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BYU’s Next Unicorn? Student Startup Scores $905K

October 2023

Brice Douglas, Santiago Gomez-Paz and Daniel Jones sitting together and smiling in the Tanner Building.

One of BYU’s student startups walked away with the most prize money at the biggest and most prestigious collegiate business plan competition in the country. 

Zaymo, an e-commerce tool that embeds a customer’s online shopping experience within their email, took home $875,000 in total cash invest¬ments after winning third place at the 2023 Rice Business Plan Competition in May. This award comes after Zaymo won the $30,000 grand prize at the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge earlier this year. 

According to research from Stanford’s Venture Capital Initiative, it takes 11 years after gradua¬tion on average for people to found startups that become unicorns (companies that reach a valuation of $1 billion without being on the stock market). For BYU graduates it takes less than six years. 

The team of students behind Zaymo (BYU students Brice Douglas, Santiago Gomez-Paz, and Daniel Jones) bested 42 other startups competing for $3.4 million in total prizes at the competition. The Zaymo team won six investment awards after pitching their business plan to investors, entrepre¬neurs, and executives. (Winners typically receive only one investment award.) 

Douglas, Gomez-Paz, and Jones credit much of their success at business plan competitions to the unique environment of BYU. “I love BYU for provid¬ing a place where all aspects of life can be brought together; we can have the business, entrepreneur¬ship, education, and spiritual side of things all in one,” says Jones, a computer science major with a minor in entrepreneurship. “Prayer and revelation have been an important part of the decision making in our business.” 

Professors at the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at the BYU Marriott School of Business mentored these stu¬dents. “This is amazing agreement across multi¬ple investor groups picking Zaymo for their prize money,” says Michael Hendron, academic director for the Rollins Center. “It shows the strength of their pitch and the appeal of the business idea.”

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