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Startup Yale 2023: A Celebration of Entrepreneurship

Last week, Startup Yale celebrated the incredible entrepreneurship and innovation of the Yale and New Haven community for the seventh year in a row. Beginning on March 30th, student and community ventures pitched their projects to panels of experts and were awarded some of Yale’s biggest entrepreneurship awards. Over the two days, 31 teams shared their ideas and competed for more than $175,000 in funding. Meet the winning teams:

Thorne Prize for Social Innovation in Health or Education (funded by InnovateHealth Yale)

The event started virtually with the Thorne Prize, an award of $25,000 presented to the best student-led venture focusing on social innovation in health and education for underserved communities in the United States or low-resource countries.

This year, it went to Carys Cares (Carys Mihardja YC’ 26), a social enterprise aimed at embracing the Down Syndrome community. Attendees logged in to the event had the opportunity to vote for the audience choice award, which went to Mindful Kala (Shruti Parthasarathy YC ’24, Suba Ramesh YC ’24, Poojha Prabaharasundar, Srinaath Perangur), an organization that helps teens foster cultural dialogue & well-being through evidence-based Indian Classical Dance & mindfulness practices.

New Haven Civic Innovation Prize (funded by Dwight Hall at Yale)
The day ended with the New Haven Civic Innovation Prize, an award for the best student- or community-led project dedicated to benefiting the City of New Haven.

This $10,000 cash prize is open to the entire New Haven community. The well-deserved winner for this grand prize was The Key Bookstore (Khamani Harrison, Rochelle Williams, Mario Salazar), an AfroFuturistic bookstore app for book lovers to connect, curate & engage beyond the singular trip to the bookstore.

The audience choice award went to YEP! (Ashley Kwak YC ’24, Stella Gray YC ’24, Cole Kaufmann YC ’24), a free entrepreneurship program for New Haven public school students that aims to create the next generation of changemakers.

Miller Prize (funded by Tsai CITY)
The first prize of the second day of Startup Yale 2023 was the Miller Prize, a $25,000 cash prize for the best student-led technology solution venture. Banofi Leather (Jinali Mody YSE ’23) took home the prize this year for their vegan plant-based leather made from crop waste, while the audience choice award went to Cache DNA (Heather E Williams SOM ’23, Michael Becich) for their biomolecule storage proposal.

Sustainable Venture Prize (funded by Yale Center for Business and the Environment)
Next up was the Sustainable Venture Prize, awarded to the most promising student venture focusing on environmental sustainability. This prize of $25,000 was given to General Biological (David Sozanski YC ’23, Julian Rubinfien YC ’23, Abhinav Godavarthi) for their mass-market chemicals made from sugar instead of oil. Carbon Loop (Harrison Meyer YSE ’24, Perry Bakas SOM ’24, Conor Rooney GSAS ’24) won the audience choice award for their recycling of waste carbon into high-value byproducts project.

Rita Wilson Prize in Support of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Health Technology (funded by InnovateHealth Yale)
The Rita Wilson Prize is awarded to creative solutions to health or education challenges among low-income communities in the United States or low-resource countries. Ensight-AI (Veer Sangha YC ’23, Rohan Khera, Harlan Krumholz) was awarded this year for their AI technology transforming cardiovascular disease diagnosis. The audience choice award went to Equolity Bio (Hassaan Qadir YC ’25, Luis Zuniga YC ’25, Enya Mistry YC ’26), a venture working to treat symptoms of menopause.

Black Venture Summit Prize (co-funded by Tsai CITY and CTNext)
We stretched our legs and went over to the Yale School of Management for the next prize, the Black Venture Summit Prize. In its inaugural year, this prize awarded $20,000 to the venture that addressed a need among Black communities or whose founder identifies as Black or African-American. In a packed Zhang Auditorium full of Yale and New Haven community entrepreneurs, investors, and innovators, Webquity (Kianjai Huggan, David Pellegrini, Katie Yarnold, Sophie Liu) took home the big prize for their work providing accessibility tools to students with visual dyslexia or visual impairment. Halo Braid (Yinka Ogunbiyi, David Afolabi, Christian Knight) took the audience choice award for their project, reducing hair braiding time from 6 hours to minutes and empowering hair stylists to double their business.

Yale Innovators’ Prize (co-funded by Tsai CITY and Yale School of Management Program on Entrepreneurship)
The Yale Innovators’ Prize awarded $15,000 to the student-led venture or nonprofit with the most significant potential for large-scale impact. This year Catala (James Licato YC ’25, Jaehong Kim, Bob Migliorini), a catalyst-based technology venture working to destroy contaminants in wastewater, took home the prize. Meanwhile, the audience choice award went to Phigitals (Lacie Thorne SOM ’23), a project that extends a fashion brand’s e-commerce site into a resale marketplace.

Manolo Sanchez Prize (funded by Tsai CITY)
The final day of Startup Yale 2023 ended with the Manolo Sanchez Prize, a $25,000 award for a for-profit or nonprofit that will improve the financial health of the financially underserved. The award went to Fines and Fees Freedom Fund (Alejandra Uria LAW ’23, Caela Murphy SOM ’23, Elena Sokoloski LAW ’25, Liam Grace-Flood), a venture combating poverty-based incarceration through strategic payment of fines and fees, legal support, advocacy, and movement building. The early-stage project, Sillable (Aaron Daniels YC ’23, Burton Lyng-Olsen YC ’25), took the audience choice award for their platform, allowing customers to find, browse, and buy from local businesses online while enjoying the benefits of shopping locally.

In the final remarks of Startup Yale 2023, Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale director of operations and technology Abby Winslow took a moment to thank the entire pool of 126 applicants, 25 reviewers, and 32 judges for their hard work and dedication; and recognized the generous prize donors, sponsor MindTrust, and the Yale Entrepreneurship Collaborative of university centers, organizations, and programs for providing invaluable support to our entrepreneurs.

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