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Yale Venture Challenge

For ten years, the Yale Entrepreneurial Society (YES) has hosted the Yale Venture Challenge to encourage entrepreneurship in the Yale community and support the growth of startups at Yale.

The competition starts with teams submitting their business plans to YES on March 31st. The judging committee will  evaluate these business models and assign scores to determine the final six teams selected to compete at the Yale Innovation Summit on April 22nd.

Submissions should include a business plan and pitch deck. Follow this link to submit application: http://yei.yale.edu/2014-yale-venture-challenge

Submissions due: Monday, March 31st at midnight

Preliminary round feedback: Tuesday, April 15th

YES Innovation Summit: Tuesday, April 22nd


Final Submissions should cover the following:

  • Executive Summary: This should concisely encapsulate the essence of your venture. What problem do you look to solve, what’s your solution, why is your team qualified, and why is your idea going to work?
  • Market & Customers: What is the existing market for you product or service? How big is it, what does it look like? How do you know this market really exists and wants your product?
  • Product of Service: What do you do? How do you do it? How does this solve your stated problem?
  • Competition: What currently exists in your absence? What do you replace? Who are you racing to replace it? Why are you better?
  • Marketing: How do you sell your product? How do you reach your target market?
  • Profit Strategy & Final Projections: How does your idea make money? What’s the real model, and how do you know that the people you’re asking for money will pay it? What assumptions have you made to get to this point? Provide projections for two years out to accompany your claims.
  • Team: Who is on your team, and why are they the best qualified to execute on your idea? If you’re still compiling a team, explain exactly what it is that you’re missing, and explain that your strategy is to fill out your team.

How Does Judging Work?

Once all submissions are in, they will be disbursed to a wide panel of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, legal professionals, and other relevant experts to evaluate and score. These scoring will be returned and evaluated to determine which teams move on the to final round. The finalists will give live pitches to a panel of experienced judges who will decide the final winners.

The following are some (but certainly not all) criteria that will be used to evaluate each team:

  • Feasibility & market opportunity
  • Growth Potential
  • Quality and breadth of experience on the team
  • Ability to withstand and beat competitors
  • Originality of product
  • Overall presentation of the pitch, from the plan, to the deck, and the impression given at the time of the final pitch.

YVC 2014 Timeline

Business Plan Submissions Due March 31, 2014, 11:59 PM
Finalists Announced, Preliminary Round Feedback Returned April 15
Yale Innovation Summit, Finalists give pitches before live panel, Winners Announced April 22


What is a Business Model Competition?

In traditional business plan competitions, teams are judged on plans that are built on a multitude of untested assumptions.  Teams can spend months putting together plans that have little basis in reality and then launch their business ill-prepared for the real world.

A business model competition judges how well teams formulate their business model hypotheses and then test and iterate them as they learn by working with potential customers, partners, and distributors.

The difference between business plan and business model competitions is that the latter rewards proven execution and assumption testing.  There are several advantages:

  • Judging is based on the model and how the team got there, recognizing that the learning process is key to new venture success. This avoids the “beauty contest” aspect of business plans – where judges resort to choosing the best assembled plan rather than the best business or the team that has made the most progress in figuring out product-market fit.
  • Teams, whether they win or lose, finish the competition significantly more prepared to launch their business in the real world.  The competition includes education and networking events to help the teams identify and test the key assumptions of their business.

Who Can Compete?

The majority of the founders of a team must be students of Yale College or any Yale Graduate School or faculty of any of those institutions. At least one of the principal founders must be a student.

How Can I Join a Team?

If you have an idea or want to lend your skills in an existing team, start by subscribing to the YES newsletter and looking around the YES website for events to meet entrepreneurs and find openings in start-ups. You can also email the YVC director at Competitions@YESatYale.org