Next Generation: The First Eliminations

Learn about articulating risks and opportunities.

In Episode 6 of "This is Small Business: Next Generation," hosts Andrea Marquez and Mitch Gilbert guide you through the first round of eliminations at the Rice Business Plan Competition where the teams compete for a spot in the semi-finals. As the pressure intensifies, each team strives to make significant improvements in order to stand a better chance of winning. They work tirelessly, tweaking their strategies, and refining and honing their pitches to perfection. It's a race against time as they push themselves to the limits. Andrea and Mitch also talk to Dean Peter Rodriguez to uncover some important insights when it comes to pitching at the Rice Business Plan Competition like the importance of navigating stress in an entrepreneur's life, and articulating risks and opportunities in your pitch. By the end of this episode you’ll find out who’ll make it to semi-finals and what’ll happen to the teams that get left behind. Join Andrea and Mitch as they point out all the key takeaways and learnings from our teams that’ll give you a leg up at any pitch competition you try to compete in.

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Alex: It's a rollercoaster of emotions.

Julio: What if I am wrong? What if I miss something?

Sloane: Nobody knows my business better than I do, and I'm allowed to be there and I I should be taking up space in that room.

Richard: Nobody else was doing it right. I think that's the big thing that really pushed me to do it

Alex: I believe to the core that we're gonna be a successful billion-dollar company.

Shiv: And I think that's why we wanna win.

Peter: It's a very courageous act to do. It takes a lot of guts. It's a good thing. And they're, they're overcoming a lot out there.

Andrea: Hi, and welcome to This is Small Business: NEXT Generation - a miniseries brought to you by Amazon, where we follow 4 student teams behind the scenes throughout the Rice University Business Plan Competition. You’ll hear all about their challenges, hopes, and fears as they prepare to pitch. And by the end of every episode, we’ll be pointing out key takeaways that will help you wherever you are on your business journey. I’m one of your hosts – Andrea Marquez.

[00:01:00] Mitch: And I'm your co-host Mitch Gilbert, co-founder of Oya Femtech Apparel and an ex-rice business plan competition competitor.

[00:01:05] Andrea: We’ve made it through day one of the competition and I think it’s safe to say that the feedback from the first day was helpful, but it was also…

[00:01:15] Mitch: Brutally honest, and it's hard because venture capitalists are not nice people. At the same time, though, it was very detailed, which is really what a lot of the founders needed.

[00:01:27] Andrea: Yeah, but at least we made it to the second day, where the teams will get to go through the first round of pitching and find out if they’ll be making it to the semi-finals. We’ll also be hearing from other competitors.

[00:01:38] Mitch: But first we'll go check in with our teams after they go through their first round of pitching, which consists of a 15-minute pitch and then a 15-minute q and a with the judges, and then a 15-minute feedback round, which sounds stressful.

[00:01:52] Andrea: It certainly does. And after that, you’ll get to know who’s actually going to make it through to the semi-final round and how they feel after the announcements. [00:02:00] But first, we sat down with Peter Rodriguez, the Dean of the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University, to hear some of his thoughts about the Rice Business Plan competition:

[00:02:13] Peter: I think it got started just because we had some entrepreneurial faculty who thought they would teach the business of launching a business. I think business schools so much focuses on leading a business or being in an existing business, but the act of starting a business is really different. It's, it's going it alone. It's being a founder, it's taking a leap that's much harder, and that's not an easy thing to teach. And so getting people over that hump, actually encouraging them to take what they know and really test it from the get-go, go from zero to one as they say was a grill gap and they wanted to close the gap. So they got started. And little by little, like all good things, they found collaborators, people who wanted the same, and it really blossomed.

Andrea @ RBPC: Why do you think as a business owner, someone, especially an early-stage business owner, [00:03:00] should try to be part of this competition?

[00:03:05] Peter: It's the learning environment, which I think is both frightening. I mean, it's a competition. It's really like the NCAA Tournament of Business startup competitions, and so you feel that pressure and if you're a business owner or a founder, pressure needs to bring out the best in you. You need to find a way to get the nerves down and just be who you are. So much of what you see out there, brilliant people. You have PhDs, brilliant minds. They don't still have the courage to sort of speak it. This is what I'm about, this is what I'm trying to do. No one's done it before, they haven't done it this well, but I'm going to do it. That, that's gutsy.

