OwlSpark | Rice University Startup Accelerator | Apply
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OwlSpark Class 8: Startup Team Application
Rice University applications for Class 8 (Summer 2020) are open Monday, February 17 through Friday, February 28, 2020.
Texas A&M University applications for Class 8 (Summer 2020) are open Friday, February 28 through Sunday, March 8, 2020.

To prepare for the application process, we have laid out important information surrounding the options and expectations below. Be sure to review the information thoroughly, and please reach out to us if you need clarification or have questions.

About the OwlSpark Accelerator

OwlSpark is an intense, immersive summer experience for startup teams. Utilizing a robust curriculum, collaborative coworking space, and a diverse mentor network, OwlSpark provides startup teams with hands-on experience launching a tech startup. The 2020 program begins May 21 and concludes August 7, and will be hosted in tandem with RED Labs, the University of Houston startup accelerator.

Program Overview

Throughout the summer, OwlSpark delivers entrepreneurship education, teaches relevant business fundamentals, pairs teams with knowledgeable mentors and industry experts, features office hours with entrepreneurs, and yields key community connections. OwlSpark culminates with the Bayou Startup Showcase, a one-day event that showcases your startup. Together, these resources and collaboration provide exposure and direct access to Houston’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, increasing the probability of continued success beyond the OwlSpark experience.

Program Requirements

OwlSpark is a full-time program that 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:

  • Attend and actively engage in sessions, workshops, events, and weekly meetings
  • Set and report key performance metrics
  • Conduct and record at least 100 customer interviews
  • Create brand identity, website, and marketing materials
  • Attend and pitch at organized events

Eligible Team Composition

OwlSpark is open to students, staff, and faculty across all schools and all disciplines, as well as alumni within five years, who have an interest in building leadership skills and capacity as innovation-driven entrepreneurs. Eligible startup teams must include two to five founders, and at least one founder must be affiliated with Rice University. International students are eligible, but must secure authorization from the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) prior to the start of the program.

*For Texas A&M University students: OwlSpark is open to currently enrolled students in good academic standing. Eligible startup teams must include two to five founders, and at least one founder must be affiliated with Texas A&M University. International student founders are eligible, but must secure authorization from their university prior to the start of the program.

It is preferred that all team members participate full-time between May 21 and August 7, 2020, and also be present at the August pitch/showcase event. Sessions are held several days each week, and founders must be present at each session. Exceptions to this requirement are made on a case-by-case basis. Additionally, all founders must demonstrate a strong commitment and interest in launching their business.

What Are We Looking For?

The application is divided into three sections: (1) the technology, (2) the startup team, and (3) the founder(s). 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 (see the Review the Application and Pitch Video Criteria tabs near the top of this page). To help applicants understand the type of technologies and startup teams that will be a good fit for the accelerator program, we have also highlighted three key points designed to guide your thought process and help you formulate productive answers (see the Prepare to Apply tab near the top of this page).

Getting Started

To be considered for Class 8, one application per startup team must be completed by the Rice-affiliated founder.

Only one application per startup team may be submitted. Applications are open through Friday, February 28, 2020.

*Applications for Texas A&M University applicants are open through Sunday, March 8, 2020, and must be completed by the university-affiliated founder.

The application must be completed in its entirety. Because there is no option to save and finish later, startup teams are strongly encouraged to review the application questions and prepare their answers before beginning the application. A confirmation email with a copy of your application will be sent to the startup team within two business days.

What’s Next?

If your application reveals a potential fit for OwlSpark, your startup team will move to the interview phase of the application process. An OwlSpark Leadership Team member will reach out to you regarding details and next steps.