3DS program facilitator, said participants in the program learn entrepreneurship by actually doing it.

“If you think about it, chemistry students have labs, art students have studios, and engineering students have machine shops,” Panahi said. “There's not really an applied environment for entrepreneurs at most universities and that's what we're trying to solve with 3DS.”

The program concluded with short pitches by each team before a panel of five experts who asked questions and gave advice.

“The goal is that moving forward people will understand this process better and if they have other ideas, they know how to approach it,” said Herndon-Miller.

One student team, “RiceCycle” pitched a campus bike-sharing initiative that utilizes dockless bikes and mobile app technology.

“I don’t know how far I’ll take [the idea] from here, but I do know that the things that I learned here about how entrepreneurship works I’ll definitely apply later on,” RiceCycle team member Manuel Pacheco, a Jones College sophomore, said.

Another team, “Smooth,” pitched the idea of a on-campus fresh smoothie provider to offer a healthy option for students any time of the day.

“I feel this is very relevant to student life so we’re actually going to go on with this and incorporate it, maybe in the [Rice Memorial Center], and provide smoothies for students,” Smooth team member Daniel Tang, a Duncan College freshman, said.

Most teams had ideas that extended beyond Rice, including “Looee,” a semi-permanent toilet insert that measured glucose levels for both pre-diabetic and diabetic individuals and sends the data in real -time to an app or a physician's office.

Other ideas pitched included “Concierge,” a customizable travel itinerary planning app; “Paint,” a platform to invest and trade shares in independent musicians; and “Quickshot,” a personalized mobile dispenser that inserts all desired condiments into coffee without making a mess.

“It was a wonderfully informative and interactive weekend in which we had the opportunity to put our hands on a project, get our feet wet and dive right into a 3 Day Startup,” Jon Wiegand, a graduate student, said.

Students were required to apply and interview earlier this year to be selected for 3DS. The organizers looked for enthusiastic, team-oriented individuals who came from diverse backgrounds, Herndon-Miller said.

“Honestly, a lot of it is just meeting new people who a have different experiences than I do,” Oeishi Banerjee, a Sid Richardson College freshman, said.

According to 3DS’s website, 3DS events are held worldwide with a similar format and on average each 3DS program has yielded more than one successful startup.

“Some of the teams that you see here today will actually go on to continue as actual companies and that would be fantastic,” Panahi said in his remarks before the final pitches.

Herndon-Miller said that participants can continue their entrepreneurship experience beyond 3DS through Lilie and Rice Entrepreneurship Club’s respective lecture and conversation series and OwlSpark, a 12-week accelerator program, in the spring.

“Essentially, [3DS] was the epitome of what this space is - team building, experiential learning in a space with people from the community coming in to support, and we showcase their ideas Sunday night,” Program Manager Caitlin Bolanos said. “We just wanted to have a reception that not only showcases the work that students are doing and will continue to do in this space. [It’s] something that really embodies the spirit of Lilie.”

After the presentations, the faculty, staff, alumni and students were served food and drinks and left to network after keynote speeches by Provost Marie Lynn Miranda, Yael Hochberg, and Frank Liu.

“Three years ago when we started out on the journey with an idea of building the future of entrepreneurship for you guys here at Rice, I think this was maybe if we were really, really successful, we would be standing in this space,” Hochberg, the head of the Rice University Entrepreneurship Initiative, said in a speech. “We thought it would take a lot longer than it actually took. We really wanted to be able to bring you a cutting-edge, entrepreneurial education.”

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