Yale student startups on display at the 2013 Demo Day
The Yale Entrepreneurial Institute’s (YEI) 2013 Demo Day on July 24 — broadcast live from Kroon Hall for the first time — showcased student ventures that were in many cases already several steps up the startup success ladder. A range of industries created by the summer fellows were represented, including biotech, finance, consumer goods, pharmaceutical, and software, but presenters shared one common element: they were polished and prepared to take their venture to the next level.
Jim Boyle, YEI managing director, opened the night with a slideshow of pictures that captured the fellowship for student entrepreneurs across its 10 weeks—from ziplining to feedback from mentors to pitch sessions before Google product managers in New York City.
“We’re trying to create storytellers,” Boyle told the audience of local investors, mentors and entrepreneurs. YEI program director Alena Gribskov added: “This year’s class is the strongest ever to participate.” A prize of $10,000 was divided among three teams — Dextro, Lab Candy, and Spylight — who won in a three-way tie by audience ballot for their marketability and presentation.
Students made pitches about their entrepreneurial innovations, which included:
Dextro, represented by David Luan (’13) offers a proprietary algorithm that allows computers to turn photos — which a computer normally recognizes only as columns of numbers — into textual summaries of those photos. The implications are huge for everything from consumer companies to robotics. Dextro is positioned, Luan said, to “change the way computers see the visual world.” The team signed their first deal last August and is headed toward five major partnerships by October 2013.
Nate Fleming, a 2007 graduate of Morehouse College and professor of law at the David A. Clarke School of Law, represented BlackStartup, a team that includes Elgin Tucker (FES ’14) and Christopher Hollins (LAW ’14). Their crowdfunding platform is already successfully raising money for African-American startups and social initiatives, including an engineering summer camp for minority children in Mt. Vernon, New York. The support network they offer African-American startups includes consulting, e-learning, mentorship, and legal documents. Said Fleming: “We’re creating the largest number of African-American innovators the world has ever seen.”
TummyZen, was represented by Hasan Ansari (SOM ’14) who told the audience how the team’s proprietary formula developed from Yale research has led to a longer-lasting antacid that works just as quickly as standbys like Tums. The formula relies on zinc salt, which already has approval from the Food and Drug Administration, and improves digestive health. The company will have formulas designed for three key markets: pregnant women, colicky infants, and adults on blood thinners who can’t take traditional antacids. TummyZen is launching its online product in September 2013.
LabCandy has expanded from producing fashionable goggles and lab coats for girls, to including a range of characters and storybooks to accompany the stylish lab gear, with experiments that can be tested at home. Olivia Pavco-Giaccia (’16) donned a pair of sparkly goggles and a pink tiger-striped lab coat as she talked to the audience about how the company is making lab science more relatable to young girls. LabCandy has a partnership with the National Girls Collaborative Project and is headed to a White House conference with the organization in September 2013.
Daniel Qu (’13) represented Launchsite, a crowdsourcing platform for website development. Essentially, customers answer a brief questionnaire about what kind of website they want, then choose their favorite from a sampling created by a developer, after which the developer designs the site within a week. The company will launch publicly in September 2013 and already has 50 developers lined up.
For the first time in its seven-year history, the YEI Demo Day featured one Venture Creation Program (VCP) team. The Venture Creation Program is YEI’s year-round program for early stage startups — which typically are still working on their prototype, or proof of concept. Boyle felt one VCP team, Amergent Capital, was ready for the big pitch. Represented by Kalil Diaz (SOM ’14), the team is “pioneering private equity for a better Dominican Republic.” The team’s pitch was to make $10 to $20 million investments in consumer goods businesses in the Dominican Republic, taking advantage of a rapid GDP growth in Latin America where, between 2001 and 2011, the middle class has grown by 50%.
Sean Mackay (SOM ’14) explained how the cutting-edge Yale science behind his team’s venture, IsoPlexis, could provide a major avenue for treating cancer by “harnessing the power of the immune system.” Using technology developed in the lab of Rong Fan, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Yale, and with team member Kara Brower (’13, this venture is marketing a device that can measure 40 protein markers from more than 1,000 cells simultaneously. That means drug developers can see “which compound will work and who it will work well with.”
Dor Zaidenberg (SOM ’13) of Truly Protect had already raised €1.25 million from the Finnish government before being accepted as a summer fellow. His team has developed an innovative CPU technology that allows members to encrypt video game codes (and software and mobile application codes) in a way that makes it impossible for hackers to access. They acquired their first customer last June and are actively talking to smaller video game manufacturers.
Casper Daugaard (’13) closed out the night with his pitch for Spylight, a second screen application that allows TV viewers to immediately identify and purchase clothes and other products seen in their favorite TV shows. Daugaard has already signed a deal with a major Hollywood studio to launch Spylight on three hit shows this fall. Unlike competitive sites, he’s able to gather information about the products before shows air, so all product information can be viewed and purchased as the show is being watched. Daugaard said that within the next two years, Spylight is positioned to be available for 15 shows.