Even in the face of an economic downturn, the Yale Entrepreneurial Society continues to help establish new businesses through its annual Y50K competition.
Giving entrepreneurs the opportunity to create and submit business models to compete for $100,000 in prizes, YES, Yale’s largest undergraduate organization, is again holding its annual Y50k competition. Executive summaries for first-round entry are due at noon on Feb. 7. Final judging to determine this year’s winner will take place on April 20.
Any team consisting of at least one Yale student, staff, or faculty member is allowed to enter the competition by submitting an executive summary. Teams that pass an initial round of screening are asked to create a “complete business plan. Finalists then present their plans to a panel of judges composed of investors, attorneys, and Yale faculty.
The competition features both a for-profit category and a social entrepreneurship category; the latter category encompasses proposals that stress social responsibility more than the profit motive.
Despite the past success of the competition, the combined effects of Sept. 11 and the economic downturn may have an effect on Yale and New Haven entrepreneurship. Last year, 92 teams competed in the Y50K competition. This year, significantly fewer teams are expected to participate.
But Y50K Chair David Margines ’03 said it is important to emphasize quality over quantity.
“Businesses need to be more realistic — [and] follow established models,” Margines said. “We can’t have dot-com bubbles anymore.”
He added that YES intends to improve the quality of proposals by assigning each group a “mentor” in an effort to ensure that “every team will submit a quality business plan that would be feasible.” Mentors usually consist of established businessmen and entrepreneurs.
Teams of professional students from the Schools of Management, Medicine, and Law, who often pool their resources and collective knowledge, have provided some of the most sound and promising business proposals.
“It is good for undergraduates to get the experience,” YES media representative Amy Jain ’04 said. “YES’s goal is to educate — and build awareness.”
Education plays a large part in the Y50K program. YES offers events such as “Writing an Executive Summary,” a “Crash Course on Business Plan Writing,” and a “Legal Panel.” These programs help applicants to learn the information needed to succeed in both the Y50K program and in future business endeavors.
MEMStar, an electronic company that specializes in security and tracking applications using their own micro-electro-mechanical systems technology, won last year’s for-profit division. The Elmseed Enterprise Fund took the social entrepreneurship category with its plan to bring microcredit to New Haven by providing small loans to poor entrepreneurs.
City officials have been supportive of YES’ efforts to combat “brain drain,” the often-heard term for the exodus of Yalies from New Haven after graduation. Nathan Taft from the Office of New Haven and State Affairs said New Haven is seeking the “development and growth of new businesses.”
In addition to the Y50K, the YES is planning an “innovation summit” for April, as well as a number of social entrepreneurship initiatives for both the local and national communities.