Texas wins favor from four past Rice Business Plan Competition winners

Two of them in Houston

What makes Texas such a desirable place for startups to make their home? We asked a few former Rice Business Plan competitors who have moved to Texas about what enticed them to move and how the state is favorable for future startups.

“We moved to Texas from Michigan to get access to the outstanding pool of chip design and management talent in Austin,” said Scott Hanson, founder and CEO of Ambiq Micor, a 2010 competitor in the Rice Business Plan Competition. The company moved on November 2010 after receiving $2.4 million in Venture Capital funding led by Houston-based DFJ Mercury.

Houston, TX“We have been extremely productive since the move,” Hanson said. Ambiq Micro is a fabless semiconductor company that has developed ultra-low power mixed-signal solutions for a new generation of wireless electronics.

Following the move, the company assembled a veteran chip design team and completed their first product design, delivering samples to customers shortly thereafter. The company is moving quickly to develop next-generation products. “Texas, and Austin in particular, has traditionally been successful in cultivating startups, and I expect that this success will continue.”

Another 2010 competitor, OsComp Systems, made their big move in June 2011 from Boston to Houston. CEO Pedro Santos said, “Houston is central to my sector, the hydrocarbon production industry.” The company is commercializing a novel gas compression technology to reduce compression costs of natural gas producers by more than 30 percent.

“The future holds incredible opportunities for startups in Texas, especially in the areas of energy and health care. There are low barriers to doing business, a friendly culture, great talent and strong support networks,” Santos said. “While Silicon Valley has the conditions for IT and web startups, energy and healthcare can find a better home in Texas than anywhere else in the world.”

Others to join in the migration, include OrthoAccel® Technologies, Inc., a company that developed a new device for straightening teeth while significantly reducing treatment duration for wearing braces. The team competed in 2006 and after receiving funding from a Houston angel investor moved the company to Houston from Chicago. A 2011 competitor, BlackLocus, , moved their leadership team from Pittsburgh to Austin after raising $2.5 million in July with venture capital funding led by Houston-based DFJ Mercury with additional funding from Silverton Partners, based in Austin. BlackLocus provides a cloud-based analytic solution which provides online retailers nearly real-time tracking of) competitor pricing of identical products.

The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship is Rice’s flagship entrepreneurship initiative based on a strategic alliance among the schools of engineering, science and the Jones School. Since its inception in late 1999, the alliance has assisted in the launch of over 300 technology companies which have raised more than $810 million dollars in early-stage capital. More than 1000 companies have benefitted from participating in Rice Alliance programs, raising in excess of $1.3 billion. The Rice Business Plan Competition, held at the Jones School, is the world’s richest and largest business plan competition. In 2011, 42 top graduate schools competed for more than $1.3 million in cash and prizes.