With the economy in recession and investors worried about the war in Iraq, enterprising Yalies still managed to receive funding for six prospective companies this weekend at the Yale Entrepreneurial Society’s second annual Innovation Summit.
Proposals for an educational company and a fuel technology system received funding through YES’s Y50K Entrepreneurship Competition. The winners were announced after a day of panels and speakers during the Innovation Summit this weekend. Speakers, including the presidents of Honest Tea, Save the Children and CircleLending, focused on the challenges of creating socially responsible business models.
From a field of approximately 40 teams, the competition awarded six prizes to companies in social and for-profit entrepreneurship categories. The winning teams received awards ranging from $7,500 to $12,500 in cash, and an additional equal amount in services.
The winner of the social entrepreneurship category was “Our Education,” a team that plans to create a magazine to provide student feedback for secondary education reform. The group was composed of Ethan Hutt ’05, Adam Brenner ’05, Aaron Tang ’05, Charlie Ambler ’05 and Paul Levin ’05.
According to the Our Education executive summary, the project is based on a student-produced quarterly magazine and Web site available to third parties who are interested in the student voice in education. The members of Our Education said they believed students’ voices were not being heard in the reform process.
The for-profit winner was the team “Fuel Communication Solutions, Inc.,” which according to its project summary, has developed a patent-pending process that saves fuel oil and propane dealers between 25 and 50 percent in operating expenses.
Matt Sherwin ’05, vice president of Y50K, said he was satisfied with the results of the competition.
“The teams that ended up winning will definitely end up becoming successful businesses,” Sherwin said. “On the non-profit, our check will give them a huge jump and take them to the next level.”
In addition to the Y50K competition, the Innovation Summit was filled with panels featuring CEOs, venture capital directors, Yale professors and students.
YES President Nathan Taft SOM ’04 said the Innovation Summit represents a special partnership with NetImpact, a network of emerging business leaders based in San Francisco. Taft said NetImpact focuses on social impact and responsibility.
This year’s panelists discussed a variety of topics, including international development, community development, social entrepreneurship and the Internet. Nisha Batra SOM ’04, said the technology sector often does not focus on social responsibility, but instead concerns itself with profits.
“I definitely have some doubts about how successful non-profit venture capital can be,” Batra said. “This definitely opened my eyes as to what can be done. Education is definitely the key to socially responsible behavior.”