And then you have people on the other side who are really there to sort of, you know, engage in the old steel sharpened steel process and say, well, is that really a good idea? How good is it? What about this did you think about? And the more you go through that, you know, the more you get bruised a little bit, the stronger you become. [00:04:00] And by the end you find a couple of firms that are like, this is ready to go. You're gonna go out there and crush it.

Mitch @ RBPC: I've been in pitch competitions where judges can be very biased, and it's just like conversations in the back room and there are almost no checks and balances to help make it more equitable. Whereas these teams, like every round, I felt like my business got so much better between the first round to the end of the competition. Whereas I've been in competitions where there were no female judges. Regardless of whether I had followed the rubric, they weren't actually really judging me against the rubric, and so being here and seeing judges following rubrics, like, I, I just think that's commendable. I don't know what the answer to the problem is, but seeing it from this side has been cool.

[00:04:44] Peter: A lot of what the deficit is for underrepresented groups is, if you've never talked to an investor before, you don't know how they think. And what you really wanna learn is what are they really thinking? You think they might be wondering about the product or the idea. They're really thinking things like, can I make money off of that? [00:05:00] What would it take? How far away are you? How do you deal with this number one risk. And if you can get to that in about four or five minutes, you can cut out a lot of pieces. And you're so much more compelling that way. It's also important to know you don't have to have every problem solved. Most of them are thinking, well, if we can solve 70% of the problems, I think I can figure out what we can do on the remaining 30 and we can coach through that because they know from experience nobody has a hundred percent of the problem solved. You'd be in business right now so they know they've got work to do, but it's that experience and if they don't give you good detailed feedback. If they don't give you insight into what was going on in their mind when they were judging you, then you really haven't gained from it.

We do a survey to ask the pitching teams, how many people did you meet, who you think could help you in the future. And one of our metrics is, can we make that number go up so that every team comes out and can say at least seven people I met. [00:06:00] Can help me make my business better in the future. Because the worst thing we could have is that students and their teams come here and they think, yeah, that didn't really help me, that didn't advance. We're learning a little bit every year, and I just came back from a lunch. We had about 40 of the advisors from the different universities so that we always get together and talk about what's working, what's not working, how do we make it better, and, we're not really that competitive. We try to steal ideas from each other to make our competitions better. And our goal is just to stay, you know the best or as best as we can be.

[00:06:30] Andrea: And with that, let's get into how our contestants feel after the first round of pitching, starting with DIA.

Mitch @ RBPC: So between yesterday and today, do you feel like your business got better?

[00:06:42] Sloane: I feel like our communication specifically about our business got better. I think that especially as a female CEO, you have to run a very thin line between being approachable and being relatable. And being strong. And I think that I was able to grow as a leader [00:07:00] in walking that line. But also being able to go in there and say that these judges are all extremely smart. But, they spend a few hours with my business and their opinions are valuable, but nobody knows my business better than I do, and I'm allowed to be there and I I should be taking up space in that room.

[00:07:20] Julio: Just sitting down with Sloan made the difference just where we could have improved what she needed from me cuz honestly, I botched a lot of it. I took responsibility and she took responsibility for trying to make me fit into another mold and we just reworked the whole thing together as a team and that allowed us, plus the sleep, to do a great pitch. I really think it was as good as it could be. I'm so proud of Sloan. She, she took all the questions. It was amazing.

Mitch @ RBPC: So how are you feeling about this afternoon?

[00:07:50] Sloane: I'm feeling excited. Yeah. I feel like it's another chance for Julio and I to, to grow, improve our business again. And I feel like you, you have to, especially as a startup founder, you're never gonna be perfect. [00:08:00] Yeah. So you have to have an attitude of constant improvement. And you know, it's like you're not gonna nail every single workout, but like the workouts that you don't nail, they still make you stronger. It's been a really wonderful competition and I feel like the partners that Rice has brought in and the level of how they do things here is something I've never seen before.

[00:08:18] Andrea: That’s awesome to hear. Sounds like they’re feeling pretty good. Let’s check in with Outmore Living.

