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Yale Innovators Celebrated at Startup Yale 2021

Startup Yale 2021 took place from April 29 through May 1, bringing together eight events and hundreds of virtual attendees in a series of conversations and pitch-offs. For the second year, Startup Yale took place entirely on Zoom, with students from across Yale pitching for the campus’ biggest entrepreneurship awards in front of a live audience.

The event kicked off with a keynote featuring Porter Braswell (YC ’11), in conversation with Tsai CITY faculty director Anjelica Gonzalez and Tsai CITY student team member Jamal Davis Neal, Jr. (YDS ’23). Braswell is the founder of Jopwell, a platform that represents and advances careers for Black, Latinx, and Native American students and professionals, as well as the author of Let Them See You: The Guide for Leveraging Your Diversity at Work. The conversation focused on bringing your authentic self to work, Braswell’s own entrepreneurial journey, and the impact of his time at Yale. Reflecting on his decision to pivot his career and start building a better approach to diversity recruiting, Braswell said, “I have followed a path that enables me to bring everything that I can bring to the table each and every day, and amazing things happen when you have that ability.” At Jopwell, he’s working to create systems that bring that ability to everyone.

Following the keynote, Startup Yale moved into its signature events: a series of live pitch-offs featuring student venture teams. This year, seven prizes were in the mix, with funding totaling roughly $125,000. In opening remarks on the event’s first day, Clare Leinweber remarked, “It’s been a challenging 14 months for all of us. Through it all, Yale students have continued to work with passion and discipline on their new ventures.” This sentiment was reflected over and over as the teams began their pitches: many teams had navigated rapid pivots in the past year, from reorienting priorities around urgent community needs to figuring out how to collaborate while scattered around the country and world. Meet this year’s Startup Yale winners:

New Haven Civic Innovation Prize
The New Haven Civic Innovation Prize, managed by Dwight Hall at Yale, awards up to $10,000 to the best student- or community-led venture or project focused on benefiting the City of New Haven. The Prize aims to catalyze student- and community-led innovations that address, and are informed by, community priorities. This year, the prize was opened to applications from all New Haven community members, not just students.

Prize winners: Project Lighten Up ($7000), LawText ($3000)
Alice Yiqian Wang (YLS ’23), Bridget Algee-Hewitt | Joseph Bennett (YC ’24), Stephen Cremin-Endes, Leslie Radcliffe, Lt. Colon, Alan Kendrix

The judges decided to split the prize into awards to two teams. Inspired by Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, Project Lighten Up addresses Newhallville residents’ safety concerns. NHS, city officials, and local leaders have collaborated for eight years to improve street lights and install exterior house lights, and are transitioning to motion sensor solar units.

Using unsupervised and supervised machine learning such natural language processing, topic modeling, and sentiment analysis, LawText is an AI-powered platform designed to support immigration attorneys and asylum seekers.

Audience choice award: Collab
Caroline Tanbee Smith (YC ’14), Margaret Lee (YC ’14), Ndubisi Okeke (SOM ’20), George Black

Collab’s mission is to provide entrepreneurs with impactful, rigorous business support using a compassionate, heart-centered approach so that they can build good businesses, create economic power, and shape New Haven for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Rita Wilson Prize Fund in Support of Innovation and Entrepreneurship
The Rita Wilson Prize Fund in Support of Innovation and Entrepreneurship is a $10,000 cash prize awarded by InnovateHealth Yale to the best student-led venture focused on creating a technological solution to address a health disparity in the United States.

Prize winner: Mindful Kala
Shruti Parthasarathy (YC ’24), Suba Ramesh (YC ’24), Dr. David Victorson, Medha Hari, Rima Patel, Zeenat Vastrad

Mindful Kala aims to help elevate mental and social well-being by utilizing Indian Classical Dance to explore mind-body movements and cultivate intercultural relationships.

Audience choice award winner: Mindful Kala
Mindful Kala took home both awards in this event.

Thorne Prize for Social Innovation in Public Health or Education
This $25,000 cash prize is awarded by InnovateHealth Yale to the best student-led venture focused on social innovation in health or education.

