OwlSpark | Rice University Startup Accelerator | Review the Application
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Review the Application

OwlSpark Class 10: Startup Team Application

Preparing Your Application

The application is divided into two sections: (1) the technology, and (2) the team. You should be prepared to provide detailed, concise answers to questions surrounding each of these topics. We encourage each founder to review the application questions and pitch video criteria prior to applying, but to help you understand the type of technologies and startup teams that are a good fit for the accelerator program, we have highlighted three key points designed to guide your thought process and help you formulate productive answers.

Explain your technology or business idea in a simple, specific statement.

Stick to the basics when drafting your answer — marketing lingo can lend excitement to your technology or business idea but is usually ineffective in conveying the necessary information. You should assume that the reviewer does not share your area of expertise, and thus should be easily understood by a diverse audience. If a one-sentence description can convey what you plan to do, then you are halfway to describing your technology or business idea.

Demonstrate each founder’s relevant, but diverse, skill set, attributes, and contribution to the team.
While entrepreneurial experience is helpful, it is neither critical nor required. Keep in mind that entrepreneurs often possess a multitude of transferable skills, allowing them the flexibility to step into multiple team roles. Commitment, resilience, and passion are also key attributes of successful entrepreneurs — and are the primary drivers behind taking initiative and following through. An entrepreneurial mindset is vital to the success of your startup team, so elaborate on the intersection of your skills and attributes.

Conduct and apply your research: think outside the box.
Who is your customer or end user? Are there other companies or individuals addressing the same problem your technology or business idea seeks to solve? How will you generate revenue? Between customers, competitors, and revenue, you should be able to describe your startup team’s potential business model. While founders are not required to have an understanding of business fundamentals, it is critical to familiarize yourself with the terminology and demonstrate the practical application of ideas. Though your innovation or business idea is important, it is also a measure of your ability to think outside the box. We place a strong emphasis on founders’ critical thinking skills and coachability, as your technology and/or your business model will evolve or pivot during the program.

Application Questions

The application is divided into two sections: (1) the technology or business idea, and (2) the team. You should be prepared to provide detailed, concise answers to questions surrounding each of these topics. Because there is no option to save and finish later, startup teams are strongly encouraged to review the application questions below and prepare their answers before beginning the application.

Technology or Business Idea

  • What is the name of your startup team?
  • What does your startup do, provide, make or sell? Describe your technology or business idea.
  • What problem or need is your technology or business idea solving?
  • Who is your customer and/or end user? Describe them in terms of age, gender, geography, industry, business type, etc.
  • How will your startup generate revenue? Describe your business model.
  • What is new or unique about your technology or business idea? Describe how it is different from what is currently on the market.
  • What other companies or solutions currently address the problem or need you are solving? Do you consider these companies or solutions to be competitors?
  • Through which Rice University programs, events, and/or courses (if any) has your team evaluated the commercial viability of your technology or business idea?
  • Include a link to your 60-second pitch video. Please provide a complete URL (i.e. “https://www.owlspark.com/pitch_video”). Review the Pitch Video Criteria below.
  • Include a link to any websites, slide decks, demos, or other materials you feel would support your application. Please provide a complete URL (i.e. “https://www.owlspark.com/slide_deck”).

Startup Team

  • Name and Contact Information
  • University Affiliation (if no affiliation, you must specify your affiliation)
  • If you are a Rice University student or alumni, indicate graduation year (anticipated or completed). Other affiliates can skip this question.
  • Academic Discipline (if no Rice University affiliation, choose N/A)
  • Is this founder able to participate full-time during the program? If no, please list dates of outside commitments between May 23 and August 5, 2022, that precludes this founder from attending and participating.
  • Briefly describe the skills and strengths this founder has to advance the innovation or business idea. Include one to two sentences describing the skillset and contribution that demonstrates a high level of ability.

Pitch Video Criteria

As part of the application process, your startup team is required to submit a 60-second Pitch Video. Please upload the video to the web and provide a link to the video on your startup team’s application.

Your purpose is to get others excited about your idea, pique their interest enough to want to learn more about your startup. You only have one minute, so every second counts. You are free to structure your video however you wish, but the following content should be included (timing for each topic is optional).

Intro / Hook (5 – 10 seconds)

Start strong and help people remember your skillset (use a hook, make it interesting).

Example: My name is John and I’m a futurist and designer creating the next generation of drone videography tours in the real estate industry.

Problem? (10 – 20 seconds)

Describe the problem in simple terms that the audience can relate to.

Example: Have you tried to buy or sell a house lately? All the websites and ads look the same. The real estate market presents homes in a boring, predictable way to potential buyers, despite the technology available today. This limits the seller’s chance of getting their home sold and potential buyers’ chances of truly experiencing a home’s real potential.

Solution (10 – 20 seconds)

Make your solution plausible and logical. Add your secret sauce, i.e. your special skills set that shows you can make this work.

Example: I propose to develop a stylized package of videos and photos that buyers can use to showcase their homes, recorded and photographed by drones and put together by designers.

Team (5 – 10 seconds)

Why is your team the right team to execute your business idea?