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by Jessica Shambora

During the first round of competition at Rice on Friday, one audience saw business plans ranging from a Netflix for maternity wear, to a better tool for identifying bugs in semiconductor chips. The assembled judges, including investors, attorneys and past winners, asked questions and offered feedback. Here are some key lessons that emerged:

1. Action speaks louder than words: Even if it’s very basic, do an alpha test to prove traction with customers before presenting. –Jeff Mullen, 2009 RBPC winner and CEO, Dynamics Inc.

2. Demonstrate your prototype at the beginning of the presentation—don’t wait until the Q&A. –Gautam Ghandi, 2004 RBPC winner and now leading business development efforts for Google India

3. Five years is too long to project out. I don’t know what’s going to happen next year. Stick with what you can reasonably estimate. –Terry Hunt, entrepreneur

4. Don’t rely too much on your advisory board for essentials, like operating experience. Acknowledge your gaps up front. –Carl Walker, Houston-based angel investor

5. Show how your product will fit into existing systems and processes with minimal disruption to customers. –Edward Olkkola, managing director, Teakwood Capital