UConn Startup Snags Third Place in Largest Graduate-Level Student Pitch Competition

Encapsulate co-founder and CEO Armin Rad (right), co-founder and COO Leila Daneshmandi (center), and co-founder and CTO Reza Amin (left) at an awards ceremony late last year.


By: Eli Freund, Editorial Communications Manager, UConn School of Engineering

A startup with origins in the University of Connecticut School of Engineering was awarded third place in the Mercury Fund Elevator Pitch Competition category of the Rice Business Plan Competition, the world’s richest and largest graduate-level student startup event.

The startup, named Encapsulate LLC, is run by current biomedical engineering Ph.D. candidate Leila Daneshmandi, and former UConn Engineering Ph.D. students Armin Tahmasbi Rad and Reza Amin. The three co-founders are building up a company that offers an automated tumor-on-chip system that grows cancer patient’s tumor cells outside the body and tests the efficacy of chemotherapeutic drugs against them to advocate for the best course of treatment for doctors.

This year, the Rice Business Plan Competition, which according to their website will be the 20th year for the competition, had 42 teams competing for $1.5 million in cash and prizes. Since 2001, the competition has grown from nine teams competing for $10,000 in prizes to this year, where the very large competition transitioned to a virtual experience with over 400 applicants for 42 spots.

The competition is designed to give collegiate entrepreneurs a real-world experience to fine tune their business plans and elevator pitches to generate funding to successfully commercialize their product. Judges will evaluate the teams as real-world entrepreneurs soliciting start-up funds from early stage investors and venture capital firms. The judges are asked to rank the presentations based on which company they would most likely invest. According to the organization, 87 percent of the competition judges surveyed considered investing in a team that presented at the 2019 RBPC or referred a team to a third-party investor.

For more information on Encapsulate, please visit https://encapsulate.bio.

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