Society chooses Y50K winners



Six seemingly unrelated businesses, providing products that range from restaurant guides to women’s shoes, now have something in common.

The Yale Entrepreneurial Society announced the winners of its fifth annual Y50K Business Plan Competition at the Yale Entrepreneurial Summit on Saturday. Approximately 130 people attended the event, which was held in the Law School. Judges selected six business plans — three for-profit and three “social entrepreneurship” proposals — from approximately 40 entries.

“It’s an interesting collection of teams,” former YES President Nathan Taft ’95 SOM ’04 said. “The day in general was a total success.”

Judges awarded first place in the for-profit category to Off the Map, a New Haven-based company that has produced “The Menu,” a popular New Haven restaurant guide. The group plans to create the same type of product for other cities not covered in Zagat review books.

“I think the judges thought they were an incredibly motivated, well-put-together team,” newly-elected YES President Nick Shalek ’05 said. “They’re poised to move into a bunch of different markets.”

In the social entrepreneurship division — a category reserved for groups whose principal mission is community-oriented — Mercado Global won first place. The organization fosters cooperatives in Guatemalan communities, markets their products in the United States, and invests the profits in Guatemalan development initiatives and efforts to pay workers fairly.

Second place in the for-profit division went to Geometrique, a company that is developing and planning to market high-heeled shoes engineered to be comfortable without sacrificing fashion. Third place went to Grocery Media, a group which aims to build networks of store space in Hispanic neighborhoods and market them to ad agencies targeting Hispanic shoppers.

The second and third place social entrepreneurship proposals came from the Greater New Haven Furniture Bank and Nnoboa, an organization that aims to increase access to computers worldwide.

Taft said the Y50K Competition’s emphasis on social entrepreneurship makes it unique.

“We think that it matches people at Yale’s interest in social enterprises,” he said. “We split the prize money in half and then distributed it among the three [winners in each category].”

The summit also featured a keynote speech by President and Chairman of Greylock Management Corporation Henry McCance, who Taft described as “one of the best venture capitalists on the East Coast.” After the speech, interested audience members each had 45 seconds to present their prepared or impromptu business plan ideas to McCance, and he chose one contestant to consult with further.

Following lunch with McCance, YES hosted a panel on the state of entrepreneurship at Yale. Both Taft and Shalek said entrepreneurship is compatible with the University’s mission, and YES will continue to work to promote it in the Yale community.

Shalek said the organization aims to build connections between students, professors and alumni who are interested in working together on innovative, practical ideas.

“The idea for this event was to get back to the core of what YES is about,” he said.

During his term as president of YES, Shalek said he plans to orchestrate networking and educational events such as discussions of how to start a restaurant or political organization.

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