Yale Student Startups on Display at the 2013 Demo Day
The 2013 Demo Day from the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute on Thursday, July 24—broadcast live from Kroon Hall for the first time—showcased student ventures that were in many cases already several steps up the startup success ladder. There was an enormous range of industries represented, including biotech, finance, consumer goods, pharmaceutical and software. But presenters shared one common element: they were polished and prepared to take their venture to the next level.
Jim Boyle, YEI Managing Director, opened the night with a slideshow of pictures that captured the Fellowship across its 10 weeks—from ziplining and softball to feedback from mentors and pitch sessions before Google product managers in New York City. “We’re trying to create storytellers,” Boyle told the audience of local investors, mentors and entrepreneurs. YEI Program Director Alena Gribskov added: “This year’s class is the strongest ever to participate.”
A prize of $10,000 was divided among three teams who won in a three-way tie by audience ballot for their marketability and presentation: Dextro, Lab Candy and Spylight.
Students Impress with their Pitches
Dextro, represented by David Luan (YC ’13) offers a proprietary algorithm that allows computers to turn photos—which a computer normally recognizes only as columns of numbers—into textual summaries of those photos. The implications are huge for everything from consumer companies to robotics. Dextro is positioned, Luan said, to “change the way computers see the visual world.” The team signed their first deal last August and is headed toward five major partnerships by October 2013.
Nate Fleming, a 2007 graduate of Morehouse College and professor of law at the David A. Clarke School of Law, represented BlackStartup, a team that includes Elgin Tucker (FES ’14) and Christopher Hollins (YLS ’14). Their crowdfunding platform is already successfully raising money for African American startups and social initiatives, including an engineering summer camp for minority kids in Mt. Vernon, NY. The support network they offer African American startups includes consulting, e-learning, mentorship and legal documents. Said Fleming: “We’re creating the largest number of African-American innovators the world has ever seen.”
TummyZen was represented by Hasan Ansari (SOM ’14) who told the audience how their proprietary formula developed from Yale research has led to a longer-lasting antacid that works just as quickly as standbys like Tums. The formula relies on zinc salt, already has FDA approval and actual improves digestive health. They will have formulas designed for three key markets: pregnant women, colicky infants and adults on blood thinners who can’t take traditional antacids. TummyZen is launching their online product in September 2013.
Lab Candy has expanded from producing fashionable goggles and lab coats to girls to including a range of characters and storybooks to accompany the stylish lab gear, with experiments that can be tested at home. Olivia Pavco-Giaccia (YC ’16) donned a pair of sparkly goggles and a pink tiger-striped lab coat as she talked to the audience about how they are making lab science more relatable to young girls. Lab Candy has a partnership with the National Girls Collaborative Project and is headed to a White House conference with the organization in September 2013.
Daniel Qu (YC ’13) represented Launchsite, a crowdsourcing platform for website development. Essentially, customers answer a brief questionnaire about what kind of website they want, developers design homepages and the customer choses his or her favorite and that developer designs the site within a week. They launch publicly in September 2013 and already have 50 developers lined up.
For the first time in its seven-year history, the YEI Demo Day featured one Venture Creation Program team. The Venture Creation Program is YEI’s year-round program for early stage startups—which typically are still working on their prototype or proof of concept. But Boyle felt one VCP team, Amergent Capital, was ready for the big pitch. Represented by Kalil Diaz (SOM ’14), the team is “pioneering private equity for a better Dominican Republic.” The team’s pitch was to make $10 to $20 million investments in consumer goods businesses in the Dominican Republic, taking advantage of a rapid GDP growth in Latin America where between 2001 and 2011 the middle class has grown by 50 percent.
Sean Mackay (SOM ’14) explained how the cutting-edge Yale science behind his team’s venture—IsoPlexis—could provide a major avenue for treating cancer by “harnessing the power of the immune system.” Using technology developed in the lab of Rong Fan, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Yale, with team member Kara Brower (YC ’13), they are marketing a device that can measure 40 protein markers from more than 1,000 cells simultaneously. That means drug developers can see “which compound will work and who it will work well with.”
Dor Zaidenberg (SOM ’13) of Truly Protect, already raised €1.25 million from the Finnish government before being accepted as a Summer Fellow. His team has developed an innovative CPU technology that allows them to encrypt video game codes (and software and mobile application codes) in a way that makes it impossible for hackers to access. They call their process “code neutralization.” They acquired their first customer last June and are actively talking to smaller video game manufacturers.
Casper Daugaard (YC ’13) closed out the night with his pitch for Spylight, a second screen application that allows TV viewers to immediately identify and purchase clothes and other products seen in their favorite TV shows. Daugaard has already signed a deal with a major Hollywood studio to launch Spylight on three hit shows this fall. Unlike competitive sites, he’s able to gather information about the products before shows air, so all product information can be viewed and purchased as the show is being watched. He said within the next two years, Spylight was positioned to be available for 15 shows.