YES awards $2,000 to competition winners

The two winners in the Yale Entrepreneurial Society’s second annual Y2K competition both aim to improve education, albeit in different ways.

YES named the winners of the 2001 Y2K competition Saturday afternoon at Linsly-Chittenden Hall. Educational services company TestSmarter was the winner in the for-profit category, and Community Health Educators won first place in the social entrepreneurship category.

A panel composed of investors, attorneys and Yale faculty judged each of the entries for feasibility, high growth potential, quality and breadth of team, and ability to withstand competition. In addition, entries in the social entrepreneurship category were judged for their charitable motives.

“This part of YES stresses social responsibility over any profit motive,” social entrepreneurship director Peter Shanley ’03 said. “It’s one of the distinctions that our group has from groups at other universities.”

Winners and runners-up in both categories receive cash prizes totaling $2,000, as well as valuable feedback regarding their business concepts.

The Y2K competition was inaugurated last year as a precursor to the annual Y50K competition, in which teams submit full business plans for over $100,000 in prizes.

“This is actually a yearlong program, and Y2K is just the beginning, the warm-up,” YES President Julian Revie ’02 said. “The purpose of Y2K is to get people thinking of ideas and to have venture capitalists look at their proposals and give comments which will hopefully be useful later.”

From now until the Y50K competition deadline in the spring, teams will have the opportunity to develop their preliminary ideas into full business plans. The winning teams in each category both cited growing needs in the community as reasons for developing their programs.

TestSmarter, an educational services company, seeks to revamp aged industry techniques to help prepare students for standardized exams. Team member and former Kaplan instructor Chad Troutwine SOM ’02 said TestSmarter looks to become a viable competitor in the test preparation industry by using newer — and higher — standards.

“Some of the competition have not updated their material substantively since the ’80s,” Troutwine said. “We wouldn’t have started this if we hadn’t felt like there was a need.”

While TestSmarter is still in the developing stages, the Community Health Educators program is already 2 years old.

“[Our program] was developed not because Yale thought it needed to be done but because we were actually contacted by a member of the community who thought it was something that was necessary,” team member Jessie Rossman ’03 said.

About 50 Yale students are currently involved in CHE, a Dwight Hall group that teaches health awareness programs at Wilbur Cross High School. Their goal this year is to expand to three more area high schools.

Neither entering nor winning the Y2K competition is a prerequisite for submitting a plan in the Y50K contest in the spring, though Y2K entrants have fared well in the past. About a third to a half of last year’s Y50K winners were Y2K entrants.

Ultimately, organizers hope that all teams will be able to launch their ideas in the real world successfully. Many in New Haven has kept a close watch on entrants and winners alike, with an intent on stopping “brain drain” — the phenomenon of college students leaving the area after graduation.

“We look to these contests with great interest because they’re great tools for trying to keep students in the city after they graduate,” Craig Russell, of the New Haven Office of Economic Development, said. “We’ve been happy to be involved with YES and hope to continue to be involved with them in the future.”

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