Yale students from across campus flooded the annual Startup Yale competition, presenting a variety of entrepreneurial approaches to problems in health care and education and vying for $125,000 in prizes and the chance to turn their ideas into reality.
Students competing for InnovateHealth Yale’s two $25,000 prizes—the Thorne Prize for Social Innovation in Health or Education and the Aetna Foundation Prize for Health Equity Innovation—drew on life experiences, their Yale educations and evolving technology to identify viable solutions to pressing issues in health care and education. Teams in both competitions presented their ideas to a panel of judges who asked pointed, sometimes difficult questions about business models, cost effectiveness, return on investment and potential partnerships. InnovateHealth Yale (IHY) is a program at the Yale School of Public Health that encourages students across Yale to use the principles of entrepreneurship and innovation to address problems in health and education in the United States and around the world.
Two YSPH students were also part of the team that won the $25,000 Sabin Sustainable Venture Prize administered by the Yale Center for Business and the Environment.
Team Easy EC (@easyecapp), which designed a web-based tool to help young people access emergency contraception, won this year’s Thorne Prize. Designed primarily with teens in mind, users can confidentially answer a few simple questions and an algorithm returns options based on self-reported factors, timing, user location, state regulations and local resources for safe, accessible birth control. Both the website and app versions are free.
“Something is fundamentally wrong in the world today,” said Martin Klein, IHY’s director, as he welcomed the audience to this year’s Thorne Prize presentations at the Yale School of Management on April 20. “But, there is a light coming from those who are willing to make a difference through entrepreneurship. IHY provides fuel for those lanterns to help us navigate the coming decades.”
Now in its fifth year, the $25,000 Thorne Prize is awarded to the best student-led venture focused on social innovation in health or education. The prize is awarded each year as part of Startup Yale, to help the winning team further take their idea into next steps of marketing and development.
Other Thorne Prize finalists were Penta, a venture that repurposes used medical equipment for amputees in developing countries; Ride Health, a software platform that helps health care providers coordinate transportation on behalf of patients; and EnvisionED, a credential auditing software for K-12 public school districts.
Raise Green (@RaiseGreenInc) took home the $25,000 Aetna Foundation Prize for their plan to aggregate small investments to provide equity for finance companies, providing investors a market rate of return while financing projects that provide social and environmental benefits.
The other teams competing for the Aetna Foundation Prize, now in its second year, were RAMP (Resource Access Mapping Project) a multilingual digital platform connecting New Haven residents to social services, community programs, and public resources; Ride Health, a software platform that helps healthcare providers coordinate transportation on behalf of patients; and Binocular Health, a consumer device that allows patients to monitor their vital health using retinal images.
Team Easy EC consisted of Nicole Gusman, a student at the School of Public Health, and Robert Cowell. Team Raise Green consisted of six Yale students—Mikeala Bradbury, Franz Hochstrasser, Jason Warrington, Joseph Ansu, Josh Constanti and Matthew Moroney.
Students from the Yale School of Public Health also were on the team that won the $25,000 Sabin Sustainable Venture Prize, which supports student and faculty efforts to start a sustainable for-profit business. Concha Aquaponics developed a saltwater aquaponic system capable of growing both White Pacific Shrimp and the methane-reducing red macroalgae Asparagopsis taxiformis. Team members are Alexia Akbay and Nick Johnson, both of the Yale School of Public Health, as well as Hayley Lemoine, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and Gracie White, a recent Yale graduate.
The week of competition was rounded out with two other $25,000 prizes—the Miller Prize and the Roth Catalyzer Prize, both of which are administered by the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale.