Blog: fellowship info

By Avery Faller

Only three weeks have passed since the end of the YEI program, yet time seems to have slowed down.  The Summer Fellowship was a fast-paced, immersive startup boot camp: every day a new speaker to listen to, YEI alum to meet, investor to pitch, event to attend, giving structure to the hot New Haven summer days.  Trying to summarize it all into one highlight article would be like trying to watch the Godfather Parts I and II in the span of five minutes, but that’s what I’m about to attempt.

SLS LogoIf you dig down under the mad rush of activity of the Fellowship, you’ll find the heart of it—the eleven student ventures.  And somehow, between all of the speakers, and panelists, mentor meetings, and free lunches, those ventures found the time to grow and develop.  But they didn’t merely grow; they exploded upwards and outwards.  For some of the ventures, the accomplishments have been physical: Scaled Liquid Systems has built a prototype liquid cooling system, while Chairigami has developed a product line and moved into a storefront; for others, milestones have been recorded in 1s and 0s: BookSavr, Roammeo and Unicq have all added features and additional functionality to their pre-existing sites, and two more ventures are on the verge of launching Beta sites.  Some of the ventures are closing rounds of financing, while others have already raised capital.  The next few months will be very exciting for our fellows as they continue to work on their ventures.  We will be keeping tabs on all of the YEI alumni and will let you know either through this blog or our twitter account (@yeitweets) of any new developments that we hear about.

Group Photo 

Chairigami LogoIt has been an honor to get to know the founders be­hind these ventures, a diverse group of 19 truly entrepreneurial entrepreneurs.  They are inspiring examples of what you can accomplish if you set your mind to it.  I know that I personally feel vindicated every time one of their ventures raises funding, or launches a new product because I know how hard they have been working and understand how much effort has gone into their success.  But, lest we forget, the fellows were not developing their ventures in a vacuum; they had the YEI Incubator space to work and learn in, with all its assets just a few steps away. 

Unicq LogoI only knew a small amount about YEI’s programming at the beginning of the summer; now I consider myself somewhat of an expert.  Here is just a bit of what YEI contributed to the Summer Fellowship this past summer: The YEI Staff, Jim Boyle, Wes Bray, Alena Gribskov and Kim Babbitt, provided the Fellows with encouragement, advice and contacts based on their years of experience working with startups.  Throughout the summer I was impressed by how knowledgeable the staff was about the entrepreneurial community, both locally, in New Haven, and in New York and Boston.  Week after week, I was repeatedly excited by the quantity and quality of the entrepreneurs that YEI brought into the office including Chris Michaud of Continuum and David Rose of Angelsoft.  The talks these speakers gave were relevant and varied ranged from advice on raising capital to how to effectively brand your corporation.  YEI organized visits to the offices of Google in New York City, which was awesome, and, a little closer to home, to Higher One in Science Park at Yale, which was inspiring.  YEI alumni from successful companies such as YouRenew and Hadapt came to YEI and spoke openly with the Fellows about their companies and the path they took since finishing the YEI Fellowship.  And finally, YEI arranged for a team of mentors to serve as advisors to every venture in the Fellowship. This army of mentors stunned me because I hadn’t realized how large the entrepreneurial community around New Haven actually was and the amount of time and effort these business leaders were willing to commit to coach and provide connections to Yale students.

Ancera LogoIn my conversations with the fellows, they dripped enthusiasm.  “I think it brings together the best of resources,” said Arjun Ganesan of Ancera on what he thought of the YEI Summer Fellowship. 

Pixtapes Logo“YEI has been awesome,” Mike Mossoba of Pixtapes agreed.  “The staff, mentors, guest speakers and corporate partners have been extraordinarily generous with their time. And I love the energy I get from all the other exciting ventures in the incubator.”

If all this talk about YEI and its resources has you hungering for entrepreneurial speakers, startup advice, and innovative friends, you don’t have to wait until next summer’s YEI Fellowship to have your fill.  The freshman arrived on Old Campus on Friday, and to welcome the new year, YEI will be holding a kickoff event in the new space at 55 Whitney on September 7th at 6pm.  Come check out our new incubator and learn how you can get involved.  See you there! 

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Although we’ve been giving you updates on the teams and speakers, we haven’t yet given you a glimpse inside the day of a YEI Fellow.  That is until now!  Recently we asked Tiffany Ho of to document a day in the life. Enjoy!

Who: Tiffany Ho

Morning ritual
6:30 Wake-up. Work-out: run 5 miles. 

I've been trying to get my circadian rhythm back on track after finals week at the end of the spring semester. I've been trying to go to bed around midnight (so early!) for the past week; it's worked out pretty well so far. Opening up the sunroof so that the light naturally comes in the morning helps in waking me up. 

8:00 Shower and get dressed for the day.

8:30 Check email and correspondences. 

I like keeping my gmail inbox clean so I make it a point every morning to empty it. I'm also really old-school so I take the time out each morning to write real thank you notes - stationery and wax seals and all. 

