OwlSpark | Rice University Startup Accelerator | OwlSpark Class 9 Launches May 20
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OwlSpark Class 9 Launches May 20

OwlSpark kicks off its ninth and largest cohort to date on Thursday, May 20. This year’s cohort is solving problems across a number of industries, including hospitality, sports, oil & gas, consumer, staffing, automotive, and more.

We will continue in a virtual environment, taking advantage of the opportunities provided by this type of environment, including hosting speakers, mentors, and teams from across the country and around the world.

Throughout the summer, OwlSpark and RED Labs startup teams are immersed in an entrepreneurial environment and experience a rigorous curriculum as a part of the jointly-run accelerator. The Rice University and University of Houston partnership launched in 2014 to enrich the startup experience, enhance mentor impact, and increase opportunities for corporate engagement. The 12-week accelerator culminates in the Bayou Startup Showcase, providing a stage for startups from both universities to pitch their businesses to the broader community.

Continuing the Partnership: Gig ‘Em, Ags!

In 2020, Rice University and the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University partnered for the first time, blending two universities into the OwlSpark Accelerator.

After a tremendously successful 2020 pilot, the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship is excited to extend our OwlSpark collaboration by inviting two more outstanding Aggie teams to participate in the 2021 cohort. We witnessed the remarkable growth of last summer’s teams, and we knew we wanted to once again offer this unique immersive opportunity to Aggie entrepreneurs. We are so grateful for our collaborating partners at Rice University and the University of Houston, and we’re expecting great things from our 2021 Aggie OwlSpark teams!
— Blake Petty, Executive Director, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship

This year, two Aggie teams were invited to join Class 9. Meet the two teams:

  • Home Maintainer – a comprehensive solution for homeowners to manage and simplify home maintenance and efficiency
  • Yellow Saffron Labs – a risk analysis platform that gathers datasets from peer-reviewed scientific publications for use by organizations to observe industry trends or upcoming scientific disruptions or discoveries

Aggie Alumni Spotlights

A key benefit of participating in OwlSpark is the relationships built within each cohort, but also with successful alumni that come through the program. A quick update on the three Aggie alumni from Class 8:

Ai-RiS is developing low-cost retina imaging for diabetic retinopathy screening.

  • Qualified as semi finalists in the 2021 Rice Business Plan Competition (RBPC), and won the Silver Fox Award Prize ($20,000 in-kind mentoring/advisory services)
  • Filed for a provisional patent
  • Received Blackstone Fellowship Grant ($5,000 grant)
  • Won first place in VentureWell OPENminds pitch competition ($2,000 prize)

BitGrange founder, Alfredo Costilla-Reyes, co-founded a new startup, AI Pow. AI Pow develops Automated Machine Learning to allow domain experts to use it regardless of their computer science experience.

  • Competed in the 2021 Rice Business Plan Competition
  • AI Pow’s intuitive solution is currently the most adopted automated Machine Learning system on Github

FreeFuse is an interactive social video platform that enables content creators to make videos where viewers can participate.

  • Successfully onboarded two classes at Texas A&M University, which included 210 students. These students had over 9,000 video views and made over 30,500 choices on FreeFuse’s interactive video platform.
  • Received universal praise from these students who want the platform integrated into more of their classes
  • Raised $50,000 and is onboarding 10 more classes this summer