The four teams waited anxiously. They had spent months preparing for today, beating out 12 other teams for the chance to present. Standing in front of an audience of peers, faculty, and a panel of investment experts, the teams pitched their ideas for new sustainable ventures, hoping to walk away with 2014's $25,000 Sabin Sustainability Venture Prize.
After careful deliberation, the panel, made up of authorities from real estate (Dan Emmett), green banks (Bryan Garcia), venture capital (Rosemary Ripley), philanthropy (Sabin Prize donor Andrew Sabin), and entrepreneurship (Kyle Jensen), announced that, by a vote of 3-2, water testing team Alpha-Screen had won their support.
The winning idea:
Alpha-Screen: Led by Yale Ph.D candidate Monika Weber, MBA/Ph.D candidate Seyla Azoz, and MBA candidate Anthony Lynn, the Alpha-Screen team is developing a portable device designed to radically improve our ability to test for environmental contaminants in water and blood. Right now, it takes multiple days for water samples to come back from a lab. Armed with patented chip technology developed at Yale, the Alpha-Screen team brings that timeframe down to 30 minutes while improving accuracy, sensitivity, user-friendliness, and portability. As recipients of over $4 million to date, Weber and her team now seek an additional $400,000 in funding to transform their ideas into a testable handheld prototype.
The other finalists:
Chive: Designed with the busy consumer who doesn't want to sacrifice authenticity or flavor in mind when buying on-the-go meals, Chive offers a quick and easy lunch or dinner option featuring low-fat Chinese wraps. Serving the growing fast-casual market along the lines of Chipotle and Panera, Chive strives to bring the sustainable, seasonal Chinese tradition of "Chun-Bing," or "a taste of spring" to the New Haven area, followed by expansion to other Northeastern cities. The Chive team is led by Yong Zhao, along with Wanting Zhang, Ming Bai (all of Yale), Jasmine Guo (Washington University in St. Louis), and David Tan (Tsinghua University).
Sage: Harnessing the power of mobile technology, gaming, and social media, Sage is a smartphone app designed to use competition to motivate fresher, healthier food choices. Inspired by Opower and Strava's models of social comparisons-based positive behavior change, Jeff Woodward (MBA/MEM '14) and Sarah Lynn Wilson (MBA/MEM '15) joined forces in the fall of 2013 to develop a way for people to receive ratings for their grocery store purchases. Over the summer, Woodward and Wilson will work with a developer to quickly turn their idea into a full app prototype for beta release.
SOL Hydration: Eric Cane, Jeremiah Kreisberg, and Jacob Sandry had a lot in common. They were all Yale College Varsity athletes who cared about staying fit and healthy, and they were all frustrated by available sports drink options. Starting off in their dorm rooms, the three students began tinkering with all natural sports drink recipes. Now in its fourth iteration, their SOL Hydration drink is packed with electrolytes and nutrients derived solely from organic, GMO-free ingredients. According to them, SOL is "Organic sports hydration. Done Right."
The Sabin Sustainable Venture Prize (the “Sabin Prize”) is an initiative created with the generous support of the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation and managed by the Yale Center for Business and the Environment (“the Center”). It is awarded on an annual basis to the best Yale student and/or faculty ideas for a product, service, project or program that advances a more sustainable way of life.
Photo from NIH-NIAID