LifeStartr Logo9:00 Set agenda and goals for the day.

Etkin and I have found that we are the most productive when we write down our tasks for the day and cross it off as we go along. It's tedious but this method keeps us working hard and on the same page!

9:40 Leave apartment with Etkin to walk to 55 Whitney.

the office
10:00 Speaker of the day: Sean Glass, Novak Biddle

12:30 Breakout meeting with Sean. 

It was great catching up with Sean. I took his seminar, Technology Entrepreneurship, back in the Fall of 2010. 

1:00 Research work for Lifestartr 4 Steps to Epiphany analysis. 

4 Steps to Epiphany is the closest thing I have to a start-up bible. Our top priority right now is to figure out how we're going to make money with our business model and what the pricing costs will look like. At this stage, we have to do a lot of "out-of-the-building" research by having as many conversations as possible with our potential paying customers. 4 Steps is great in helping us map out what kind of questions we have to answer. 

2:30 Coffee with a friend who is a recently graduated senior for some on-the-ground consumer work. 

Afternoon work
Lifestartr Photo3:00 Head back to apartment with Etkin.

We usually go back to my apartment in the afternoon because there are fewer distractions there. We end up being more productive. I also can hook up my laptop to a spare computer monitor - making research work a lot easier to handle.

3:30 Check Twitter and get caught up on tech start-up and fashion news. 

Tweetdeck is my life. It's like my own personal news meter. I get to follow news sources like TechCrunch, Gizmodo, NYT T Style Magazine, Business of Fashion, Vogue, etc. and check on updates in my own time. 

4:15 Power nap

I've recently decided to forgo any and all forms of caffeine (Yeah, I know, crazy right??). The first week (last week) was brutal, but I'm starting to get used to it. I've been taking 20 minute power naps to stave off the afternoon doldrums. Au natural and no crash after!

4:45 More work. 

7:00 Dinner, picked-up some delicious pineapple fried rice from York Street Noodle.

8:00 More work. 

It never ends! The best (and worst) part about the start-up lifestyle is that it's completely on you how much you get done in a day. There's always pressure to do more and more and more. 

10:00 Skype date with my best friend. 

11:00 Turn off all electronics and read. 

Currently reading Zadie Smith, White Teeth.

12:30 Bedtime. 

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We were recently reminded that we are now halfway through the summer fellowship -- time flies!  We caught up with three fellows to ask them about their impressions of the program thus far.

Harriet Owers-Bradley (YC ’11) is a Cofounder & Branding Director of
Mike Mossoba (SOM ’12) is a Cofounder of
Chris Murphy (YC ’12) is a Cofounder of

Tim Lecturing

What has surprised you most about YEI?

 "We knew from speaking to YEI alums that it was going to be an amazing, immersive experience. So far, it has been such a pleasure to be surrounded by so many cool startups, mentors, speakers, and YEI staff members. It’s always pleasantly surprising when really smart, busy people are willing to take the time to give us feedback on our latest designs or a make an awesome introduction." – Mike

"How good the speakers are! Wasn't so sure before the program started who would be coming to talk to us and just how inspiring and useful the speakers would be." – Harriet

Who has been the most interesting Speaker?

"The most interesting speaker has been Tim Ogilvie, I may be biased in saying this since we had a great breakout session with him but a lot of his experience and advice was directly applicable to what we are going through now." - Chris

"The speakers have all been exceptional, so this is a tough question. We really enjoyed speaking to Sandy from Meebo about building a web startup." - Mike

What has been the best takeaway from a Speaker?

"The best takeaway from a speaker would again have to be from Tim, who emphasized getting just a little bit of traction in your market by getting just one client and focusing on one aspect of your product.  We have shifted our focus from the beginning of the summer and are now working on trying to get any kind of traction we can at whatever school is willing to test out our product.  Tim helped put our priorities and goals into perspective and helped us realize that in order to expand and scale our business to the huge size we want it to become we need to start small and work it out from there." - Chris

"Every speaker has shared really valuable anecdotes and advice. But the best takeaway is just the common thread that these successful entrepreneurs simply love what they do." - Mike

"The fact that things are possible and you have to keep going." - Harriet

Chris Ziplining












What has been the most useful non-speaker event?

"Zip-lining, of course! Networking with investors at our first reception was great, too." - Mike

What YEI resources, other than speakers, have you taken advantage of?

"We have had several meetings with one of our mentors Anne who has been fantastic, she was able to give us some great intros to people who know a lot about our industry and how universities go about adopting and testing out new software." - Chris

"Can we give some love to YEI’s corporate partners?! Our lawyers at Wiggin and Dana have been great!" - Mike

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Tall TreesBy Avery Faller

A gentle wind blows through light-dappled treetops, leaves swaying in ever-shifting patterns of green—a sight that is almost beautiful.  Almost, that is, until you realize that along with the trees, you too are swaying: the platform you are standing on, seventy feet above the ground, is bolted directly into a tree and where the tree goes, you go.  And while trees may look beautiful from the ground, the new perspective that comes from standing amidst their tallest branches makes you all the more aware of the power of these silent sentinels.