Prize winner: Sprxng
Phyllis Mugadza (YC ’21 / YSPH ’22)

Sprxng is a reusable menstrual disc that provides menstrual pain relief. Their disc is designed for an easy insertion and a mess-free removal. Sprxng is on a mission to combat the stigma around menstruation and to improve the global menstrual experience.

Audience choice award winner: Sprxng
Sprxng took home both awards in this event.

Miller Prize
The Miller Prize awards a $25,000 cash prize to a promising student-led venture working on innovative tech or tech-enabled solutions.

Prize winner: Floe
David Dellal (GSAS ’24), Hector Castillo (GSAS ’26), Mitchell Guillaume

Floe envisions a world where we can respond to nature’s winter challenges without damaging nature itself.

Audience choice award winner: Telex
Antonio Cao (YC ’22), Tim Foldy-Porto (YC ’20)

This tool makes building 3D models as easy as sketching on paper and sculpting a piece of clay.

Rothberg Catalyzer Prize @ Yale
The Rothberg Catalyzer Prize awards $15,000 to the best student-led venture focused on developing an innovative hardware or AI solution to a medical challenge.

Prize winner: ReCore Medical
David Dupee (YSM/SOM ’21), Marley Windham-Herman (YSM/SOM ’21), Walter Bircher (GSAS ’21), Lina Kacyem (SOM ’21)

ReCore was created to address the growing need for cancer diagnosis around the world. They are creating reusable biopsy devices that reduce cost and increase global access to procedures that are the gateway to timely cancer treatment.

Audience choice award winner: Mobile Memory
Shreya Nuli (YC ’24), Richard Hausman (YC ’24), Ana Greenberg (YC ’22), Matthew Fan (YC ’24), Dhruva Gupta (YC ’20)

Mobile Memory is an AI-driven platform that monitors cognitive health using speech-based analytics. The venture is pioneering a new cost-effective and accessible tool to screen for Alzheimer’s disease based on vocal biomarkers.

Sabin Sustainable Venture Prize
The Sabin Prize, managed by the Yale Center for Business and the Environment, awards $25,000 to a promising student business venture that advances environmental sustainability.

Prize winner: EcoPackables
Shervin Dehmoubed (YC ’24)

EcoPackables is a sustainable packaging company that manufactures and distributes compostable and recycled packaging. Their mission is to eliminate the use of virgin paper and plastics in packaging by partnering with purpose-driven brands to switch to our packaging.

Audience choice award winner: Shoots
Kevin Gallagher (YC ’21)

Shoots invigorates farmers to grow more crops on less land more sustainably. Their biostimulant, which is a non-fertilizer product that is beneficial to plant yield, is proven to increase growth by 216%, reduce fertilizer use by 50%-100%, and promote carbon sequestration.

Yale Innovators’ Prize
Making its debut this year, the Yale Innovators’ Prize is a $15,000 cash prize awarded to the for-profit or non-profit startup that has the potential to produce the greatest impact (financially, socially, or otherwise).

Prize winner: EcoPackables
Shervin Dehmoubed (YC ’24)

EcoPackables is a sustainable packaging company that manufactures and distributes compostable and recycled packaging. Their mission is to eliminate the use of virgin paper and plastics in packaging by partnering with purpose-driven brands to switch to our packaging.

Audience choice award winner: Females for Finance
Anisha Arcot (YC ’23), Grace Baghdadi (YC ’22), Alexandra Otterstrom (YC ’22), Yunji Jong (YC ’22), Olivia Levieux (YC ’21), Ameena Kapadia (YC ’23)

Females for Finance is a non-profit that aims to bridge the gender inequalities in the financial industry by providing high school girls with a foundation in financial literacy, investment, and the necessary skills to build a career in finance and transform the industry from within.

In remarks on Startup Yale’s final day, Yale Center for Business and the Environment executive director Stuart DeCew congratulated the entire pool of finalist teams on their ability “to push through, see a pathway, and develop their ideas,” characterizing them as a “really, really remarkable group of people.” Looking ahead, this remarkable group of student innovators will continue to grow their ventures — and Yale’s innovation community will be there to cheer them on.

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