Starting this semester, eight graduate students will work with early-stage health care companies through a new fellowship chaired jointly by Yale University and Canaan Partners — a $3 billion global venture capital firm focused on the intersection of health care and technology.
Through the Canaan-Yale Venture Fellowship, Canaan and the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute will collaborate to provide students with policy training and work experience with health care companies in Canaan’s portfolio. The new program will divide participants into two groups to work with venture capital firms and biomedical companies, as well as teach students how to start a company, the nature of venture capitalism and how venture capitalists interact with entrepreneurs, Canaan Partners associate Colleen Cuffaro GRD ’14 said.
“We had the idea of working with Yale graduate students to try to do a deep dive into certain areas that are of interest to us,” Cuffaro said. “I think this is the first time that Yale students have the opportunity to be exposed to a venture capital firm and work directly with them.”
YEI chose eight recipients from nearly 200 graduate and professional school applicants in September, providing fellows with a $1,000 stipend for a yearlong project on portfolio development. Fellows will also attend workshops led by Cuffaro and Tim Shannon, a general partner at Canaan, on business topics such as term sheets, due diligence and capitalization tables. Cuffaro said these workshops provide an opportunity for students to learn how to apply their knowledge outside of academic settings.
Erika Smith, the deputy director of YEI, said applicants were chosen based on their scientific backgrounds and interests in understanding the commercialization of life sciences.
“Tim Shannon and Colleen Cuffaro provided the inspiration [for the program] given their non-traditional career paths into [venture capital],” Smith said in an email to the News. “I also had piloted an internship program of about a dozen postdocs from the National Institutes of Health to support due diligence while I was managing a small life science seed fund in Virginia. We both saw the opportunity to work together.”
Before the fellowship’s inception this semester, four graduate students piloted the program in February. Sarah Bhagat GRD ’16, who participated in the pilot program, said participants convened with Shannon and Cuffaro almost every week to work on their projects.
Cuffaro said one of the reasons behind Canaan’s partnership with YEI is the two institutions’ close proximity to one another — there is a Canaan office in Westport, Connecticut.
“There are very few to no venture firms that offer a very hands-on internship opportunity like Canaan,” Bhagat said. “This is a very small group [of fellowship participants], and there is a lot of interaction with the partners and other members of the team at Canaan, which is one of the best premiere venture capital firms in the country.”
Canaan was founded in 1987.