Yale Entrepreneurial Society Y50K Business Plan Competition Winners Announced

Steven M. Girvin

The Yale Entrepreneurial Society (YES) announced winners of the Y50K, Yale’s annual business plan competition at its recent annual Innovation Summit.

The Y50K includes a yearlong program of educational, networking and mentorship in which aspiring entrepreneurs turn their ideas into successful business ventures. The competition is open to all Yale affiliates, providing that at least one principal member is a Yale undergraduate, graduate or professional student, or on the faculty or staff of the University.

Companies from three sectors of business submitted plans to the competition: “Biotechnology Startup,” “For-Profit” and “Not-For-Profit.” Teams competed for a total of $50,000 in cash plus in-kind prizes.

All winners of the biotechnology category emerged from Yale-sponsored research. “Though this category is only in its second year of the competition, it is already attracting strong entries that are set to revolutionize the world of biotechnology and medicine,” said Benjamin Boese, the co-president of YES and Yale graduate student of chemical engineering.

In the Biotechnology category, Helix Therapeutics, a company developing novel gene targeting reagents for the treatment of HIV and genetic diseases such as sickle cell anemia, thalassemia and cystic fibrosis, took first place. Second place went to Keren Pharmaceuticals, a seed-stage company developing a therapy for respiratory diseases using inhaled nucleic acid compounds, termed EGS (External Guide Sequences). Third place went to SpyroPharma Inc. a company focused on discovery and development of novel drugs to fight HIV, influenza and cancer using Helitides™ — a class of molecules that mimic small proteins and have the ability to disrupt existing protein-protein interactions.

The Yale Office of Cooperative Research is working with all three biotech winners to find financing, management teams and location in New Haven.

Allied Polymer (now Nanocell Technology) took first place in the For-Profit category. Their business develops and designs low-cost, high-performance materials for advanced microelectronic packaging and flexible printed circuit boards. Soltage, a startup electric power company that uses a novel strategy for operating solar panels on rooftops, took the second-place prize. Third place in For-Profit went to MedPricer.com, a fast, easy and effective way for hospitals to save money on equipment and supplies.

One Acre Fund, a team tackling world hunger problems by targeting chronically hungry farm families, won the Social Entrepreneurship category of the competition. They provide a bundle of services and technology leading to a 400 percent increase in food yield. Their program makes it possible for people to solve their own hunger problem permanently. Second place went to Living Well, a health clinic that helps pre-diabetic patients delay or avoid diabetes through fitness, nutrition and behavioral training. Third place went to the Yale Economic Review, a journal edited by Yale University students.

“YES is extremely proud to help foster these new ventures and help put them in contact with people that can make their entrepreneurial aspirations a reality,” said Boese. Three panels of business specialists — venture capitalists, local business professionals, new venture lawyers and executive leaders from several large companies — judged the competition.

Two undergraduate students looking for an outlet for their entrepreneurial energy founded the Yale Entrepreneurial Society in 1999. YES is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting economic growth through individual initiative and entrepreneurship and fostering social responsibility in the greater Yale community by creating networking and educational opportunities.

GoDaddy.com founder and CEO Bob Parsons gave the keynote talk of the meeting. Parsons spoke about his experience as a serial entrepreneur, telling about the struggles as well as the victories along the way. GoDaddy.com, Inc. is the "on-ramp" to the Internet for individuals and businesses worldwide, providing a one-stop shop for acquiring, creating and safeguarding a unique online identity.

Attendees of the event were also able to compete in an elevator-pitch competition voted on by audience applause. The winner, Aaron Carr, got the opportunity to present his idea to Bob Parsons live on his radio talk show, Life Online with Bob Parsons — a program available online as well as on XM and Sirius radio. Eden Hammond, public relations coordinator for YES, joined Carr on the radio show; a transcript is online at www.lifeonline.com.

YES works to coordinate and support Yale-led entrepreneurial activities in New Haven and throughout the country. It is the largest student-run organization on campus, connecting thousands of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, faculty, and alumni. YES harnesses the power of the Yale network, enabling Yale and New Haven community members to connect and learn from one another as they promote new ventures. More information on YES is available on the web at www.yes.yale.edu