Yale and Connecticut Innovations partner on $2.5 million YEI Innovation Fund

The most promising student ventures at Yale will receive a big boost thanks to the new $2.5 million YEI Innovation Fund, created by the University in partnership with Connecticut Innovations (CI).

Yale and CI are limited partners and investors in the Fund, which will be used to support the most promising ventures emerging from the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (YEI’s) programs, with preference given to teams that have completed YEI’s competitive Summer Fellowship. The target is to provide select companies with up to $100,000 to raise their commercial viability and likelihood for success. Elm Street Ventures, a seed and early-stage venture fund based in New Haven, will manage the Fund.

The fund underscores Yale President Peter Salovey’s commitment to building an entrepreneurial ecosystem in New Haven centered on Yale innovation. “Yale is a leading center of innovation and discovery,” says Salovey. “This fund will give our innovative students and faculty the resources they need to grow their ventures into self-sustaining businesses that positively impact the city and the state.”

The YEI Innovation Fund represents a natural progression of the longstanding partnership between YEI — Yale’s center for identifying, mentoring and launching student ventures — and CI, the leading source of financing and ongoing support for Connecticut’s innovative, growing companies.

“YEI consistently presents us with some of the best early-stage companies,” says Claire Leonardi, CEO of Connecticut Innovations. “We are excited to have the opportunity to strengthen our partnership through this funding initiative.”

YEI has an established track record of success. Currently, there are 75 active YEI companies around the country that have raised over $66 million in funding and created over 300 jobs, including 70 in Connecticut. Successful startups that have launched from YEI’s competitive 10-week Summer Fellowship include the database analytics company Hadapt, which secured over $16 million in financing; forest-monitoring software SilviaTerra, which expects sales of $3 million by the end of this year; and Ancera, a technology platform for identifying pathogens in blood that is headquartered in Branford and has received approximately $1 million in financing.

Many of YEI’s teams have similar commercial potential, but can have difficulty attracting the early-stage capital they need to get off the ground, Leonardi says, and this segment of the market is very difficult to fund before they have revenue or customer traction. To find funding, teams often leave for Boston, Massachussets, or Palo Alto, California, where early stage venture capitalists are concentrated.

The YEI Innovation Fund would provide a revenue stream to fill this early-stage funding gap and help to keep these promising startups in-state by encouraging all ventures receiving support to grow their businesses in Connecticut.

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