YES revamps Y50K competition

With weekly educational sessions, networking events, and access to a broad alumni base, the Yale Entrepreneurial Society plans to focus on education during this year’s Y50K competition.

Now in its fourth year, the competition awards money to Yalies who submit proposals for new companies. The competition awards over $100,000 in cash and services to winners in both profit and social entrepreneurship categories. This year, YES leaders said they want to provide more education for competitors through speakers and networking events.

“YES’s mission is consonant with the goals of the university — to bring together great people and to push them to create innovative ways to make change,” YES President Nathan Taft ’95 SOM ’04 said.

In an effort to make YES more accessible to students, the group is hosting weekly educational sessions featuring guest speakers from Yale and the business world, YES leaders said. The group will also sponsor a three-part educational series focusing on entrepreneurship in fashion, journalism and entertainment.

The series will lead into the spring Y50K competition by educating prospective entrants, YES leaders said.

The 2001 winner in the social entrepreneurship category was the Elmseed Enterprise Fund, a nonprofit organization that uses a system of micro-credit lending to help small-scale New Haven entrepreneurs acquire start-up capital.

Before the Y50K competition, YES is holding a Y2K competition, which provides contestants a chance to generate ideas and build a team. Entrants submit an executive summary of their projects and get feedback from judges before entering the Y50K competition, said Matthew Sherwin ’05, YES vice president of Y50K operations. The deadline for Y2K entries is Nov. 3.

The group also sponsors networking events for potential entrepreneurs to meet each other. YES began advisory boards in New York and Boston to provide contacts for both Y50K competitors and other people associated with YES, Taft said.

YES hosted a large networking session in Silicon Valley, Calif., for entrepreneurs from many different universities including Cornell and Stanford, Taft said.

Taft said the current economic climate has many entrepreneurs worried, with the chance for students to make money in venture capitalism drastically decreased. But he said YES remains committed to incubating entrepreneurship.

“Just because the economy went bad doesn’t mean that YES doesn’t have an important role to play. There’s always a need for innovative thinking,” Taft said.

YES, which began in 1999 as an undergraduate organization, has tried to branch out to different sectors of the Yale community, Taft said.

“We want to continue growing the network at Yale, to make sure that we’re reaching entrepreneurs from the Medical School, the Law School, the School of Management, the Engineering Department, and all the other graduate schools at Yale,” said Taft, who is the first non-undergraduate president of the organization.

Since its inception, YES has grown to include more than 2,000 members, including alumni, said Salima Remtulla ’04, YES vice president of public relations.

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