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UT Austin Chemical Engineering Ph.D. Student Wins Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition

(L-R) Harlan Beverly, Meghali Chopra, Rob AdamsAUSTIN, Texas – Meghali Chopra received first place in the 2016 Fall Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition (TVLIC) on Dec. 2, 2016, for her company, SandBox Semiconductor.

“Competing in TVLIC was a very valuable experience,” said Chopra. “I was inspired by all the innovations being implemented by my peers at UT Austin. My co-founder, Roger Bonnecaze, and I were especially excited to be able to share the significant technological and commercial impact of our semiconductor process optimization software, RODEo, with the university community.”

TVLIC is a bi-annual competition hosted by Jon Brumley Texas Venture Labs (TVL) at the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. The competition is open to all graduate students at UT Austin seeking funding for new business ventures. This fall’s TVLIC had more than 20 startup companies in attendance from various disciplines such as business, education, engineering and law.

The competition uses a shark-tank style where companies pitch their business plans to a panel of experienced venture capital investors and entrepreneurs. Each team has 30 minutes to pitch to the judges. The winners of each semifinals division move on to compete in the finals to determine the Texas champion.

“The Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition was even more like a real investor pitch this year as our judges continue to be real investors from the Austin community, asking questions and probing student entrepreneurs just as an investor would normally do,” said Harlan Beverly, assistant director of TVL.

In addition to taking home first place, SandBox Semiconductor received a cash prize of $10,000, the Austin Technology Incubator package and an opportunity to join TVL in New York City to close the Nasdaq Stock Market.

“The prize money represents a key milestone in addressing our capital requirements and commercialization efforts,” said Chopra. “I plan to continue these commercialization efforts full-time as CEO for SandBox Semiconductor after I graduate in May with my doctoral degree.”

TVLIC Winners The other four finalists include Wilder Systems in second place receiving $5,000, Desert Door in third place receiving $2,000, Smart Savior in fourth place receiving $1,000, and H-Tech in fifth place receiving $1,000. In addition to awarding the top five teams, TVLIC also awards teams for specialized honors such as the Wells Fargo Clean Technology Award, the James D. Pippin Veteran Award, and the E. Craig Nemec Elevator Challenge Award.

This year’s recipient of the Wells Fargo Clean Technology Award of $5,000 is Bright Volume. Bright Volume is a building technology company that provides an environmentally friendly and efficient building, design and construction solution for airplane hangars.

 Salutem Systems received the James D. Pippin Veteran Award of $1,000 given to the most promising startup in TVLIC with one or more veteran co-founders.

The sixth annual E. Craig Nemec Elevator Challenge Award goes to three teams that competed in TVLIC and gave the best elevator pitch for their business in  two minutes. This year’s winners include Lawtomation, InterStellar Coatings and Hylio. Each team will receive $1,000.

“This year we have expanded the Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition to be twice a year, but the quality of the teams has not suffered as we get teams from all over the UT Austin campus,” said Beverly.

When evaluating student ventures, TVLIC judges acted as an investment group seeking the best business venture to fund, using the same process and asking the same questions they would any entrepreneur. The judges' panel included Craig Cummings, Moonshots Capital; William Glasgow, Prime IX Investments; Scott Plantowsky, RSR Finance; Mellie Price, Dell Medical School; and Chris Shonk, ATX Seed Ventures.

For more information on the teams selected to compete in 2016 TVLIC, visit the TVL website.

Jon Brumley Texas Venture Labs at The University of Texas at Austin is a campus-wide initiative to accelerate both student and community startups in taking their innovations to market in order to transform graduate students into entrepreneurs and business leaders.  Since 2010, TVL has worked with over 136 startups in a wide range of industries and 38 percent of these companies have gone on to raise over $380 million in funding. The program has worked with over 330 graduate students from the McCombs School of Business, the School of Law, the Cockrell School of Engineering, the College of Natural Sciences, and the College of Pharmacy. 

For more information, contact: Samantha Harris, McCombs School of Business, 512-671-6764


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