Sobotka Seed Prize for Sustainable Ventures
Innovate with a purpose. Start a venture that addresses the needs of both the market and the planet.
This prize provides seed funding for start-up ventures in the field of business and the environment. The goal of the funding is to support students in creating competitive commercial enterprises that market viable products, services, and projects while tackling some key environmental problems.
We are looking for solutions in four key areas where science tells us there is an urgent need for action1:
- Protecting and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity
- Food, agriculture and land use
- Energy use, efficiency and access
- Materials and waste
$20,000 will be distributed between one or two ventures selected to receive the prize.
We allow solutions at all stages of development that tackle these four areas of impact, as long as there is potential for impact and the idea is viable.
The application for the 2022 Sobotka Prize is currently open.
1We looked at three frameworks to identify these key areas of impact and action.
Project Drawdown’s framework
Planetary Boundaries framework
United Nations Environment Programme’s Global Environmental Outlook 6 (Fig 22.2 pg.515)
The Sobotka Prizes are for student ventures from departments across Yale University. Use of the proceeds is limited to one year and may cover expenses including, but not limited to equipment, analyses, data purchasing and surveying, business filing, and travel for faculty and students.
The application must include:
- Qualtrics online application
- Excel-based budget
- Team members’ resumes
- Theory of Change worksheet (see application for details)
Successful proposals should meet the following criteria:
Teams must include at least one current Yale student.
The business concept must be commercially viable and produce environmental benefits for society.
Ideas should fall within the four identified areas of impact.
Teams must not have previously won a Sobotka Prize (or, as the opportunity was previously known, a Sobotka Grant) or any of the prizes offered as part of Startup Yale.
Applications must be submitted by November 6, 2022 at 11:59 PM.
Applicants will be notified by the end of the semester whether or not they have been awarded a prize. These are competitive prizes that will be evaluated and selected by a committee of professionals and experts. Proposals will be evaluated for the following:
- Viability: Does the venture have commercial viability? Is the idea financially and operationally sustainable? Does the theory of change make sense?
- Opportunity: Is there a need for the proposed solution and will customers pay for it? Is there sufficient demand/opportunity in the market? Does it have a competitive advantage with differentiation and address barriers to entry/exit?
- Team: Does the team composition include knowledge, skills, passion, energy and ability to execute?
- Environmental impact: What is the potential to contribute environmental benefits to society? What are the negative impacts and how does the team plan to address them?
- Financials: Do the assumptions in the financial plan reflect what's needed to execute? Are they in the ballpark of realism? Is there appropriate spending in the right areas? Is the proposed use of proceeds a sensible path to advance the venture?
- Succinctness: Clarity and quality of grant application
The winning student ventures are required to acknowledge, where relevant, support from the Sobotka Prize.
David Sobotka will be providing one-on-one advising sessions soon to help teams with their business plans.
For advice on your idea, feel free to meet with one of our CBEY Resident Fellows. You can also book office hours with the CBEY team here.
Teams are strongly encouraged to schedule at least one mentorship session. These sessions are non-evaluative and have no bearing on the selection process. Neither David nor any of the CBEY Fellows are part of the judging panel.
Over the years, the Sobotka Seed Stage Grant program has supported many start-up sustainable business ventures. Read the stories about past recipients and how this grant impacted the trajectory of their ideas.
- GreenBowl (2021)
- WovX (2021)
- Upright (2020)
- Ecopackables (2020)
- Cambium Carbon (2019)
- Floe (2019)
- Hand Me Up (2018)
- GreenGear (2018)
- DroneFlow (2017)
- Real Impact Tracker (2017)
- Bike City (2016)
- Kitchen Table/Zoni Foods (2016)
- Appalachian Roots – Hemp 2.0 (2015)
- Maike Water (2015)
- Poda Foods (2014)
- Tuckerman & Co. (2014)
- Shoots LLC (2013)
- Guide Finder (2012)
1. Can my business idea be an international venture and not necessarily within the USA?
Absolutely, your venture can be anywhere globally provided it has an environmentally beneficial impact.
2. What are my chances of winning?
Every application is considered holistically and has an equal and fair opportunity to win. Historically we have received between 10-20 applications per year.
3. Does it matter where in the process I am?
It doesn't matter if your venture is in the Ideation, Pursuing, or Executing stage. Successful applications have come from each of those stages. What is most important is that the application demonstrates the viability of the idea, the potential impact, and the capability of the team to execute it.
4. Is the Sobotka Prize more for environmental or social business ventures?
Environmental impact is a requirement for the application. However, if your venture has a predominately positive social impact and a minor environmental impact, then we still encourage you to apply as we consider these applications seriously.