Napier Rice Launch Challenge

The H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge (NRLC) is Rice’s new venture competition, where undergraduate, graduate, MBA students and alumni pitch their business ventures to win a share of $100,000 in equity-free funding, all while launching their venture on the biggest stage of the year.

Student and Alumni Track Competitions

To better serve our entrepreneurial community, we’ve designed dedicated student and alumni NRLC competitions. With two tracks, we are able to offer more finalist spots (and $$$) to Rice startups.

Student Track

Application Deadline: March 1

Round One: March 28

Round Two: March 30

Championships: April 19

Alumni Track

Application Opens: March 2024

Application Deadline: May 2024

Finalist Notified: Early June 2024

Championships: Late June 2024


Applications for current students are now closed. Students from all areas of study are encouraged to apply, along with alumni from any graduating year. If you are a Rice student who will graduate by May 2023, you have the option to apply for both the student and alumni track competitions.

Solo founders and founder teams are welcomed to apply. If applying as a team, members or partners do not need to have a Rice background, however, the co-founder pitching is required to be a Rice student or alumni. Additionally, if applying as a team, please submit only one application. You will have an opportunity to list all team members on the application.

Requirements to Apply

  • One application per team
  • A maximum of 5 members per team. You may also apply as a solo founder.
  • For students, the venture must be founded and/or lead by a current Rice undergraduate or graduate student
  • For alumni, the venture must be alum(na) founded, with the alum(na) pitching
  • The venture doesn’t have to be fully launched to apply but must be more than an idea

Office Hours

We’ll sit with you one-on-one and walk through any hesitations you may have about the “readiness” of your venture. Grab a time slot here >>

Info Sessions

If you have any questions about NRLC or just want to connect with someone at Lilie, watch these recordings of our previous info sessions:

Round One

How It Works

Venture teams will present a 5 minute pitch on Zoom, followed by a 5-minute of Q&A from a panel of judges from across the Rice startup and entrepreneurship ecosystem. 

Ten ventures from Round One will be selected to compete in Round Two, which takes place just two days later.

Additionally, you don’t even have to be an NRLC finalist to win funding for your venture! We have three sidecar prizes you can win just by pitching at Round One.

$1000 – RISE@Rice: The Sen Social Pioneer Prize, sponsored by MBA Alum Runsi Sen ‘04

The winning venture for this prize is one that solves or addresses social injustice and challenges with the potential for significant social impact.

$2500 – Frank Liu Jr Prize for Creative Innovations in Music, Fashion, & the Arts, sponsored by the Liu Family

This prize will be awarded to an innovation that exemplifies the drive and passion Frank Liu Jr. had in his life as a musician and creative.

$5000 – Best Undergraduate Venture, sponsored by the Liu Idea Lab

This special sidecar prize will be given to an undergraduate team that best wows the judges with their venture.


How to Prepare

  • Sign up for our email-based course “How to Deliver a Winning Pitch at NRLC” Starts February 28
  • Sample pitch video to give you an idea of what a good pitch sounds like


How It Works

Round Two will follow a similar format to Round One: a 5-minute pitch and 8 minutes of Q&A with a panel of judges. However, in Round Two, teams will pitch live, in-person at the Liu Idea Lab. 



How It Works

The 5 finalist teams will present a 5-minute pitch, followed by a 10-minute Q&A from our judges. 

Judges will deliberate and select 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners. Additional prizes will also be rewarded.

How We Help You Prepare

Lilie will help you refine your venture and prepare you to give an award-winning pitch by:

  • Pairing your team with a coach who will conduct a dedicated deck review session
  • Providing your team with mentorship sessions with seasoned entrepreneurs to provide feedback on your pitch and help develop your delivery
  • Hosting working sessions in the Liu Idea Lab where you can collaborate directly with Lilie staff



Support the student ventures at the Championships on Wednesday, April 19th! Watch pitches, network with the Houston and Rice entrepreneurship community, and vote for your favorite venture! Attendance is open to Rice students, Rice alumni, and friends of Rice.

RSVP on Eventbrite


Thank you to our 2023 Sponsors and Supporters!

We are extremely grateful for the generosity of our community. For their sponsorship and support in fostering entrepreneurship at Rice, we’d like to thank:

Dacia and Lanham Napier, in honor of Al Napier

Runsi Sen, MBA 2004

The Liu Family, in honor of Frank Liu, Jr.

Interested in sponsoring?

Are you looking to gain exposure to Houston’s newest and most promising startup ventures, as well as first-class entrepreneurial talent? Or are you looking to partner with potential long-term clients? Contact our team at to see how you can support this experience and join us in the transformation of Houston’s innovation ecosystem.

2023 NRLC was brought to you by