Tucked away between GANT and Maison Mathis on Elm Street is a local hub for innovation: the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute.
On Sept. 30, the YEI chose its first cohort of student and faculty teams for the Venture Creation Program –— an initiative to provide support to any member of the Yale community with an entrepreneurial idea. Teams selected for the program benefit from meetings with YEI entrepreneurs and residents, as well as access to a dedicated venture advisor and portfolio manager from the Yale School of Management, according to YEI Program Director Kassie Tucker. The program, which supports early-stage ventures, aims to help chosen teams move through the stages of product development from ideation to creation.
Tucker noted the impressive range of topics within this first cohort and said that aside from technology-related projects, teams are focusing on topics ranging from health and education to tourism.
One of the projects receiving support from the program is straDEFY, a safe and long-lasting sunscreen initially developed in the laboratory of Mark Saltzman, a professor of chemical and biomedical engineering at the Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science.
straDEFY is based upon a unique bioadhesive nanoparticle platform -— a long-lasting medium that sticks to the skin. Ph.D. candidate in Biomedical Engineering Linda Fong GRD ’17, a founder of straDEFY, explained that currently marketed sunscreens are limited to short protection times, and that some chemical filters in sunscreens can penetrate skin and cause cell mutations. She added that although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is aware of the problem, it has not approved a new sunscreen agent since 1999.
Fong said the YEI has been an important source of support for straDEFY. She added that while her team’s expertise relates to biomedical engineering, the team members are not as well-versed in the business and marketing skills necessary to bring a project of this kind to fruition, so she has taken advantage of YEI office hours as well as the mentors offered through the program.
According to Tucker, YEI has numerous other opportunities aside from the Venture Creation Program, including a summer fellowship, the YEI Innovation Fund, and a network of volunteer mentors who help students start businesses and enter the industries of their choice.
Tucker expressed regret that few Yale students are familiar with the YEI and said that as YEI Program Director she encourages students to consider how skills of entrepreneurship and innovation can be applied in changing the values of existing companies. Innovators can achieve a balance between social and financial concerns within their projects, according to Tucker.
“We are looking for not only a great idea but also something [a team] is passionate about, and is taking action for,” Tucker said of selecting students for the Venture Creation Program.
The YEI website states that 40 percent of the first cohort of teams is composed of Yale College students, and roughly 50 percent of the team members chosen are female. According to data from the national Bureau of Labor Statistics, the proportion of female self-employed persons within the United States remained unchanged between 1995 and 2011.
According to a 2010 study from the Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, which investigated worldwide entrepreneurship trends, rates of entrepreneurship among men were higher than those of women in all 43 countries studied. The study also found that the proportion of entrepreneurs who are women is higher in countries with lower income per capita and countries where entrepreneurship represents the only income opportunity for women.
The next deadline to apply for the Venture Creation Program applications is October 28.