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August 28, 2019

Yale Expo attracts students who mean business

PHOTOS | New Haven Biz Tuesday’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation Expo on Cross Campus.

Tuesday’s Yale Entrepreneurship & Innovation Expo brought together Yale’s many entrepreneurial organizations and clubs for a three-hour meet-and-greet with one another and members of the New Haven business community.

Some two dozen were in attendance all under one (actually, two) tents on Cross Campus.

The event was organized by the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale (Tsai CITY), whose mission is to inspire and support students from diverse backgrounds and disciplines who are seeking innovative solutions to real-world problems. Of which there are many (problems and solutions).

Business was bustling, as budding entrepreneurs jostled to speak to representatives from groups such as the Elm City Innovation Collaborative (ECIC), the Elmseed Enterprise Fund, Yale’s Office of Cooperative Research, innovation incubator/accelerator Collab New Haven, and others.

Some were looking to interact with, educate and maybe even recruit students for future careers in innovation, as well as to work with small businesses outside the Yale orbit. One of those was Chief Operations Officer Sam Coury of the Elmseed Enterprise Fund. Staffed by Yale undergrads like Courey, the EEF provides one-on-one consulting services, entrepreneurship development courses and peer support for new and prospective small-business owners in greater New Haven — ”anywhere from they just have an idea to franchising an existing business,” Coury explained.

Since its founding in 2001 Elmseed, which is supported by the city’s Economic Development Corp. and the New Haven Free Public Library, has assisted some 500 enterprises in and around New Haven.

After graduating from Yale College in 2013, California native Ellen Su decided to stick around New Haven and later co-founded (with chief technology officer Levi DeLuke) a company, Wellinks, that creates wearable devices for orthotics and prosthetics for patients with musculoskeletal conditions. Wellinks was launched in 2016 with the help of a $1 million investment from the Bioscience Innovation Fund managed by Connecticut Innovations, the state’s quasi-public technology-investment arm.


Wellinks co-founder/CEO, Tsai CITY mentor and Yale alumna (Class of ‘13) Ellen Su.

“There are a lot of resources for biotech and life sciences in and around New Haven,” said Su of her decision to start her company, and her career, here. “We’re also right in between Boston and New York, so we have a clinical trial going in New York, we have investors in Boston, so we find ourselves going up and down that corridor fairly often,” she said.

When she’s not running the three-year-old New Haven company as its CEO, Su works one day each week as a mentor-in-residence for Tsai CITY — ”sharing things that we’ve learned and helping students who are still in school avoid the mistakes that we’ve made as we’ve gone out into the world.”

Other entrepreneurs were heads of fledgling enterprises seeking investment dollars. These included New Haven Community Solar LLC, a solar development company seeking “to democratize solar access.” The group seeks to use crowdfunded investments (not to be confused with donations) to install solar panels to provide discount power for an affordable-housing nonprofit in New Haven. (As of Tuesday $1,088.36 has been raised toward a goal of $33,601 — see:

In addition to information, encouragement, networking and inspiration, there was in abundance the life’s blood of all entrepreneurs: free food. Specifically, delicious (or weird, or both) food samples created by Yale-spawned startups.

These included Wildkind frozen plant-based meals, Verb energy bars (65 mg. of caffeine per 22-gram bar — Lord have mercy) and Chirps Chips, made from (truth in advertising here) crickets (17 chips in a 1.25-ounce bag X 1 cricket per chip = 17 cute crickets murdered to make your snack. You glutton).

Bug out: Chirps Chips are free of gluten, nuts, soy, GMO corn and trans fat. The one thing they’re not free of is, um, crickets.

In 2017 Chirps Chips co-founders Laura D’Asaro and Rose Wang appeared on the hit TV show Shark Tank (Wang dressed in a T-shirt that read “Eat What Bugs You”). At the conclusion of the segment the pair made a deal with Mark Cuban for a $100,000 investment in exchange for a 15-percent equity stake in the company.

Which is something worth chirping about.


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