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Published: March 31, 2016

UT Student/Alumni Startup Team to Vie for $1 Million in Business Plan Competition

Tembo Education, a social enterprise startup comprised of University of Tampa students and alumni, will compete for $1 million in prizes at the Rice Business Plan Competition at Rice University.

On April 14–16, Tembo will compete against 41 other student startup companies, and the winner will take home a grand prize valued at more than $450,000, including seed funding and the opportunity to ring the closing bell at NASDAQ Marketsite. Judges select the winner based on the company that represents the best investment opportunity.

Tembo Education provides high quality early childhood education to the slums of the world through mobile phones.

Last year Tembo was a finalist for $1 million in funding in the Clinton Global Initiative Hult Prize. The team includes Phil Michaels ’10, MBA ’15, M.S. ’15, Ulixes Hawili ’17, Samantha Taranto ’15, Sercan Topcu M.S. ’14, Eric Biel and Brent Caramanica ’16. The team is currently housed in the Community Incubator in the John P. Lowth Entrepreneurship Center at UT.

Also this year, teams will compete online for $5,000 in the People’s Choice Competition that challenges the spirit of each university. Team members, fellow students, alumni, family and friends can vote for their favorite team via a Facebook survey. People can participate by going to

The teams for this year's competition were chosen from nearly 400 entrants to compete in four categories: life sciences; information technology/Web/mobile; energy/clean technology/sustainability; and other.

More than 153 former competitors have gone on to successfully launch their ventures and are still in business today and another 13 have successfully sold their ventures. Past competitors have raised in excess of $1.3 billion in funding and created more than 2,000 new jobs.

“The true measure of success for the Rice Business Plan Competition is the number of teams that launch, raise funding and go on to succeed in their business," said Brad Burke, managing director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship at Rice University. "The competition has served as the launch pad for a great number of successful entrepreneurial ventures, and the success rate exceeds the national average.

For more information on the 2016 Rice Business Plan Competition, visit

The John P. Lowth Entrepreneurship Center at UT's Sykes College of Business celebrated a record-breaking success at the 2024 New Venture Expo.
UT's largest-ever New Venture Expo, featuring 74 presenting businesses, will take place on Friday, April 12 at the John P. Lowth Entrepreneurship Center.
UT seniors Morgan Bierbrunner and Isabella Dillio, will represent the University at e-Fest, a national entrepreneurship contest.