Student Startups Showcased at YEI Demo Day

Yale entrepreneurs developing startup ventures at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute this year got the chance to pitch their companies during YEI Demo Day on July 24. Held at Kroon Hall, home of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences, the event brought together students, mentors, local entrepreneurs, and potential investors.

YEI helps student entrepreneurs develop ventures by providing mentorship, programming, and funding. Speaking at the event, managing director Jim Boyle said that the YEI Fellowship Program, a competitive 10-week summer program, has grown dramatically since it began in 2007. That year, he said, teams raised $600,000 to fund their ventures; in 2014, fellows have received funding totaling $104 million.

The Institute is always asking, "Who has a great idea?" Boyle said. He noted that earlier this year, Yale SOM launched its Program on Entrepreneurship, providing additional resources for student startups throughout Yale. "We see great things ahead for the whole Yale community," he said.

Chris Fleming ’15 of wrkIN

Demo Day featured pitches from businesses participating in the YEI Fellowship or in the new YEI Summer Venture Creation Program (VCP), an extension of the institute's academic year program. Their ventures spanned industries including technology, medical devices, clothing, food, and communications.

Chris Fleming '15 presented wrkIN, a service, developed with Henry Bird YC '16, that connects travelers to quality fitness facilities. Fleming said that YEI staff helped move the venture forward. "It was half structuring our approach and half learning to do the things that needed doing," he said.

Jennifer Milikowsky SOM/FES '15 said that YEI helped her bring her venture from idea to prototype. With Mark Woloszyn FES '14, Milikowsky launched Ashton Forest, a premium food products company that draws on resources from New England forests. "YEI staff is so invested in you," she said. "Providing feedback, advice, and support—they help you think it through."

James Lin '15 agreed that YEI provided crucial direction. "We had a good idea, but we didn't know the next steps," he said. Lin founded Alacrity Semiconductors, which is developing technology to provide longer battery life for smartphones and tablets. His co-founders include T.P. Ma, the Raymond John Wean Professor of Electrical Engineering at Yale; post-doctoral student Xiao Sun PhD '13 ; and Rebecca Su YC '16.

"We had a lot of really good mentors who had semiconductor experience and were able to give us solid business contacts and legal connections," Lin said.

Other Yale SOM student ventures included:

  • ArtClub, a service which lets corporate clients rent museum quality art instead of buying it, founded by Aldo Sales MAM '14 and Andrea Zapata MAM '14.
  • Catalytic Innovation Partners, which seeks to license catalysts developed at Yale to produce low-cost fuel from renewable resources, founded by Alex Henry '15, David Johnson '15, Aaron Bloomfield GSAS '14, and Stafford Sheehan GSAS '15.
  • A&J, a professional clothing brand focused on sustainably sourced and responsibly manufactured apparel, founded by Amanda Rinderle '15 and Jonas Clark '15.
  • P2P Games, which uses interactive video games to teach children about critical public health and societal issues, founded by Olivia Zhao '15, Lynn Fiellen YSM '96, Kimberly Hieftje, and Alexander Saeedy YC '15.

Audience members voted to award a $1,000 prize to 109 Design, a compliance monitor and feedback system to improve outcomes for scoliosis patients. The company's founders include Levi DeLuke YC '14, Sebastian Monzon YC '14, and Ellen Su YC '13.