[00:08:25] Kevin: Yeah. So some of the feedback we got yesterday was that we waited too long to bring the product into the actual pitch and presentation. So the biggest change that Alex and I made as we headed into today was we brought that up to the front. So we kicked it off with the problem and then brought in the solution, explained the product, and then kind of got into how we got there, the past, present, and future. And so that was a shift and honestly, Alex and I only practiced it a couple times going into today, so we were very happy with how it ended up going.

[00:08:52] Alex: We changed no content. All I said to him was, dude, let's just think mental thoughts before. Concise and deliberate. Concise and deliberate, concise and deliberate. [00:09:00] And then we ran it again, and we somehow knocked three minutes off of the presentation with changing no content, just from having like that concise and deliberate mindset going into it ended up in three minutes and a better presentation.

Andrea @ RBPC: What are some of the things that were the hardest for your team to work on when it came to pitching your idea?

[00:09:00] Alex: Yeah. It's a combination of wanting to display and showcase how deeply we understand the technology, the go-to-market strategy, who are we gonna sell it to, how are we gonna sell it, but not burying that in a pile of details to the point where it becomes uncon consumable. And Kevin and I could get up there and I think if we were asked to talk as long as we can, we'd be well over an hour about Outmore, incredibly detailed, right? We can get down to very specific things. So I think it's taking what Kevin and I know, [00:10:00] and then presenting it in the right balance of detail to show that we're, we know what we're talking about, we're the right team to go solve it. But at a high enough level that the person who's never experienced it before can understand it, comprehend it, not get lost from slide to slide, and then ultimately walk away seeing the same vision that Kevin and I have every day. So it's a, it's, it's striking that right balance.

Andrea @ RBPC: How do you feel about the semi-finals coming up?

[00:10:30] Kevin: I feel excited, going into the elevator pitch, that was probably my most nervous feeling. You have nothing behind you. You have a minute, and you have to be perfect. When you have the actual pitches, you don't have to be perfect. You can kind of explain your way through a slide. And so, even going in today, I was way less nervous. And then as we think about finding out if we make the semi-finals, I'm more excited than anything else. If we get it, we'll be extremely excited. But if we don't, we also know we lost to some great teams. [00:11:00] So, at this point, it's just really excitement.

Andrea @ RBPC: Why do you think you should win?

[00:11:05] Alex: There is a reason why I am with a wife and three kids going all in on this idea. For some people that is a, a terrifying proposition, but from the moment I heard, Kevin and I talk about, I wish our seats were heated. This idea has captivated me. I've tried to run away from it. At first, I was like, okay, yeah, surely this exists. And then it continued to follow with me, I believe to the deepest core that we are sitting on a billion-dollar idea to the size of another Austin Company of Yeti, and, and I believe we are the most investible idea here. And Kevin and I will, with a combination of our team, our characteristics, our personalities, resilience, the idea that we have, [00:12:00] and our ability to humble ourselves and say, look, this is our best idea. If the market doesn't like it, we're gonna adapt. Take that approach. I, I believe to the core that we're gonna be a successful billion-dollar company.

[00:12:15] Andrea: And now let's check in with Unchained:

[00:12:18] Bilal: So far the competition has been like amazing. Being an entrepreneur is a journey that not many understand. And typically like, you being an entrepreneur, you're an anomaly in the general sense of like the world. But then when you come to spaces like this where everyone's an entrepreneur, everyone's working on something, everybody around understands the struggles of an entrepreneur. You kind of feel at home. So I feel like the main thing this competition has done has provided a home for, you know, innovators. And that's the main takeaway so far is like, this is a home for people who think like me and working towards things that, that I'm working towards.

Mitch @ RBPC: You're coming off of a high, so you just had your pitch How you feeling?

[00:12:56] Bilal: I feel great. You know, I feel amazing. You know, I feel like LeBron after Game seven right now, [00:13:00] but game seven is tomorrow, so, you know, we'll, stay tuned for that, you know what I'm saying? But honestly, coming off of yesterday, so we had a practice pitch round where we received a lot of good feedback. That feedback kind of shaped how I went into my 60 second pitch at the end of the day. And after that 60 second pitch, a lot of people came up to me, whether that be investors or judges. They resonated with the problem solving and the work we were doing. me and the team last night, we stayed up late. We, you know, worked out the kinks and then today, today, like we went room and we presented what was true to us, and we just let the slides be the evidence. You know, we wanted to really captivate the audience to let them know that like we were the ones who are uniquely built solve this problem because we this issue and we're currently working every day and making our life's work to actually get this done.

