The BusinessMakers Radio Show

Episode #463: Brad Burke

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Russ: That's right. This is the Business Makers Show heard on the radio, seen on-line at, brought to you by Comcast Business built for business. And this is a very special episode of the Business Makers Show because I'm in front of a live audience [audience applause.]

A live audience of entrepreneurs, VCs. Let's hear it for VCs too, those are pretty good, yeah [audience applause.] Investment bankers and just a whole bunch of business people that are great judges and I'm very pleased because my guest is the Managing Director of the Rice Alliance, the organization that puts on this real cool event, none other than Mr. Brad Burke.

Brad: Thanks, Russ [audience applause.] Thanks Russ, great to be here.

Russ: You bet. Well, tell us about the Rice Business Plan Contest 2014.

Brad: 2014 we have 42 teams from around the world from four continents competing for more than $1.6 million, the world's largest student global start-up competition.

Russ: Impressive, man [audience applause.] Give us a little bit of the history, an overview of the history, and particularly paying attention to the fact that you grow the prize money every year; very impressive.

Brad: Well you know back in 2001 this was more of an academic exercise. We had nine teams compete for $10,000 but the academic exercise is gone. These are about companies, you guys starting companies with teams competing now for $1.6 million and, even more than that, the opportunity to network with about 300 judges who can provide funding, advice, mentoring and help for your businesses.

Russ: Real cool, real impressive. So you've seen lots of winners here over the years. What's the difference between the winners and those who don't win?

Brad: Difference between the winners, well you know Russ, the winners get a million dollars [audience laughter.]

Russ: [Laughter.] Okay.

Brad: Yeah, there's - no.

Russ: All right, all right. So that's clear, okay, all right. So but on the other there have been a lot of success stories here. Share with us a success story of a winner.

Brad: All right, so 2005 the first winner of the Goose Society Prize: Auditude from UCLA. The prize that year was $100,000 but the Goose Society decided they liked that company and put in $1.1 million. That company went on to raise about $40 million from Silicon Valley Venture Capitalists and in December of 2011 was sold for about $120 million to Adobe.

Russ: I would call that success.

Brad: That's a success and Nicholas Seet is here somewhere in the audience tonight as well.

Russ: Nicholas Seet [audience applause.] Nicholas Seet, sitting right next to the guy that has the most successful start-up in the history of business, Rod Canyon, the Founder of Compaq Computers.

Brad: [Laughter.]

Russ: For those of you who don't know.

Brad: Well if you guys want to hit up Nicholas for some seed funding feel free but what's more important is -

Russ: Or Rod.

Brad: Nicholas has come back.

Russ: [Laughter.]

Brad: Nicholas has come back with his partner, Ashok Kamal who competed with a company called Bennu a couple of years ago, and they have founded a new RBPC alumni prize. So they're paying it forward which is just what we hope and want entrepreneurs to do these days.

Russ: Way to go, Nicholas [audience applause.] Okay now, as we also always say here that everybody here that's competing are winners, and so that I'm sure there have been some people that didn't win the grand prize, maybe they didn't win many prizes at all, that went on to be successful. Share one of those stories with us.

Brad: Well a couple of years ago some of you remember Black Locus, a software company out of Carnegie Mellon. So they didn't win and I'm not even sure that they did not make it to the finals. I don't know if they even made it out of the first round but it was a big data software company out of Carnegie Mellon and the Mercury Fund and the guys from Silverton, the VC, two VCs here in Texas said they actually liked that company a lot.

They ended up three months after the competition closing two and a half million dollars. The company moved to Austin, Texas, and about 16 months later that company sold to Home Depot for an undisclosed gigantic amount of money [audience laughter.]

Russ: Well, all right. That sounds like a success story as well, okay. So what we're getting to do now are the elevator pitches. Why don't you give us a rules review on the elevator pitches?

Brad: All right, so I put them up so you can see them. So the rules are you guys, you know what an elevator pitch is, right? You get in an elevator on the first floor, the doors are about to close. Warren Buffet slips in just as the doors close and you know you have about 30 floors to convince Warren to take a second meeting with you. So you've got to intrigue him and hook him enough with your concept to take a second meeting so you can talk to him, encourage him to invest.

Well, so tonight you're in a big elevator. You're in an elevator in front of 500 people. You've got 60 seconds. You'll see the clock here, 60 seconds, judges. Judges, you should have a blue scorecard and we'll pass those around. If nobody, if a judge doesn't have their blue scorecard and, judges, you rate the teams from one to five, and there are cash awards then for the top five elevator pitches tonight.

Russ: Great, that's fantastic. All right. For our viewers and our listeners, coming up right after this you'll see our favorite elevator pitches plus the first place elevator pitch, plus the grand prize winner from the 2014 Rice Businessplan Contest, and this is the Business Makers Show heard on the radio and seen on-line at, brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business. Thank you very much.

Brad: All right, thanks, Russ [audience applause.]