Entrepreneurial Teams Compete For Big Money At Rice Event

By David Kaplan
Houston Chronicle.

Like generations of entrepreneurs before her, Julie Rassat started sketching out the idea for the company she wanted to start on a restaurant napkin.

But the problem she wanted to solve was unique to the digital age: She couldn’t find the movie she wanted to watch.

She was dying to see a film that had been made in Thailand. It had won awards, but at the time she couldn’t get it on Netflix and she missed it when it briefly played at a theater in London, where she lived. “That’s crazy,” she thought. People from anywhere in the world should be able to access art-house films from any country.

That was three years ago. This week, Rassat is in Houston to pitch her company, FilmShaker, to a group of 250 judges — mostly investors and entrepreneurs themselves — at the 14th annual Rice Business Plan Competition at Rice University.

At stake is a total of $1.6 million in prize money for the 42 competing teams from schools as far away as Kenya, Bangladesh and Taiwan and as close by as the University of Houston.

Rassat, an executive MBA student at the London Business School, described being on a date with a fellow film buff and brainstorming for hours on ways to make movies like the one she wanted to see, “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” available to anyone who wanted to see it.

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