Yale Gets Serious About Entrepreneurship


At a university best known for turning out captains of industry and Wall Street hedge fund magnates, Yale is now focusing more attention on nurturing its entrepreneurs.

At last week’s inaugural Yale Entrepreneurs Conference, organizers put out a call to alumni to join the efforts of the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute and others to foster entrepreneurship at Yale, on campus, around the country and around the world.

The full day conference on Oct. 14 featured presentations and panels by student entrepreneurs as well as sessions with leading Yale alumni entrepreneurs.

The conference was the brainchild of Jim Boyle, founder of the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (YEI). He worked with Victoria Elenowitz of GoldenSeeds, chair of YEI’s advisory council, to bring together students from the YEI fellows program past and present, Yale entrepreneurs, investors, students, and others interested in promoting entrepreneurship at the university.

The Yale Entrepreneurial Institute is itself a startup, having been founded only in 2007, in part as an outgrowth of the university’s licensing activity. According to Boyle, “In 2006, we found ourselves awash with students who came to us with new ideas for new ventures. Then others began to surround us—board members, mentors, corporate partners, who were all willing to help.”

Currently, the YEI is completing the fourth cycle of its Fellows program, wherein about 25 student entrepreneurs are competitively selected each year by an operating board, then given small cash stipends and 10 weeks of a full-time summer mentoring program, followed by introductions to investors and other Yale alumni and community members who can help them grow their ventures into full-scale businesses.

YEI’s track record so far looks promising: over 47 ventures have been founded, creating over 160 jobs and attracting more than $45 million in investment capital.

A sampling of current and recent YEI fellow companies that made short pitches at the conference lunchtime session includes:

—Incendia Biochar: organic waste disposal technology

—Ancera: out to commercialize a rapid cell separation and pathogen diagnostics device from a Yale laboratory

Desmos: virtual whiteboarding and teaching tools

SilviaTerra: using satellites to survey timber holdings.

Other YEI graduate ventures of note include Hadapt, which has developed an adaptive analytical platform for big data, and Oasys Water, a water purification technology company backed by Flagship Ventures.

Profiles of past YEI fellows and their companies can be found here. Profiles of current YEI fellow teams can be found here.

Leading student entrepreneurs who have recently graduated and gone on to run successful businesses featured at the conference included Sean Glass (Y 2003), founder of the … Next Page »

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Steve Woit is the Founding Publisher of Xconomy, a Yale graduate (Y 1980), and a mentor for the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute. Follow @stevewoit

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4 responses to “Yale Gets Serious About Entrepreneurship”

  1. Terry CrossTerry says:

    I say Old Boy; this ought to be quite farcical. What will it be? Skull with no bones? See you at the club!

  2. Yes, Jim Boyle and company have been doing a great job with YEI. Don’t forget there’s other entrepreneurship at Yale as well. Prof. Barry Nalebuff founded HosestTea and sold it to Coke. There’s been a lot of good stuff on the life sciences side as well.

  3. Anthony Baldor says:

    Jonathan Rothberg!

  4. Great article. Love to see more support, locally (CT) of Yale. We run and support http://www.freedomrides.net a horseback interaction program for autistic and special needs kids right here in CT! Love to discuss how to partner with Yale on this.
    Peggy Freeman