Mitch @ RBPC: How would you say your perspective changed between yesterday and today?

[00:13:52] Bilal: Prior to this, I've been like traveling to different conferences, speaking to HR leaders about our product and pitching it. And so after pitching something so repetitively, [00:14:00] it's hard to really find your faults or where you're overdoing things because you're used to doing it in a certain way and so what yesterday did for me was like, put me in an uncomfortable situation. So yesterday taught me to focus on the delivery and let the work speak for itself and I don't have to overexplain the and so today that's how I went into it. It's like, make sure anybody in the room can understand what exactly doing and let them read slides and ask the questions afterwards instead of trying to oversell what I had on screen.

Mitch @ RBPC: As a fellow founder of color, we don't typically get to operate in these spaces. Sometimes people judge us before we even get feedback. Like the idea is there, the passion is there. The intelligence there is all those things. But like because we weren't raised amongst certain types of investors or to see the way that they communicate or they think, we don't always get the benefit of the doubt. And so when I saw that you were able to hear that and then evolve, it makes me really happy that you were able to grow in that moment, because that is entrepreneurship. [00:15:00] So what are you most looking forward about tomorrow?

[00:15:05] Bilal: Besides winning, really just, I feel like this competition for us, like especially where we are in our journey, is just like a milestone of independence in our journey. You know, we've worked this hard to get this far. And we finally got the opportunity we're looking for, for funding and the only thing standing in the way is our performance and our ability, which I feel like our team has prepared for. So really, I'm excited about the opportunity to perform.

[00:15:27] Andrea: And finally, here’s Active surfaces:

[00:15:30] Shiv: We got some really good feedback from the judges yesterday and we wanted to maintain the story flow, but we wanted to capture some of the feedback they got about: where we are today, what differentiates our IP, what does our technology look like in practice? So we added some visuals, added some numbers, and I think it really answered a lot of the questions during the q and a today.

Mitch @ RBPC: So what were some key learnings as a pitcher that you had from yesterday that you were able to apply today?

[00:15:57] Khalid: I'm Khalid McCaskill and I'm with Active Services. I am working on customer discovery, [00:16:00] so in the market, talking to customers, hunting pain points, trying to figure out how we can make a product that people want. I think the most important thing is about regulating my breathing. You know, making sure I can deliver the message to people in the audience. I think we have a great product. think we have a great idea and have faith in the guys we're gonna execute it so just, giving out that vision and uh, having confidence in doing it. And so that's kind of what I was focused on most today.

Andrea @ RBPC: Tell me about that from your perspective, seeing your team pitching.

[00:16:30] Richard: I have, like stress, just watching them. Like both Shiv and Khalid MBAs their first year so like even just the lead up like I have a nine to five kind of doing this. And then like we do it late at night, like odd hours that it stresses me out so much. but then I also want them to really do well. And so in this competition, I think I feel kind of like a coach and maybe almost like a startup mom, like funneling them around, like setting up the presentation, making sure all the things work. [00:17:00] But today, uh, just, them doing the first round, uh, was the best I've seen the presentation. Overall, I'm very proud of the two of them. I think a lot of CTOs probably can't say this, but I don't think I needed to be up there.

Andrea @ RBPC: And how do you feel right now?

[00:17:15] Shiv: A mix of things. I'm like excited from the pitch, nervous from how it went, curious to know how, like what's gonna happen next. But overall, I think pretty content, I think we put our best foot forward.

[00:17:25] Khalid: I'm a little bit nervous, right. You always wanna advance to the next round and, uh, looking forward to feedback later today. I think we have it in about an hour. But yeah, a lot of things to work on. A lot of questions that we're gonna try to answer tomorrow and the semi-final or the wild card round, and so a lot of work to do.

[00:17:36] Andrea: I'm loving all this excitement, but it does make it difficult to try and guess who the judges might pick. Coming up next is the moment everyone's been waiting for: Who's going to make it to the semi-finals? Stay tuned.

[00:17:50] HOST (Andrea): You're listening to This is Small Business Next Generation, brought to you by Amazon. I’m one of your hosts, Andrea Marquez, and along with Mitch Gilbert, we’re introducing you [00:18:00] to the world of business plan competitions and learning about how to best pitch your business in a way that attracts investment, in the case of the Rice Business Plan Competition, teams are competing to win up to $350K towards their small business startups.

