Soon-to-be UofL College of Business entrepreneurship MBA alumni Chiraag Bhimani, Ashley Krems and Phillip Cupp at the Cardinal Challenge.

A University of Louisville student startup with a technology for detecting marijuana through the breath has been accepted into the prestigious Rice Business Plan Competition. 

The startup, RIZIN Technologies, was founded by soon-to-be UofL College of Business entrepreneurship MBA alumni Phillip Cupp, Ashley Krems and Chiraag Bhimani, who will pitch at the Rice competition from June 18-20. The competition will be held virtually, given current coronavirus restrictions. 

“We’re treading in the footsteps of some great teams that have gone before,” said Cupp, RIZIN’s CEO. “We’re a little nervous, but confident. If you get into this, you’re in the big leagues.”

RIZIN is built around a UofL-born technology for detecting the THC psychoactive compound found in marijuana through the breath — something like a breathalyzer. The technology was invented by UofL chemical engineering professor, Sean Fu. RIZIN believes the technology could have a niche with law enforcement, human resources departments and others needing portable drug testing with fast, accurate results. 

“As legalization of cannabis expands in the United States, we are seeing increasing numbers of car accidents and fatalities where cannabis was a factor,” said Bhimani, who’s responsible for RIZIN’s financials, investment strategy, marketing and communications. “After speaking with multiple law enforcement organizations, we began to see a need for a product that could detect recent cannabis use quickly and accurately.”

The students plan to push forward with RIZIN after the competition and graduation. Right now, they said, the goal is to continue validating the technology. 

Cupp said his experience at UofL has well prepared him for this entrepreneurial journey with RIZIN. Aside from the UofL MBA program, Cupp is an intern with the UofL Office of Research and Innovation and Louisville Entrepreneurship Acceleration Partnership (LEAP). There, he’s gotten to work with several entrepreneurs-in-residence (EIRs), who are working to commercialize UofL technologies born from research.

“The MBA program has taught me a lot about this, and given me a good base to work from,” he said. “Working with the EIRs has helped me apply that, know how to approach this industry and communicate our vision in a compelling manner.”