OwlSpark | Rice University Startup Accelerator | FAQ
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OwlSpark Class 10: FAQ


When is the next cohort? How often does OwlSpark run?

OwlSpark, in its tenth year, runs once a year during the summer. Class 10 launches May 23, 2022, and runs through August 5, 2022.

Where is the program held? Do I have to be in Houston to participate?

OwlSpark will be hosted in a local coworking space, and founders will have access to the coworking space for the duration of the program. Although OwlSpark is a hybrid program, a majority of the program occurs on-site in Houston and you will need to be present to participate. There are some virtual components, but these are not substitutes for the in-person components. Founders will need to be located in Houston to participate.

What is the time commitment, and what is expected of founders during the program? Can I participate if I have a full-time job or internship?

OwlSpark is a 12-week, full-time program. While the program itself does not have a full-time schedule, founders are expected to spend the remaining hours outside of scheduled activities working on their business. 

OwlSpark includes intensive mentoring, curriculum and exposure to Houston’s best resources. Like any entrepreneurial venture, launching a startup requires determination, grit, versatility, and most importantly, passion. Throughout the summer, startup teams are expected to meet a number of program requirements, including:

  • Attending and actively engaging in sessions, workshops, events, and weekly meetings
  • Setting and reporting key performance metrics
  • Conducting and recording at least 100 customer interviews
  • Creating brand identity, website, and marketing materials
  • Attending and pitching at organized events

Accepted founders are expected to participate full-time; however, you may participate on a part-time basis if you have at least two team members who are dedicated to participating in OwlSpark full-time. Because OwlSpark is a rigorous, fast-paced program, participating full-time founders should have decision-making power.

What will I get out of OwlSpark? What perks are offered for accepted startups?
  • Access to resources and mentors
  • Experience real-time application and receive immediate feedback 
  • A cohort of like-minded peers from Rice University and University of Houston
  • Grow an invaluable professional network
  • Validate business assumptions, and build out business model
  • Extend development runway
  • Minimize risks and maximize odds of success

Additionally, OwlSpark offers office hours with subject matter experts (including legal and marketing), discounted or free access to software and web-based services like Amazon Web Services and Hubspot, prototype funding (for eligible startups), and access to coworking space during and beyond the program.

How have OwlSpark startups performed beyond the program?

To date, 76 startups have completed the program and 40% are still active. Of those, 44% have been funded and raised more than $28M in funding.

Of those that have wound down, many founders have taken their skills to their next startup—some have even joined other startups, joined VC firms, or have landed jobs adjacent to innovation.

What industries are considered?

OwlSpark is industry-agnostic: startups across all industries are invited to apply.

What types of startups are you looking for? What are the eligibility criteria?

We are looking for promising, scalable startups that are beyond the idea stage, and have a researched understanding of the customer, market, and competition. Teams surrounding the idea should be balanced, coachable, flexible, and capable

Eligible startup teams must include two to five founders, and at least one founder must be affiliated with Rice University. This includes currently enrolled students (in good academic standing), faculty, staff across all schools and all disciplines, as well as recent alumni.

Additionally, at least two founders must commit to participating in the program full-time. Solo founders may apply, but teams of two or more are given preference. Your startup team can include non-Rice affiliates, so long as at least one founder is affiliated with Rice University.

I am an international student. If accepted, am I eligible to participate?

Yes! International students are eligible. If accepted, you would need to work through OISS to secure proper authorization to participate and receive the stipend.

Do I need to have a prototype? A legally established entity? Funding?

No. While helpful, a prototype is not a requirement for acceptance into the OwlSpark program. However, accepted startups are expected to develop a prototype during the program.

Additionally, incorporation status nor funding are qualifying criteria for this program. However, incorporated and/or funded startups are not excluded from consideration.

Does it cost anything to participate? Does OwlSpark or Rice University take equity?

OwlSpark is free—in fact, we pay you for your full engagement in the program! Founders participating full-time in the program are eligible to receive a $1,000 stipend per month for three months. Additionally, neither OwlSpark nor Rice University takes any equity: the ownership and decisions are yours.

When is the application deadline? How do I apply? How does the application process work?

Applications are being accepted on a rolling, space-available basis through Friday, April 1, 2022. Applications close at 11:59 pm CT on April 1. Applications received after 12:00 am CT on April 2 will not be considered. You can apply here. Be sure to review the instructions prior to applying as there is no option to save and finish later.

Once you have completed the application, a member of the OwlSpark team will send a confirmation email and a copy of your application. If your application reveals a potential fit for OwlSpark, your team will be invited to interview. Accepted teams will be notified as soon as April 1, but no later than April 20, 2022.

How are ideas and applications evaluated?

Ideas an applications are evaluated around the following:

  • Innovation – Is it a unique and necessary solution?
  • Market – Are you solving a “big” problem?
  • Strategy – Does it make sense financially? Does it add value?
  • Team – Does your team bring the right skills while remaining adaptable and coachable?
What if I’m also a fit for BlueLaunch? Should I apply for both programs?

Let’s schedule a time to chat about your options so we can make a proper recommendation on the program best suited for you.