Yale Startups Face Off Against NYU in Fourth Annual Pitchoff

July 10, 2017

It may not be as recognized as the Harvard-Yale rivalry, but in university entrepreneurship circles, the annual NYU-Yale Summer Accelerator Pitchoff - happening this Thursday, July 13 - has become a capstone event. Held in New York City, and attracting alumni and investors from both schools, the showdown features three early-stage startups from each school’s summer accelerator program pitching before a judging panel and an audience of supporters for the coveted trophy. Yale won the first year with travel startup Rally; NYU took the second year with a removable tattoo startup called Ephemeral; and Yale won year three with an okara-based flour company called Renewal Mill.  

“The NYU-Yale Pitchoff has become one of the highlights of the YEI Fellowship experience,” says Kassie Tucker, Program Director for the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute. “Our accelerators are closely aligned and this provides a way to celebrate our teams and showcase the exciting ideas in development at both schools.”

For Yale teams, the pitchoff marks the end of a day spent touring Google’s New York City headquarters—including pitches to members of Google staff—and holding meetings with prospective business partners and investors. The three teams chosen to present at the NYU-Yale Pitchoff this year are indicative of the diversity of backgrounds and industries participating in the Fellowship.

Alva Health is a student-faculty venture that is developing a wearable monitor for neurological disorders. Cofounders include Sandra Saldana-Ortega, PhD (SOM ’17); Kevin Sheth, MD, Associate Professor of Neurology and of Neurosurgery; Hitten Zaveri, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurology; and Ronald Coifman, PhD, Phillips Professor of Math and Computer Science. The device and app they are developing would detect a stroke in real time, helping patients to receive needed treatment more quickly and potentially avoiding damaging neurological effects.

A social venture called Penta will also pitch for Yale. The team—Victor Wang (YC ’18), Henry Iseman (YC ’18) and Brown University student Trang Duong—has set up a platform for repurposing used prosthetics to make them available for those with limb disabilities in Vietnam. “Trang and I first learned about the large number of people with disabilities in Vietnam and the difficulties of accessing prosthetic care there two summers ago when we were in Ho Chi Minh city,” says Wang. “We were curious to find out why cost remains such a large barrier despite technological advancements. When we started to talk to doctors and other experts, we found that there is a large number of lightly used and high quality prosthetic devices that are replaced and thrown away in developed countries and thought this would be a good opportunity to create social impact by bringing high quality prosthetic care to Vietnam and to divert medical waste.” 

The third Yale startup, Verb, is already finding success with their caffeinated energy bar. The team of four undergraduates—Matthew Czarnecki (YC ’18), Andre Monteiro (YC ’18), Bennett Byerley (YC ’19) and Isaac Morrier (YC ’17) —met through a Yale entrepreneurship club called Launch and started making their energy bars in the Davenport kitchen. After 100 recipe iterations, they settled on green tea powder as their preferred caffeine source and have since sold thousands of bars both on and off campus—first using rented bakery space, and now through an official manufacturer. The team is currently living in Palo Alto, California, participating in the Highland Capital Summer Fellowship. “It’s the power of a really great team,” Byerley says of their success.

Representing NYU will be ShopDrop, a startup that helps urban fashion lovers discover sample sales; Levitas, a wearable activity monitor that helps nurses to ensure the safety of their patients; and TABu, a mobile payment platform integrated directly with leading point of sale systems.

CONTACT: Brita Belli, Communications Officer, Yale Innovation & Entrepreneurship, (203)804-1911, brita.belli@yale.edu.