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School Updates

Magnetic gear tech company wins 2023 Rice Business Plan Competition

by Avery Ruxer Franklin

FluxWorks, Texas A&M University

FluxWorks from Texas A&M University, a magnetic gear technology company, took home the grand prize at the 2023 Rice Business Plan Competition (RBPC).

The RBPC, hosted annually by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship and Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business, is the world’s largest and richest student startup competition. This year’s edition saw 42 startups competing for $3.4 million in prizes – the highest in the 23 years of the event. More than 80 prizes were awarded and every team took home cash.

The winners were announced at the conclusion of the three-day pitching, mentoring and networking event, which included an elevator pitch competition, practice round, semifinals, wildcard and final round. The innovations presented led sponsor companies to add a number of cash prizes at the last minute.

"Judges told us that the quality of the startups at this year’s competition was the best ever,” said Catherine Santamaria, director of the RBPC, “One judge went so far as to say that every startup this year was worthy of investment.”

The 42 startups represented 35 universities from five countries. They were chosen from more than 450 applicants to compete in one of five categories: energy, clean tech and sustainability; life sciences and health care solutions; consumer products and services; hard tech; and digital enterprise. Learn more about the startups here.

The RBPC’s more than 350 judges act as — and most are — early-stage investors evaluating the startups’ potential. Teams pitch their businesses to investors, entrepreneurs, corporate executives and ecosystem partners during the event, then network and receive real-time feedback, advice and mentorship.

Finalist teams from Rice University, Sygne Solutions and Tierra Climate

The seven finalists based on the judges’ overall scores were:

  1. FluxWorks, Texas A&M University — $350,000 GOOSE Capital Investment Grand Prize.

    FluxWorks’ magnetic gears are four times quieter than standard with 99% efficiency and can offer unprecedented reliability from outer space to under the sea and even inside the human body.
  2. Sygne Solutions, Rice University — second place and the $100,000 Investment
    Prize, sponsored by David Anderson, Jon Finger, Anderson Family Fund, Finger Interests, Greg Novak and Tracy Druce.  

    Sygne Solutions is a scalable and sustainable solution for eliminating a group of chemicals known as PFAS in water through patent-pending technology.
  3. Zaymo, Brigham Young University — third place and the $50,000 Investment Prize, sponsored by David Anderson, Jon Finger, Anderson Family Fund, Finger Interests, Greg Novak and Tracy Druce.

    Zaymo is a tool for e-commerce brands that embeds the shopping experience within customers’ email.
  4. Tierra Climate, Rice University — fourth place and the Norton Rose Fulbright $5,000 Prize.

    Tierra Climate is a marketplace for selling verified carbon offsets to corporate buyers, boosting their revenues by as much as 20%-30% and boosting efforts to achieve net-zero emissions.
  5. Atma Leather, Yale University — $5,000 EY Fifth-Place Cash Prize.

    Atma Leather is a material innovation company developing plant-based leather from banana stems and other crop waste, making it a cruelty-free and sustainable alternative.
  6. Boston Quantum, Massachusetts Institute of Technology — $5,000 Chevron Technology Ventures Sixth-Place Cash Prize.

    Boston Quantum aims to disrupt the financial industry with enterprise quantum computing software.
  7. Pathways, Harvard University — $5,000 Shell Ventures Seventh-Place Cash Prize.

    Pathways is building a full-stack sustainability platform for the construction industry.

Significant prizes this year and the teams that won them include:

  • $300,000 OWL Investment Prize — Boston Quantum, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • $200,000 OWL Investment Prize — Zaymo, Brigham Young University.
  • $75,000 OWL Investment Prizes — Atma Leather, Yale University; Tierra Climate, Rice University.
  • $100,000 TiE Houston Angels Investment Prize — Sygne Solutions, Rice University.
  • $100,000 Houston Angel Network Investment Prize — Zaymo, Brigham Young University.
  • $500,000 Softeq Venture Fund Prize — Zaymo, Brigham Young University.
  • $300,000 Softeq Venture Fund Prize — Skali, Northwestern University.
  • $200,000 Softeq Venture Fund Prize — Tierra Climate, Rice University.
  • $125,000 Softeq Venture Fund Prizes (3 prizes) — Boston Quantum, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; BlueVerse, Texas Tech University; Thryft Ship, University of Georgia.
  • $250,000 TMC Innovation Healthcare Investment Prize — AirSeal, Washington University in St. Louis.
  • $25,000 Urban Capital Network Diversity Investment Prize in partnership with South Loop Ventures — Boston Quantum, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • $25,000 New Climate Ventures Sustainability Investment Prize — Active Surfaces, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • $50,000 nCourage Investment Group’s Courageous Women Entrepreneurs Investment Prize — Atma Leather, Yale University.
  • $10,000 nCourage Investment Group’s Courageous Women Entrepreneurs Investment Prize — Thryft Ship, University of Georgia.
  • $30,000 Pearland Economic Development Corporation Spirit of Entrepreneurship Prize — MyLUA Health, Cornell University.
  • $20,000 Novak Druce Carroll Investment Prizes (3 prizes)— Blue Verse, Texas Tech University; Biome Future, University of Florida; Zaymo, Brigham Young University.
  • $25,000 Southwest National Pediatric Device Consortium Prizes (2 prizes) — MiraHeart, Johns Hopkins University; Integrated Molecular Innovations, Michigan Technological University.
  • 15,000 Eagle Investors Prize – Zaymo, Brigham Young University.
  • 10,000 NABACO RBPC Alumni Network Prize – Citrimer, University of Michigan.

For more information about the 2023 Rice Business Plan Competition, visit


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