Did you know that nearly 60% of products sold in Amazon's store are from independent sellers - most of which are small and medium-sized businesses? If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or an early-stage small business owner, there are many resources that Amazon offers to help you succeed and grow. One of those resources is the Amazon Small Business Academy where you can find the help you need to take your small business from concept to launch and beyond. You can strengthen your skills at no cost with live and on demand trainings, Q&As, events, and even find more This is Small Business Next Generation content. If you don’t know where to start, you can take the free self-assessment on the Amazon Small Business Academy site at

[00:18:58] Andrea: And now, let’s find out which of our teams make it to the semifinals.

[00:19:00] Mitch: Drumroll please!

[00:19:07] Brad: So our first is Air Seal from Wash U in St. Louis.

Tierra Climate from right here at Rice University.

Boston Quantum from MIT

Dia, also known as E-sentience from Duke.

Arch Pet Food from the University of Chicago.

Julie: Pathways at Harvard University


Pediatric Therapeutics, University of Arkansas,

Zaymo, Brigham Young.

Last certainly not least, Active Surfaces, MIT

[00:19:52] Andrea: Dia and Active Surfaces made it through! But don't rule out Unchained and Outmore Living just yet because...

[00:20:00] Brad: Every team is still in contention and has the potential to go on to the final round tomorrow afternoon.

[00:20:07] Andrea: How? Because one team that can advance to the finals is gonna be chosen from a round called the wildcard round.

[00:20:15] Alex: I think there's 27 teams that did not advance out of their first round and tomorrow, while the semi-finals are going on there's a wild card. So there'll be seven finalists. Six teams will come from the semi-finals, and that seventh team will come from this wild card. So one of 27 teams tomorrow will rise from the ashes and come out of nowhere into the wild card round. Kevin and I will get our best shot tomorrow we see what happens.

[00:20:42] Andrea: So even though only two of the four teams we are following made it to the semi-finals. There’s still hope that Unchained and Outmore Living might make it to the finals. Here’s what Alex and Kevin from Outmore Living had to say:

[00:20:55] Alex: I mean, there's no sugar coating it. It's a, it's a huge disappointment. [00:21:00] Kevin and I thought we did well enough to move on to the semi-finals. But at the end of the day, it doesn't change what we believe in the business. We reviewed the judge's feedback and a lot of people love, loved it, right? Extremely high remarks, comments, like best concept yet. And then there were others that frankly rated us fairly low. And, and, and it's a little bit surprising we didn't expect it, of course. They had fair comments. And we find it's a lot is, is people either get it or they don't. And it's, it's kind of, it kind of splits that way. But tomorrow there's still the chance with the wild card round. We actually at the Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition last December at UT, we also didn't win our bracket. We were the wild card and we went on to win the whole thing in the finals. So never say never.

[00:21:47] Kevin: I'd say I also feel a little bit disappointed. I would say, you know, Alex, I put a lot of work into this. We felt confident going into it. We think we put our best for forward. You know, all of the feedback we've gotten over the past year and a half, [00:22:00] we've analyzed it. We've figured out is that the right path forward? And we chose our business model because we think we have the best one. That being said, it's, it's good feedback. It's good to hear, but when you have a split amount of feedback where, you know, half the judges are saying, this is great, and then half are saying that they don't like it for a certain reason. You kind of have to follow your gut and at the end of the day, we're at a point where we're getting ready to launch. We feel confident in our plan. And so it's just heads down from this point forward. And so, despite everything that's happened, I'm still optimistic.

[00:22:33] Alex: And I would just say, this is another example that it's a rollercoaster. Like it's, it's, it's a rollercoaster for emotions. Starting a small business, starting a startup adventure, running your own business is certainly a rollercoaster. Kevin and I, you know, luckily have co-founders cuz it, it'd be hard on your own to, to try to weather all of it, but the highs are high and the lows are low and it happens, right. So it, it definitely is one of those situations where it's not for the faint of heart.