Stepping up to the edge of the (railing-less) platform, there is an involuntary surge in your stomach; your pulse quickens and every alarm that your body has shouts “NO!”   Then it is your turn, you can delay no longer, you are committed and you lift up your legs and just like that, away you go, the pulley’s wheels humming on the steel aircraft cable above you, leaves and branches swaying on your sides and below, nothing.

Video By Emmy Pickett


Going Against the Grain

The Summer Fellows went ziplining yesterday at Empower, an outing described as a “bonding experience.” Now I apologize in advance for any of you who dislike metaphors but here goes: In many regards, ziplining is a lot like entrepreneurship. Society, inward-facing, huddles together around the tree, accepting things the way they are.  The first step of an entrepreneur is to turn away from society and see that there is a whole forest out there waiting to be explored.  Earlier this week YEI summer speaker and CEO of Preferred Brands International Ashok Vasudevan spoke about predicting the future: “If you want to find a lake in the forest,” he said, “climb the tallest tree.”  How right he was.  From your lofty perch on the zipline platform you seem to gain a new perspective on life.  In that same fashion, entrepreneurs need to be able to step back so that they can effectively see the ways in which society works and identify a problem.

John Ziplining

The Goal

As you near the platform edge and squint to catch a glimpse of another small wooden platform dangling off of a tree in the distance, you wonder how you’ll ever make it there.  Your mode of transportation is a thin line bouncing above you in the wind, and the forest floor is a bad excuse for a safety net.   The entrepreneur faces similar problems.  Just like the platform in the distance, the entrepreneur must set goals that seem distant or impossible.   Often obstacles will block or obscure that path, just as the wind blows branches into the path of the zipliner.  Yet, you realize that with the risk comes a reward, for the zipline is a shortcut between trees, and if you make it, you may just beat the rest of the slow, ground-walking society to your goal.

The Leap

Taking that first step over the edge as an entrepreneur can be daunting.  Every instinct you have may tell you “no,” and let’s not forget the harm that doubting words from others can inflict.  It’s hard to choose the path of entrepreneurship as you watch your friends choose the tried and true paths of banking and finance.  You are testing the waters, a guinea pig.  If the line holds, others will surely follow, close on your heels.  Yet the hardest step is that first one, the decision to commit.  And afterwards, though you may constantly feel like you are falling, it is important to not lose sight of your goals.  Don’t be distracted by the possibilities rushing past you; stick to your ideals, and you may just make it!

2011 Group Picture at Empower

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By Avery Faller

Avery Behind DeskThis year the home of the fellowship is the second floor of 55 Whitney, which has all the modern conveniences and amenities a startup could ask for in an incubator. That’s me at the desk, by the way. I’m YEI’s Social Media and Program Assistant and throughout the summer I’ll be blogging about all things YEI, from team profiles to speaker highlights.

Come in, come in – enough about me. Follow me into the main room aka “the bullpen.” This is where the magic happens. This space will serve this summer’s ten ventures as home base, so to speak, for the next ten weeks. In addition to their own personal desk, every fellow also has after-hours access to the building and I imagine most of them will end up using it quite a few times.

"The Bullpen"

Along the left wall of the main room is incubator space for YEI ventures including 2010 fellowship teams Encendia and Desmos. What better resource could a current fellow ask for than a group of savvy entrepreneurs who have successfully nurtured their businesses through the last year? They are role models to the current fellows, living proof that a summer venture can outlast the summer, who can also be called upon to answer questions on entrepreneurship.

Along the right wall are a series of YEI staff offices where Wes, Jim, Alena and Kim provide support and advice to the fellows. The YEI staff also connects all of the ventures with mentors in related fields, arranges outings and open houses and sets up an intense informational and motivational speaker series for the summer, but more on that later.

Along with offices the right wall also contains the “nook,” which provides the cozy homey feeling that every young startup needs. Couches, printer, carpet, I think this area is pretty self-explanatory.

Stand Out Investing in a Conference Room

The far wall contains a series of conference rooms. These are used for everything from videoconferencing to breakout sessions and meetings with advisors, investors and clients. As the summer gets going, this is where every team will have their biweekly meeting with the YEI staff. Additionally, YEI alums come back every Tuesday to chat and share insights with current fellows over lunch.

Tim Ogilvie speaking to the 2011 YEI Fellows

Around the corner is the classroom. Two to three times a week YEI brings in speakers who are experts in industry, marketing, finance, etc. Here the minds of the fellows will be filled with facts and their pockets with business cards. I’ll be giving regular breakdowns of who was here and what they said.

Now, if this isn’t the dream office of a budding young entrepreneur, I can’t tell you what is. See you at the water cooler!

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