Blog: yale


max nova

By Margo Apostoleris

June 17, 2015: Max Nova (YC ’12, YEI ’10), cofounder of SilviaTerra, recently spent some time talking to Fellows at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute. He shared his thoughts about what he’s learned in building a company, goals and working remotely.

YEI: If you could time travel and give advice to yourself when just starting out, what would you say?

Max: I would have worried less about IP and more about selling to customers!  We did a pretty good job of getting our first dollars as quickly as possible, but in retrospect I would have dedicated even more time to selling and learning more about the needs of our customers. 

YEI: What were the trickiest things about making the transition from student to full-time entrepreneur?

Max: I stayed in school while I was working on SilviaTerra. Both my schoolwork and SilviaTerra work suffered a bit as a result, but it kept my overall life/career risk very low.  By the time I graduated, I was already working 60 hours a week on SilviaTerra, so the only difference after graduation was that I didn't have to worry about writing essays about comparative ancient law!

YEI: How many employees do you currently have? What’s your revenue?

Max: We're a team of seven now, including five Yalies from Yale College, School of Management and Forestry and Environmental Studies. My lawyers have threatened to beat me if I disclose revenue! 

YEI: Tell us how you are able to manage a remote workforce.

Max: I did trans-Atlantic long-distance with my girlfriend (now wife) for six years.  At this point, I'd say that remote is one of my core competencies!  Having a remote company is great because it allows us to hire the absolute best people, avoid a bunch of overhead, and gives us lots of flexibility.  It does certainly come with challenges, but we've found that the key things to making remote work are:

 * Quarterly in-person "All-Hands" meetings at great locations

 * Using Asana to plan/track/execute EVERYTHING

 * All-Hands weekly review on Google Hangouts

 * Weekly one-on-ones between founders and the team

YEI: What are your long-term goals for SilviaTerra?

Max: Right now we're focused on getting forest managers great data. The next step is to build tools to help foresters turn that better data into better decisions. In five years, we'd love to be able say that "American forestry runs on SilviaTerra."

YEI: How has YEI impacted you and your business goals for Silviaterra? 

Max: YEI connected us with some great mentors. I can't say enough good things about the help we've gotten from them.

MARGO APOSTOLERIS is a student at Hope College and an intern at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute.

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By Margo Apostoleris & Matt Gira

david rose at yale

June 2, 2015: David Rose, known as “the father of angel investing in New York,” spoke to YEI Fellows and others from the Yale community about how to pitch a startup at Evans Hall on June 2. Rose, a serial entrepreneur who founded New York Angels, shared insights on pitching to investors and the effects entrepreneurship is having on the world. Here are three takeaways from his talk:

1. Say it, then show it.

Often in presentations, people click to a slide and then make some related remarks. The problem with this approach, says Rose, is that the audience then focuses on the presentation, and not the presenter. The secret to all great presenters he says is, “Say it, then show it.” Start talking about what you need to say, and then click to the slide you are going to talk about. Use the pitch deck as a tool to convey your message—not a crutch.

Rose noted that a presenter should practice ahead of time and know the sequence of his or her presentation. He also stressed the importance of photos to add emotional resonance—instead of having words on slides, use pictures and say the words. When the audience focuses on the presenter they will get the most out of the presentation. Rose says, “This is the single and most powerful effect for presenters.” That is why it is important to talk ahead of your slides rather than after you reveal them.

2. The entrepreneur is the most important person.

The entrepreneur is the most important person according to Rose because he or she takes risks and turns inventions into innovations. Rose noted that investors are interested primarily in the entrepreneur—that they are “betting on the jockey, not the horse.” The entrepreneur is the key factor to make the company a success. Rose adds, “They are the big 'E' in YEI and that is what investors look for.” The most important characteristic investors look for in an entrepreneur, he adds, is integrity, because at the early stages of company formation, trust is essential.

3. Entrepreneurship is the future.

The world’s problems are increasingly being solved through entrepreneurship, Rose told the audience. Whether that’s the desire to explore space via SpaceX, using Uber to find a ride home or locating a place to stay for the night via Airbnb. Entrepreneurship is not only solving problems, he said, but also revolutionizing industries. And as more funding and resources are available, entrepreneurship is growing. The cost of starting a business has decreased significantly, Rose said, making entrepreneurship possible for more people—for even a few thousand dollars. That means anyone with an entrepreneurial mindset has an opportunity to impact the world.

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alacrity tp ma james lin

The startup Alacrity Semiconductors, Inc. recently received a $100,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant with support from Connecticut Innovations’ SBIR Acceleration and Commercialization Program. The team behind Alacrity—including Yale School of Management students James Lin (’15) and Matthew Kern (’15) along with T.P. Ma, Raymond James Wean Professor of Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics at Yale and postdoctoral student Xiao Sun—are developing an adaptive storage semiconductor that has the potential to integrate with all existing computing devices. Lin and Ma were introduced through the Technology Commercialization Program jointly run by the Office of Cooperative Research and the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (YEI). They first developed the venture during the 2014 YEI Fellowship, which provides funding, mentorship and expert guidance to Yale ventures. This is their second SBIR grant.

