YES presents awards to Y2K competition winners

After winning awards in the Yale Entrepreneurial Society’s Y2K Concept Competition, Yale’s hopeful entrepreneurs may be on their way to creating shuttle jet services and virtual reality laboratories.

In its Y2K Concept Competition awards ceremony Wednesday, YES presented $2,000 in cash and gifts to the winners of two categories — for-profit and social entrepreneurship. The competition is a precursor to YES’s Y50K business plan competition, which awards $100,000 to students in the spring.

“The Y2K’s main purpose is not to the give the money,” Y2K organizer Matthew Sherwin ’05 said. “The Y2K’s purpose is to begin the process of idea preparation in advance of the Y50K competition.”

YES received 13 entries in the for-profit category and nine entries in the social entrepreneurship category. In both categories, the winner received $500 and the two runners-up received $250.

In the for-profit category, JetDirect, a private jet shuttle service for small businesses, received first prize. JetDirect’s team members said they would use the money to pay off phone bills, do market research and organize an Internet site.

“To be chosen as the winner really lights a fire under us,” group member Peter Fuchs SOM ’03 said. “We believe in the idea, we’ve worked really hard on it.”

Media Liquid won in the social entrepreneurship category. Its creators proposed a service where nonprofit corporations could connect with freelance and amateur videographers to produce inexpensive public service announcements. Kevin Sladek ’03 said that even though it is not enough to start a business, he was grateful for the money.

“A little shot right now can turn big in a hurry,” Sladek said.

James Tunick ’03 and James Lomas ’03 received runner-up awards in both the for-profit and social entrepreneurship categories. Their for-profit proposal was Aved Systems, a virtual reality laboratory system. In the social entrepreneurship category, the two proposed D-SWAP, a centralized file exchange for Yale students.

SMART-TRACK, a communications solutions provider, received the other runner-up award in in the for-profit category. Little Economists, which provides entrepreneurship education for New Haven middle school students, was the other runner-up in social-entrepreneurship.

In order to enter the competition, applicants were required to write a two to three page executive summary, outlining their business plans and marketing strategy. A panel of judges from the business and nonprofit communities evaluated the summaries, giving each a letter grade and writing comments. YES compiled the letter grades and calculated the winners.

Before Sherwin announced the winners, several of the judges spoke to the entrants. Joshua Winter, from the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, praised the proposals.

“There were a couple of them that were really novel in their approach and carefully defined the market,” Winter said. “But they needed improvement.”

Crossroad Venture Fair chairman Frank Morse said the students should be realistic about the economy.

“The climate, and I’ve been in business for 13 years, has never been worse,” Morse said. “There is capital around. It’s just harder and takes longer to get.”

David Rose, head of investment firm Rose Tech Ventures, described the rigors of entrepreneurship to the audience.

“It will cost a lot more than you think it will,” Rose said. “It will require a lot more angst than you think it will.”

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