Funding Opportunity

Sabin Sustainable Venture Prize

As part of Startup Yale, the Sabin Prize will award $25,000 to a promising student business venture that advances environmental sustainability. In addition to the potential prize money, the competition provides opportunities for mentorship, feedback, and networking.

Overview

Awarded each spring, the Sabin Sustainable Venture Prize supports Yale's most innovative ideas for businesses that advance a more sustainable way of life. Past winners include an online social platform to expand the adoption of solar power, a software package for improving forest inventory data, and a sustainable protein producer.

The competition provides participants with constructive feedback from experienced professionals, mentorship from relevant experts, and chances to meet venture capital investors and industry leaders. Sabin winners also receive a cash prize of $25,000. 

The program was created in 2008 with the generous support of the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation. It is managed by the Yale Center for Business and the Environment (CBEY) and seeks to:

  1. Stimulate applications of entrepreneurship and innovation to address issues of sustainability;
  2. Promote multi-disciplinary approaches to environmental/social problem solving;
  3. Generate ideas that are scalable, achievable, quantifiable, and financeable; and
  4. Educate about how entrepreneurs turn a concept into a successful reality.

If you would like additional support, we will match you with a mentor or industry expert who will work with you during the spring semester. To receive this support, you will need to complete and submit the Mentor Request Form by January 25th at midnight. This element of the competition is completely optional.

To compete for the Sabin Prize, please submit the Yale Prizes Application by March 8th at midnight.

    Timeline

    January 25, 2019: Mentorship application due [Application now closed]

    March 8, 2019: Prize application due [Apply here]

    April 3-5, 2019: Finalists participate in a live pitch-off [Event details here]

    Startup Yale

    The Sabin Prize is part of Startup Yale, a collaboration between the Yale Center for Business and the Environment, InnovateHealth Yale, and the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale. On April 3-5, this event will bring together Yale’s entrepreneurs in two days packed with pitches, prizes, and world-changing ideas. Over $100k of prizes will be awarded, including:

    Past Recipients

    Over the years, the Sabin Sustainable Venture Prize has supported many environmentally relevant business ventures.  Read stories about past recipients and how this prize impacted the trajectory of their ideas. 

    FAQs

    Please see FAQs below, and if you have more questions reach out to Sophie Janaskie at sophie.janaskie@yale.edu or Ben Soltoff at ben.soltoff@yale.edu.

    What is the difference between the various prizes?

    Each prize has a different theme:

    • Sabin Sustainable Venture Prize: Environmental or Sustainability challenges
    • Thorne Prize for Social Innovation in Health or Education: Social innovation in the fields of health or education.
    • Miller Prize: disruptive tech or tech-enabled service
    • Rothberg Catalyzer Prize: Developing an innovative hardware solution to a medical challenge.

    Can I apply to more than one prize?

    Yes. In the application form, you can select which prizes you would like to be considered for.

    Am I eligible?

    At least one team member must be a full-time current Yale student. Additionally, teams that have previously won a prize during Startup Yale are not eligible to win the Sabin Prize in any following year.

    Who are the judges?

    There are different judging panels for each prize. Each judging panel is made up of experts in the relevant field, including industry experts, academics, entrepreneurs and investors. The Sustainable Venture Prize has judges which are concentrated at the intersection of business and the environment.

    Does my venture have to be a for-profit or not-profit?

    To win the Sustainable Venture Prize your venture must be a for-profit start-up.

    (Please note though, that it is not required for the venture to be incorporated before competing for Yale Prizes)

    What stage should my idea be?

    Your idea can be at any stage. The judges want to see that the $25k will be catalytic. However, if you can show that you have spoken to customers/users/beneficiaries or have a prototype of your product/service – this is seen favorably. We have seen teams who have been working on their idea for as little as 3 months, or as long as several years, win prizes in the past!

    Does it matter where in the process I am?

    Regardless of whether your venture is in the Ideation, Pursuing, Executing or Prototyping phase, your application will allow you to demonstrate your commitment towards thinking through the various entrepreneurial elements. Furthermore, regardless of which phase you are in, your application will highlight how much you have learned through the application process and how robust your idea has consequently become.

    What is the difference between Ideation, Pursuing, Executing and Prototyping?

    Ideation indicates that you have a basic idea with very high-level thoughts around your business model and value proposition. Everyone starts here at some point. Pursuing indicates that you are actively implementing the business by developing the business model or some form of minimum viable product. People in the Executing phase have taken the next step by demonstrating a commitment of time and energy to realize something of tangible value for their efforts. Prototyping shows that you have developed your product and service in a rough format which you are trialing.

    What is the timeline?

    Final Applications are due March 8, 2019 at 11:59pm. Four teams will be chosen to pitch live to a panel of judges at Startup Yale, held on April 3-5, 2019.

    What do I get if I win?

    A $25,000 cash prize.

    In addition, for the Sabin Sustainable Venture Prize you receive automatic acceptance to the CITY Summer Fellowship, including $15,000 stipend, 8-week incubator program and mentorship.

    Can my business idea be an international venture and not necessarily within the USA?

    Yes, ideas can be anywhere globally. Therefore, both domestic and international.

    What are my chances of winning?

    Every application is considered holistically and has an equal and fair opportunity to win. Each prize receives varying amounts of entrees. Historically, we have received between six and ten applications for the Sabin Sustainable Venture Prize. To increase your chances further, we would encourage you to apply to more than one prize.

    To what extent is the Sabin Sustainable Venture Prize orientated towards environmental sustainability?

    The primary objective is to ensure that your for-profit venture seeks to advance a more sustainable way of life. Many of these businesses tend to be within the environmental ecosystem. Applications from food companies, agricultural businesses, air quality improvement ventures and water purification projects have been well received. Furthermore, previous successful entrants have also been tech orientated by creating platforms to promote solar power and forest inventory.

    Other resources

    Office hours: Meet with a member of our team for one-on-one advice and consultation.

    • Visit us during our office hours to discuss process, questions, or anything on your mind regarding the Sabin Prize. Sign-ups will open soon.
    • Meet with Peter Boyd or Sophie Janaskie for feedback and connections to other resources at Yale.

    The Workshop Series

    Along with the award, the Sabin Sustainable Venture initiative is comprised of a workshop series dedicated to business and the environment.

    The focus of this year’s series is “Skills for Sustainable Innovation,” and it is designed to help students build skills to address challenges faced by environmental entrepreneurs. Topics include “Sustainable Product Design” and “Marketing & Communications Strategy for Responsible Ventures.”

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