Marty Rod ’08 is president of the Yale Entrepreneurial Society, a non-profit student group that promotes entrepreneurship on campus. YES currently runs a yearly “Y50K” competition for aspiring entrepreneurs, backing the winning team with a $50,000 investment and support.
Rod sat down with the News to explain how students can become entrepreneurs, what types of ideas get off the ground and what his organization does to involve itself with the Yale community.
Q: How can a student turn an idea into a business?
A: Once you have an idea that could potentially be a successful business, you need to put that idea on paper. You, the entrepreneur, need to immerse yourself in the environment and in the market, basically, and see the size of this market. What is the competition? What are the potential roadblocks? After you get that idea onto paper, then you could potentially go on to speak with investors, faculty or other students. Now you can give a very succinct elevator pitch about your business to anybody.
Q: What is one of the most successful ideas that have come out of YES?
A: One that always really stands out is Hire1, which was started by three YES founders in 2001. They’ve revamped university billing and financials, resources and transactions, flex plans and all that bursar-type stuff. Yale doesn’t use it, but they’ve got over 10 or 11 universities around the nation. Hire1 is actually listed in the Fortune100 fastest list of startup companies in the U.S., so they’re doing extremely well.
Q: Where else can someone in New Haven with an idea go to get funding?
A: There’s ElmSeed, which is for local business and underprivileged entrepreneurs in New Haven — it’s like a micro-loan-type of place — and there’s a biotech funding firm run by Rob Bettigole, which is called ElmStreet. These funds are in New Haven and people just don’t know much about them.
Q: How many entrepreneurs are involved with YES?
A: We have approximately 80 staff members, and our member list is around 2,200, which includes students, faculty, alumni. I would estimate that at least around 1,000 are current students. We had two Yale entrepreneurs that were part of a list of 25 entrepreneurs under 25 years of age in BusinessWeek.
Q: YES is currently eight years old. Where do you see it going in the future?
A: I’d highlight maybe three main initiatives that we’re really focusing on for the future of the organization. One is to create an umbrella for entrepreneurship resources at this school. We feel that there’s a lot of disconnect between the schools and the possible resources. There are so many sites students could possibly go to, so we’re trying to become the Mecca of entrepreneurship in this school, not to be too grandiose.
We also want to improve our community outreach. We’re currently working on a high-school entrepreneurship initiative where we’d like to set up after-school seminars so that we can teach the students basics on how to start your own business. Another community outreach initiative is our small-business consulting program that we’re trying to start this year. There are a lot of businesses in the area that just don’t know or they’re not experienced enough with how to better market themselves to college students or how to offer more appealing services to college students, and we feel that we stand at an advantage.
Third, we’re trying to start consulting workshops, getting consultants to the school from New York or Boston to hold these kinds of workshops, and also we want to have grad students as team leaders.