Blog: yale


yale tech healthcare panel

By Brita Belli

November 9, 2015: At the recent Yale Tech Summit, held on October 30 at Evans Hall, YEI sponsored a panel discussion on the intersection of healthcare and technology. The panel was moderated by Richard Foster, Director Emeritus of McKinsey & Company and YEI’s Executive-in-Residence, with three alum and student founders discussing how they’ve navigated starting healthcare technology companies. Panelists included Paul Fletcher-Hill (YC ’15), cofounder and CEO of PatientBank, a platform that makes it easier to share medical records; Ellen Su (YC ’13), cofounder and Chief Creative Officer of Wellinks, a wearable health technology company; and  Elizabeth Asai (YC ’13), CEO of 3Derm, which provides breakthrough imaging hardware with secure cloud-based software for at-home dermatology assessment from a network of doctors. Below, seven key takeaways from the panelists.

1. On the question of charging patients: “In healthcare, you can’t charge patients for anything, but patients are the sparkplug for the whole process.” Paul Fletcher-Hill, PatientBank.

2. On finding acceptance for your device: “We designed our tracking device with a strap because it doesn’t affect the brace at all. That makes doctors more accepting. It turns a regular brace into a ‘smart’ brace. And it makes the regulatory process much easier. Ellen Su, Wellinks.

3. On designing apps for doctors to use: “We made it really easy to use. Some doctors don’t use technology. We give nurses access and we give them the option to print out paper reports.” Ellen Su, Wellinks.

4. On identifying your customer: “We sell 3Derm to integrated health systems that have dermatologists in network.” Liz Asai, 3Derm.

5. On the skills you need that you didn’t necessarily learn in school: “I’m a biomechanical engineering undergrad. I don’t use most of those skills. I use writing and speaking persuasively. Writing grants is so important.” Liz Asai, 3Derm.

6. On the role of open-source technology: “We’ve been using open source from the beginning. It has helped us with the process of HIPA compliance.” Paul Fletcher-Hill, PatientBank.

7. On the biggest hurdles: “There is so much changing in healthcare. Your business plan has to be really forward-thinking.” Liz Asai, Derm. “The regulation aspects are very complicated.” Ellen Su, Wellinks. “What matters more than the product is how you deliver it. Think critically about how you do that.” Paul Fletcher-Hill, PatientBank.  

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patrick struebi yale

By Colin Paiva

November 3, 2015: Patrick Struebi, founder and CEO of Fairtrasa, recently visited the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute to speak about social entrepreneurship and the founding and development of his own social enterprise. Fairtrasa is a vertically integrated fair trade fruit and vegetable produce group that helps farmers in developing countries to earn incomes over eight times what they would receive in normal local markets. The company also reinvests a portion of its profits into schools and other development projects in farmers’ communities.

During Patrick’s talk, he shared the story of his Fairtrasa's development along with some unique insights about social entrepreneurship. Here’s are four key lessons:

1. Social entrepreneurs connect the dots in new ways.

When Patrick started Fairtrasa, he first focused on two new and undeveloped products: fair-trade Mexican avocados and fair-trade Argentinian wine. Back in 2005, most fair trade products were constrained to coffee, bananas and chocolate. Patrick saw possibility in developing these two new products. Social entrepreneurs need to have this same sort of vision, he told the audience—but they can still work, as he did, within an existing model.

2. Social enterprise gives you impact, but it also gives you returns.

Despite being a for-profit company, Fairtrasa is still a social enterprise. Fairtrasa currently partners with 6,500 farmers in developing countries. These farmers usually see income over eight times higher with Fairtrasa than they would normally get selling to large produce conglomerate middlemen. The combination of better prices and farmer education (resulting in 50% higher yields) helps to lift Fairtrasa’s farmers out of poverty. All the while, Fairtrasa still makes a profit despite their higher direct produce purchase and education expenses. Just because a company is for-profit, does not mean that the company cannot be socially conscious and beneficial to people beyond its shareholders.

3. Social entrepreneurship doesn’t work without conscious consumers.

One of the most difficult challenges that fair-trade and other social enterprises often present is that consumers must be willing to pay more. Some consumers simply do not have the discretionary income to buy what are often higher-priced fair-trade products. Other consumers simply do not care all that much whether their avocados were grown on a small farm or a large plantation. These constraints made for an interesting marketing challenge for Fairtrasa. Because many Western Europeans were more aware of fair-trade and receptive to its social impact, Fairtrasa debuted in Western Europe and has only recently come to the United States and China. Social entrepreneurs need to be aware of these marketing challenges and plan accordingly.

4. Social entrepreneurs don’t teach people how to fish; they revolutionize the fishing industry.

Oftentimes, the traditional nonprofit economic development model focuses on education instead of direct aid with the hopes that beneficiaries will then be able to use their education to better their economic standing. While education is important (and as seen with Fairtrasa, integral to the mission), if there is no market or an underdeveloped/corrupt market in which beneficiaries can use their skills, it is difficult for the person to get ahead. Where Fairtrasa has been so successful is with its unique combination of farming education and fair-trade prices. Because farmers are educated and also have a working market in which they can sell, they are able to escape the cycle of poverty that trapped previous generations.

COMING UP: On Thursday, November 12, 12-1p.m. join Patrick and Rob Lalka, a partner at Medora Ventures, for “Introduction to Social Finance and Venture Capital Investments” at YEI (254 Elm St., 3rd Floor – Door to left of Tyco). Learn about the various social financing options and how you can get funding for your social venture. REGISTER HERE. This event will also feature a Social Venture Elevator Pitch from 1-2pm. All students welcome to submit ideas to share before the group in 1 minute or less and receive valuable feedback from Patrick and Rob. SIGN UP HERE.

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jennifer fleiss yale

By Brita Belli

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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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