Team from Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship Pitches REEcycle, Wins Grand Prize at First Look West (FLoW) Business Plan Competition
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the eighth in a series of posts highlighting the success of student business plan teams from the Bauer College’s Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship in Spring 2014. Each year, WCE students work with the university’s Division of Research to develop commercialization plans for technologies developed at the university. Over the past 12 years, Bauer teams have had 21 podium finishes in national business plan competitions.
Four undergraduate students from the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston took home the grand prize of $100,000 at the First Look West (FLoW) Business Plan Competition, a consortium through the U.S. Department of Energy that partners with the California Institute of Technology, University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles.
The team, all students in the college’s Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, included Cassandra Hoang, Bobby Jacobs, Casey McNeil and Susan Tran. Their business plan focused on a technology developed by Allan Jacobson, the Robert A. Welch Chair of Science and Director of the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH, that addresses rare earth elements (REE) used in computer memory, rechargeable batteries, cell phones, catalytic converters, fluorescent lighting and more.
“REEcycle reclaims critical rare earth elements from discarded hard drive magnets,” Tran said. “China controls over 97% of the world’s supply. Our business solves a national issue of rare earth element supply shortage.”
The competition consisted of a three round event where the students submitted a 10 slide presentation, then presented it to judges including angel investors, representatives of energy corporation venture funds and venture capitalists. During the final round, students were required to submit a 10 page business plan and an investor presentation.
The team was awarded $100,000 and guaranteed a spot in the Department of Energy’s National Competition in June. They will receive mentoring from investors and legal and business development experts to prepare them for the finals in Washington, D.C. Using the skills learned at the Bauer College, Jacobs knew they were poised for success.
“Bauer gave us the tools to get to where we are today,” Jacobs said. “From the amazing mentors to the knowledge from the finance, accounting and entrepreneurship classes, we would not have won if it wasn’t for all the resources provided by Bauer.”
This is the second business plan competition for REEcycle this semester, with their first win being at the Baylor New Venture Competition, where they received first place.
By Amanda Sebesta