Technology was the name of the game Saturday, as six enterprising groups of Yalies received substantial financial boosts to their fledgling ideas.
The Yale Entrepreneurial Society held its fourth annual YES Summit Saturday where they announced the winners of this year’s Y50K Competition. The 18 finalists had spent the morning presenting business plans to a panel of expert judges before gathering in the Law School dining hall to await the results. After a series of short speeches from Yale and New Haven-area entrepreneurs, judges for the three categories — for-profit, social entrepreneurship, and biotechnology — revealed the six selected proposals, a winner and runner up in each category.
Since its founding in 1999 by two undergraduates, YES has held the Y50K Competition, where it grants a total of $50,000 across a group of winners. The entire process, from drawing up preliminary business plans to actually launching the venture, provides both a learning experience and an opportunity to bring ideas from the classroom into the real world, YES President Nick Shalek ’05 said.
“All of the judges were extremely enthusiastic about the entries this year,” said Shalek. “With another year comes a good group of teams. They all go through a great educational process and we’re very positive that successful businesses will start out of YES this year.”
BioRelix claimed first prize in the new biotechnology division, which had entries from students and faculty across various schools. According to its mission statement, BioRelix hopes to develop improved antibiotics based on new procedures that were “identified, validated, and protected by researchers at Yale University.”
Steadfast Medical, which hopes to develop “creative engineering solutions to everyday hospital problems,” was runner-up.
In the For-Profit category, the winner was Baton Software, a team comprised of students from both the School of Management and the School of Medicine. Baton’s mission will be to create a more effective PDA-based system that transfers patient information between doctors.
“We combined business and medical doctors in the process,” said Paul Tabereaux, a chief resident in the department of internal medicine and part of the Baton team. “It will be exciting to potentially save lives and perhaps potentially make a profit.”
GetGo Audio, a group that says it will provide a new angle for online content and streaming audio, was the runner-up in this category.
Scape Networks, founded by Derek Lomas ’03 and Mike Kai ’05, won first prize in the Social Entrepreneurship division, where groups must be charitably oriented and prioritize community and social development over profit.
Lomas describes Scape’s product as “The Facebook[.com] for non-profits,” where a comprehensive database of nonprofits — something that does not currently exist — will be accessible online to facilitate better collaboration.
Runner-up in this category went to the Globalist Foundation, a team of editors at the Yale Globalist who hope to creating a network of student-run international affairs publications at universities worldwide.
Shalek stressed the importance of the summit’s ability to get many sectors of Yale working together.
“A big key is the connections between the different schools. This year, a lot of faculty got involved and we got so many great plans, especially in the biotech field,” Shalek said.
Biotechnology and life sciences were a large focus of Saturday’s event, as 2005 was the inaugural year for the biotechnology category in the Y50K. Since the University is a nationally important center for the sciences, Shalek said that Yale students and faculty should be given more opportunities to test ideas beyond the classroom.
“Basically, this is an offer to focus on what Yale is best at,” he said.
Despite the obvious boost in funding, many winners said they see the Y50K as merely a very early stage with a long road ahead.
“We’ve worked on this all year, and the Y50K has given some social validation for our idea,” said Justin Kan ’05, one of the founders of Steadfast Medical. “We’re just starting to think there is actually some hope.”
In addition to a share in the $50,000, winners will receive office space in Science Park, an added incentive new to the competition this year.