Yale Entrepreneurial Institute Fosters Student-Initiated Business Ventures
The Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (YEI) is hosting a new 10-week program designed to inspire, nurture and educate student entrepreneurs, and demonstrate that resources available locally match or better those in more celebrated hotbeds of entrepreneurship.
“While Yale recently has excelled at translating biotechnology research from faculty members into businesses, students, particularly those interested in areas other than biotechnology, have literally “taken their business elsewhere” for apparent lack of resources,” said James Boyle of the Yale Office of Cooperative Research (OCR).
The YEI, established jointly between OCR and the Office of State and New Haven Affairs at Yale, and supported by the School of Management and the Faculty of Engineering, was designed specifically to keep new student ventures in the area and to demonstrate that the University and the region have resources comparable to those available elsewhere.
Spurred by an article in the Wall Street Journal that highlighted two Yale students who moved their start-ups to Silicon Valley, John Soderstrom, managing director of the Yale Office of Cooperative Research, challenged his staff to see what was missing and what Yale could do to make student businesses successful here in New Haven.
While first concepts of the program were a one- or two-day symposium, the project rapidly expanded into the current 10-week program of speakers, workshops and networking opportunities. Primary organizers of the program are Boyle and Richard Madonna from OCR, Yale alumni Sean Glass and Miles Lasater of Higher One, Rob Bettigole of Elm Street Ventures, and Jennifer McFadden from the School of Management, who serves as the Program Director.
Even in this first year, there was strong competition for the 12 intern positions. Those students selected — undergraduates and graduate students— presented business ideas that the directors saw as viable and with potential for actual funding. As a bonus, not only do the students have the chance to develop their business, they also receive a stipend to facilitate their participation.
The program features 50 exceptional speakers, providing insights on the high points and low points of developing and funding business. The expertise comes from Yale faculty, lawyers, successful local entrepreneurs and venture capital and angel investors.
The first phase of the program provided a crash course in business formation and practice. Further sessions are addressing mentoring, marketing and acquisition of startups by larger companies. During each day, YEI participants have extensive opportunity for networking, brainstorming, developing business plans, practicing pitches and seeking seed and venture financing. The whole program team also participates in “product testing.”
Now well underway, projects are at various stages of development. Among the span of businesses being developed are an automated “smoothie” vending machine, called SmoothEase; a massively, multiplayer online gaming platform, whose prototype has already been tested by 62% of Yale undergraduates; a way to use functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, as a way to develop accurate marketing surveys; and a social venture for sustainable resources, called Bamboo Capital.
Full description on the program is at www.yale.edu/YEI where podcasts by selected speakers are posted. A recorded discussion of the program by its founders is also available at http://streaming.yale.edu/opa/approval/yei_062007.mp3. For further information, contact Jennifer McFadden at (203) 687-9379.