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Interdisciplinary Team of Texas State University Graduate Students Takes Fourth Place in Highly Competitive
Rice University Business Plan Competition

The Rice University Business Plan Competition (RBPC) is considered the largest graduate-level business plan competition in the world and is by invitation only. Over 500 teams applied for an invitation to compete and only 42 were invited to participate in the 2014 RBPC. Never having entered the competition before, an interdisciplinary team of graduate students from Texas State University competed against 41 other teams and won fourth prize overall at the 14th annual RBPC competition held in Houston, Texas in April, 2014. The team presented their business plan for a startup company called SioTeX Corporation to investors and judges. SioTeX’s plan is to manufacture and market Eco-Sil for use in paint, fiberglass-reinforced plastic and tires. Manufactured from rice hulls, Eco-Sil is more environmentally-friendly than fumed silica currently used to make the same products. Since rice hulls are a renewable resource, Eco-Sil also offers a more sustainable option.

SioTeX stemmed from the dissertation research of Haoran Chen who completed his Ph.D. degree in December, 2013 in the Materials Science, Engineering, and Commercialization (MSEC) program in the College of Science and Engineering. In addition to team leader Dr. Chen, the team includes Marcus Goss (MSEC Ph.D. student), Ash Kotwal (MSEC Ph.D. student), Lisa Taylor (MBA student in the McCoy College of Business Administration) and Cesar Rivera (MFA Communication Design student in the College of Fine Arts and Communication).
The SioTeX team announcing its RBPC win to fellow graduate students at the student government Graduate House Social on April 13, 2014. Pictured l-r are Marcus Goss, Ash Kotwal, Cesar Rivera, Dr. Haoran Chen, Lisa Taylor and Dr. Gary Beall.

The Texas State team garnered multiple accolades in the RBPC competition including the Texas Halo Fund Investment Prize, first place in the Challenge Round Flight, runner-up in the CASIS ISS National Lab Space Flight prize, and acknowledgment as most engaged in mobile social media activity during the competition. The $125,000 Texas Halo Fund Investment Prize, awarded for extraordinary entrepreneurship, will be used by the team to obtain additional funding to launch their business.

beall Dr. Gary Beall, Associate Dean in the College of Science and Engineering and Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, coached the team for the competition and comments “This interdisciplinary team highlights the unique cooperation that exists between departments and colleges here at Texas State that allows our students to compete on the world stage. Mentoring this team was one of the most exhilarating experiences I have had in my career.”   Cesar Rivera says of the experience “The team really came together. We worked diligently with a short amount of time. The SioTeX team performed well and adapted quickly to criticism. I look forward to the future of continued hard work and the ability this company has to transform the industry”. rivera