“We are excited to partner with Connecticut Innovations to promote the development of technology in Connecticut,” says Lin, “and we are grateful to YEI for making those introductions.” YEI hosts regular office hours with Merrie London, Manager of the SBIR and Federal Leveraging Programs at CT Innovations, and Lin began meeting with her a year ago to discuss their eligibility for federal grants. “Merrie’s guidance and support throughout the process has been instrumental to Alacrity receiving federal funds.”

“She reviewed our SBIR application and provided support from the state to get the most out of it,” he adds. Lin says the money will contribute to creating technology jobs in Connecticut and supporting detailed market studies to develop a market entry strategy for their product.


Interested in meeting with Merrie? She is holding Office Hours at YEI (55 Whitney Ave., 2nd Floor) on May 19, June 9 and July 1, 1-4pm. Sign up here!


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yale women of innovation

April 2, 2015: Seven Yale women were named as honorees at the recent Women of Innovation Awards presented by the Connecticut Technology Council, and two won prizes in their categories for their innovative research and entrepreneurship. Serap Aksoy, a professor at the Yale School of Public Health, won a Research Innovation and Leadership award for her discovery of innovative methods for using beneficial bacteria to render insects inhospitable for disease-causing pathogens, reducing their ability to transmit disease. Monika Weber, a PhD. student in Electrical Engineering won an award for Collegian Innovation and Leadership for her co-invention of Fluid-Screen, a small device that detects bacteria in 30 minutes.

Other Yale honorees included Wendy Davis, founder and CEO of GestVision, a startup developing a test for preeclampsia; Lynn Fiellin, an Associate Professor of Medicine at Yale School of Medicine who founded and directs Yale’s play2PREVENT lab and cofounded the startup KnackTime Interactive to develop behavior-impacting videogames; and Ellen Su, a recent Yale grad and the cofounder of Wellinks, which is developing a device and related app to track the wear-time and tightness of scoliosis braces. All three startups are being developed with support from the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute. Two additional Yale women—Jeannette Ickovics, Professor at the Yale School of Public Health  and Kyle Vanderlick, dean of the Yale School of Engineering and Applied Science at Yale—were also honored.

“This was really an incredible night for Yale women, showing the breadth of leadership and innovation from students to faculty,” says Erika Smith, Deputy Director of the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute. “We’re thrilled to work with such inspiring women and to share in celebrating their accomplishments.”

In receiving her award, Dr. Aksoy encouraged young women to “share your passion for science, research and education.” This was the 11th annual Women of Innovation awards ceremony, and there is now a combined alumnae group of nearly 550 Women of Innovation.

CONTACT: Brita Belli, Communications Officer, Yale Entrepreneurial Institute,

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Launched from a Dorm Room yale sxsw

By Brita Belli

On Friday, March 13, the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute hosted two panels as part of SXSW Interactive, "Venture Investing in Universities" and "Launched from a Dorm Room." Below are 10 of our favorite insights from our panelists.

 1. “We look for deals that are exciting and riding big waves in healthcare and technology. Think about things that are changing the shape of society.” Greg Ho, President and COO of Spring Mountain Capital

2. “Any early stage startup needs to be humble, listen to customers and gather as many mentors as possible.” Sean Mackay, Cofounder and CEO of IsoPlexis

3. “Rather than have VCs pick through opportunities at a high-stakes event, we found it helpful to empower students to be able to direct where the investment happens…to help companies be born that otherwise wouldn’t be.”  Donald Fischer, Venture Partner, General Catalyst Partners which invests in student founders through Rough Draft Ventures

4. One idea for improving entrepreneurship growth at universities: “Create an endowment within the endowment that can support entrepreneurship.” Greg Ho, President and COO of Spring Mountain Capital

5. “My focus would be less on the product, and more on the customer. The hard part is really understanding the domain space and understanding the intersection of what someone needs and what you can deliver.” Donald Fischer, Venture Partner, General Catalyst Partners which invests in student founders through Rough Draft Ventures

6. “Start a company because you have a problem you want to solve, and a startup is the best way to approach it.” Jessica Cole, School District Coordinator, Panorama Education

7. “When you have a ‘.edu’ address, people will share things with you. You can approach it as an academic question or go to your alumni network. The day after you graduate, it’s harder to get that help.” Victor Wong, Cofounder and CEO of PaperG

8. “A business partner is not that important. Usually you don’t face those problems until there’s a product-market fit and at that point you can attract real talent.” David Luan, Cofounder of Dextro

9. “It’s important to maintain a healthy cross-section of people that you know.” Victor Wong, Cofounder and CEO of PaperG

10. “Find people you think are out of your league.” Jessica Cole, School District Coordinator, Panorama Education

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