[00:23:00] Andrea: Yeah, I'm sure going through this alone would've been a lot more difficult. Here’s what our semi-finalists had to say, starting with Sloane and Julio from Dia:

[00:23:12] Sloane: We're jazzed. I, we got some really good feedback. So you never wanna count your chickens before they hatch cuz there are a lot of strong teams, but it's, it's very, it's very different like thinking you may have a chance and then seeing it flash across the screen.

[00:23:27] Julio: Oh, it was great. You know, like, as much as you wanna say, I'm confident, I'm a hundred percent right there in the moment your stomach always, always just turns a little bit and you're like, what if I am wrong? What if I miss something? But just see the validation's fantastic.

[00:23:42] Sloane: Our feedback session ended early because people said, you, you did a really great job. We, we see it. And there, there are some, there are some things presentation wise of me trying to be a little bit louder that I think we can work on, but I think a, a good night's sleep as, as we have established, apparently I'm a person [00:24:00] that just needs a lot of sleep to function and just going into it with an open mind of let's improve on the last one. But also just gratitude for being here and having fun while doing it. Because I think today, whenever we were really just like nailing the pitch and in sync, we were having fun.

[00:24:15] Andrea: Sleep is definitely important. And here’s Shiv, Richard, and Khalid from Active Surfaces:

[00:24:22] Shiv: We're excited and we, we were on the edge of our seat cuz we were the last name to be called. So we're just there with our heart beating, just waiting until the last name, recognizing whose names are in our group or not. It was nerve-wracking.

[00:24:33] Richard: Yeah, so we went last in, in all of the, the pitches. So like, I'm mentally going through when they're announcing, I was like, were they in our section? Were they in our section? couldn't even remember, went through a few and then finally at the end, ended up with good news.

[00:24:45] Khalid: Super relieved. We made it. Can't believe they called us last.

[00:24:50] Shiv: We're just excited. We're nervous and excited all at the same time.

[00:24:55] Andrea: And wait, there's more. One of the teams that also made it to the semi-finals was....

[00:25:00] Brad: Tierra Climate from right here at Rice University.

[00:25:05] Andrea: And it turns out the CEO and founder of Tierra Climate and Shiv from Active Surfaces...

[00:25:12] Shiv: …go all the way back to high school, early debate days.

[00:25:18] Andrea: And now they're together again in this pitch competition, what a small world! Let's quickly introduce Tierra Climate and Jacob, the CEO and Founder:

[00:25:23] Jacob: I'm Jacob from Tierra Climate. Our mission is to unlock a pathway to a net zero future in the electricity sector. So we're looking to help support battery development by creating a one of a kind carbon offset product. And then also helping batteries not only make money from carbon emissions reductions, but also operationalize and improve their operations through time.

Andrea @ RBPC: Did you know that you were both gonna be here?

[00:25:45] Shiv: We found out after it was announced. I didn't know the name of your company was Tierra Climate. So I was going through to see if I knew anyone, and then randomly we, we were getting dinner and then we came out that we were both going and we were super excited about it.

[00:25:56] Jacob: Yeah, it's, it's pretty insane. we both went to a public high school in the suburbs of Houston, [00:26:00] and then I actually did my undergrad here at Rice. So it's really awesome to be back here. Shiv was actually a year younger than, than everyone. He actually skipped a grade. he's super smart and so, uh, I think we might have had maybe math or science together. And then from there we both were interested in current events and speech and debate.

And that's really where I think our friendship really blossomed, cuz we were going pre practically every weekend to some far flung high school in the Houston area, competing, giving speeches about things that most people probably don't care about. But we were just really passionate about current events, politics, and what was going on in the world, which it's cool to think that our careers are now taking a mission in line with that kind of general interest that we had early on.

[00:26:38] Shiv: And then towards the end of that debate journey, we were the only two in our high school to qualify for debate nationals. And we flew to Indianapolis, shared a hotel room, enjoyed that competition. And now, like 11 years later, we shared a hotel room here at near Rice University to compete at this business plan competition.

Andrea @ RBPC: So is there a future where you might be working together?

[00:26:55] Jacob: Potentially, yeah. I wouldn't rule it out so,

[00:27:00] Shiv: There was actually funny feedback that we got during, after my pitch, someone asked me if we deploy too much solar, then won't you like, have too much like intermittent energy on the grid. And my answer should have been one of my friends Jacob, is working on this awesome startup solving that exact problem. So it's funny that we're both solving the problem in different ways.

