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:
- Stimulate applications of entrepreneurship and innovation to address issues of sustainability;
- Promote multi-disciplinary approaches to environmental/social problem solving;
- Generate ideas that are scalable, achievable, quantifiable, and financeable; and
- Educate about how entrepreneurs turn a concept into a successful reality.
Want to read the application first? You can preview it here.
- February 1, 2021: Optional Startup Yale mentorship request form opens
- February 21, 2021: Optional Startup Yale mentorship request form closes (mentors are assigned on a rolling basis)
- February 22, 2021: Startup Yale application opens
- March 21, 2021: Startup Yale application deadline
- April 11, 2021 (approximately): Finalists selected
April 30 or May 1, 2021: Finalists participate in a live pitch event as part of Startup Yale.
Applicants will be evaluated and selected by a committee of professionals and experts, based on the following criteria:
- Opportunity: The problem the venture/organization/idea seeks to address is clearly defined, and there is evidence that there is a significant target population who considers it important.
- Viability: The team has developed a clear solution to the problem, has a realistic path for getting the solution to the end user, and can continue to deliver the solution in a way that is financially and operationally sustainable.
- Innovation: The idea is truly innovative. It presents a new model, product or service that fills a unique gap and/or applies an existing model to a new context.
- Team: The team has the knowledge, skills, passion, energy and ability to execute.
- Catalytic-ness: The prize will be meaningful in driving the team/project forward in ways that may otherwise not have been possible as quickly or at all.
- Environmental impact: The venture contributes environmental benefits to society.
The 2021 Sabin Prize is part of Startup Yale, a collaboration between the Yale Center for Business and the Environment, InnovateHealth Yale, Dwight Hall, and the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale. From April 29-May 1, this event will virtually bring together Yale’s entrepreneurs in two days packed with pitches, prizes, and world-changing ideas. Over $125k of prizes will be awarded to the finalists, including:
- Sabin Sustainable Venture Prize ($25k)
- Miller Prize ($25k)
- Thorne Prize for Social Innovation in Health or Education ($25k)
- Rita Wilson Prize Fund in Support of Innovation and Entrepreneurship ($10k)
- Rothberg Catalyzer Prize ($15k)
- Yale Innovators' Prize ($15k)
- New Haven Civic Innovation Prize ($10k)
Office hours: Meet with a member of our team for one-on-one advice and consultation.
- Sign up here for Sabin Prize office hours with CBEY's environmental innovation manager, Ben Soltoff, as well as other members of the environmental startup funding team. During these sessions, you should feel free to discuss process, questions, or anything on your mind regarding the Sabin Prize.
- Meet with CBEY mentors for feedback and connections to other resources at Yale.
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.
2010 Sabin Sustainable Venture Prize winner is part of Microsoft’s AI for Good initiative.
Microsoft’s AI for Good initiative empowers people around the world working to solve humanitarian issues and create a more sustainable and accessible world. Learn how SilviaTerra is empowering conservationists, government organizations, and landowners to inventory forests for ecological social and economic health using AI.
Please see FAQs below, and if you have more questions reach out to Ben Soltoff (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Forest Abbott-Lum (email@example.com).
What is the difference between the various Startup Yale prizes?
Check out the Startup Yale website for descriptions of each prize being offered.
Can I apply for more than one prize?
Yes. In the application form, you can select up to three 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?
The judging panel is made up of experts at the intersection of business and the environment, including industry professionals, academics, entrepreneurs and investors. Bios for all the Startup Yale judges can be found here.
Does my venture have to be a for-profit?
Yes, to win the Sabin 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 win prizes in the past who have been working on their idea for as little as 3 months or as long as several years!
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 value proposition, commitment, and progress. 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 21, 2021 by 11:59pm. Four teams will be chosen to pitch live to a panel of judges at Startup Yale, held on April 30-May 1, 2021.
What do I get if I win?
A $25,000 cash prize.
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 applications. Historically, we have received 10-20 applications per year for the Sabin Sustainable Venture 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.
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.”