Blog: yei


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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yei yale healthcare panel

By Brita Belli

The Yale Entrepreneurial Institute hosted a panel called “Idea to Implementation: How to Start a Company in Today’s Healthcare Environment” as part of the Yale Healthcare Conference on Friday, April 10. The panel, moderated by Erika Smith, Deputy Director of YEI, featured: Anthony Sabatelli, Partner at Dilworth IP; Tim Shannon, General Partner at Canaan Partners; Wendy Davis (SOM ’14), Cofounder and CEO of GestVision; Sean Mackay (SOM ’14), Cofounder and CEO of IsoPlexis; and Jesse Rich (SOM ’16), Cofounder of Revai. The panelists addressed everything from the importance of patents to examining incentives to legal concerns in founding a startup. Here are some highlights.

1.“Sometimes IP for a fledgling company is the only asset you have. Investors are typically interested in two things—is there IP? And do you own it?” Anthony Sabatelli, Partner at Dilworth IP.

2. “Never assume the IP is taken care of and done. It’s like a child that has to be monitored. The product is always changing and evolving.” Wendy Davis, (SOM ’14), Cofounder and CEO of GestVision.

3. “You need to do something where all the incentives align for your benefit. Building a startup is really hard. If those incentives don’t align, you’re dead in the water.” Jesse Rich (SOM ’16), Cofounder of Revai.

4. “One of the things we look at is will this thing get paid for well and easily? Incentives and disincentives drive what we do.” Tim Shannon, General Partner at Canaan Partners.

5. “Talk to clinicians early—before you even know what the product is. Ask ‘What will make a difference in treating your patient’?” Wendy Davis, (SOM ’14), Cofounder and CEO of GestVision.

6. “You need lawyers not only for handling IP, but other aspects of forming a company—operating agreements, shareholder agreements, raising financing rounds, partners together, branding, HR issues.” Anthony Sabatelli, Partner at Dilworth IP.

7. In relation to a question about how to set your startup’s valuation: “You have to be able to chart out what the company looks like in two rounds. Ultimately, it’s market price.” Sean Mackay (SOM ’14), Cofounder and CEO of IsoPlexis.

8. “I worry that healthcare technology investment is going to Silicon Valley, and that’s not where the health disparity lives. We need to find ways to address those needs.” Tim Shannon, General Partner at Canaan Partners.

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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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