Andrea @ RBPC: If you both make it to the finals, you'll be competing against each other. How does that feel?

[00:27:22] Jacob: I feel pretty good about it. I mean, it's funny, I don't think we, we have ever competed before.

[00:27:28] Shiv: I'm glad that in the semis right now that we didn't compete against each other because I wanna make sure that if we do both make it, we take the top two spots.

[00:27:35] Jacob: I'm looking forward to hopefully the prospect of being in finals together. I think that'd be a really cool thing to come full circle.

[00:27:40] Shiv: It would be nice if we don't make it, at least to support Tierra climate in their journey

[00:27:45] Jacob: And active surfaces too.

[00:27:48] Andrea: That’s sweet, I loved the dynamic between these two competitors and the back story.

[00:27:52] Mitch: Yeah, having friends as a founder is so important because, no one fully understands what it's like to go through as a founder at the same time as you, [00:28:00] unless it's another founder going through similar experiences at the same time as you. And the world is big, there's a lot of money. Everybody gets to win and especially in a rice plan competition, there's like six or seven winners. So it's important to make friends out of experiences like these who you can call just to gut check if you're crazy. I did that just yesterday and it made me feel much better.

[00:28:23] Andrea: And now I'm also excited to see how Tierra Climate is gonna do in the competition and of course what's gonna happen if one of them doesn't make it to the finals.

[00:28:30] Mitch: Yeah, that's harsh. I'm not sure either, but the deeper we get into the competition, the more intense and focused it gets. So I think a lot of it is just gonna depend on how the founders handle the pressure.

[00:28:45] Andrea: Right like now Outmore Living and Unchained are competing against each other and 25 other teams to try and get a spot in the finals. And I'm curious to see if Dia, Active Surface, AND Tierra Climate make it to the finals.

[00:29:00] Mitch: And who's gonna win that grand prize of $350,000? Will it be one of our teams? I hope it is. We're praying. We're praying.

[00:29:08] Andrea: We'll find out in our next episode! So, until then here are some key takeaways from today:

  • Mitch: One. We heard from one of the judges, uh, while watching our teams pitch that you don't have to have every problem solved. And that's important because, one, you're a startup, so you don't even know every problem that you're gonna encounter but for those that you don't have answers to, it's important to be honest about that. And then mention places where you could use help and therefore you allow investors opportunities to come and support you. So it's important, I think, as I mentioned before, to one, talk about your risks and what mitigation strategies you can handle, but then also opportunities where you need help and you may not fully know the answer and then your investors can come in and support you. That type of clarity [00:30:00] and communication abilities is really valued by investors.
  • Andrea: Two. Pressure and stress is a normal part in entrepreneurship, but as Peter said, pressure has to bring out the best in you, especially at a pitch competition like Rice. Because you have to be ON for three days and it can be exhausting.
  • Mitch: Three. It’s important to take the feedback while keeping the ball rolling. I had a really hard time just taking all the feedback and then being able to put it into a pitch just once I had to practice. So again, I was the person waking up super early in the morning with anxiety, practicing, practicing, practicing to make sure I got through all the feedback because the feedback. It's helpful, but you can't let that make you stumble when communicating with judges because remember, it's a performance, so do what you gotta do to get ready. But feedback shouldn't make you stutter or fumble the ball when you have to be on and creating a performance.

[00:31:00] Andrea: We’d love to hear your stories wherever you are in your journey. Whether you're about to start your own business, in the process of it, or maybe even getting ready to pitch your business in a pitch competition. Reach out to us at to tell us what you're up to. Or let me know what you think of the episode by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts – it’s easier if you do it through your phone. And if you liked what you heard -- I hope you'll share us with anyone else who needs to hear this!

If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, and I hope you are if you’re listening to This is Small Business. Or maybe you already have your small business up and running and you’re ready for the next step. A super valuable resource that can help you is the Amazon Small Business Academy where you can find the help you need to take your small business from concept to launch and beyond. Take the free self-assessment on the Amazon Small Business Academy site at

This is Small Business: Next Generation is brought to you by Amazon with technical and story production by JAR Audio. . [00:32:00] I’m one of your hosts, Andrea Marquez –

Mitch: And I'm Mitch Gilbert.

Andrea: Hasta luego and thanks for listening! [00:32:14]


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