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Funding Opportunity

Sustainable Venture Prize

The Sustainable Venture Prize awards $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.

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The 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. Winners also receive a cash prize of $25,000. 

The program was created in 2008. 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.

Sustainable Venture Prize 2022

Apply Here

Startup Yale is happening April 28 - April 30, 2022. Startup Yale brings together Yale’s biggest entrepreneurship awards in two days packed with pitches, prizes, and world-changing ideas. Here, Yale innovators join community leaders, investors, and practitioners to reimagine the future. Grounded in inclusivity and impact, Startup Yale is a crossroads for a new kind of innovation ecosystem.

As part of Startup Yale, the Sustainable Venture Prize will be held on Saturday, April 30th from 9:00 am - 11:00 am ET.  Four teams will pitch their businesses that advance sustainability... one will walk away with a cash prize of $25,000.

The Startup Yale prize application will be open from February 22 to March 22, 2022. 

Meet past Sustainable Venture Prize Finalists:

EcoPackables: EcoPackables is a sustainable packaging company that manufactures and distributes compostable and recycled packaging. Our mission is to eliminate the use of virgin paper and plastics in packaging by partnering with purpose-driven brands to switch to our packaging.

MAA’VA: MAA’VA creates affordable and sustainable 3D printed housing by turning plastic waste into eco-concrete. Traditional construction time, costs, and wastes are cut by over 60%, while plastic is recycled to build stronger, more eco-friendly structures.

Qi Foods: Qi Foods aims to bring traditional East Asian superfoods to the mainstream Western market through a brand that educates consumers about these foods, its flavors, and health benefits starting with a naturally sweet beverage line made with East Asian superfoods and produced with a sustainable and transparent supply chain.

Shoots: Shoots invigorates farmers to grow more crops on less land more sustainably. Our biostimulant, which is a non-fertilizer product that is beneficial to plant yield, is proven to increase growth by 216%, reduce fertilizer use by 50%-100%, and promote carbon sequestration.

Timeline

  • January 24, 2022: Optional Startup Yale mentorship request form opens 
  • February 21, 2022: Optional Startup Yale mentorship request form closes (mentors are assigned on a rolling basis)
  • February 22, 2022: Startup Yale application opens
  • March 22, 2022: Startup Yale application deadline
  • April 11, 2022 (approximately): Finalists selected
  • April 28 - April 30, 2022: Finalists participate in a live pitch event as part of Startup Yale.

Criteria

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.

Startup Yale

The 2022 Sustainable Venture 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 28-April 30, this event will virtually bring together Yale’s entrepreneurs in three days packed with pitches, prizes, and world-changing ideas. Over $135k of prizes will be awarded to the finalists.

Office Hours

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

  • Sign up here for Sustainable Venture Prize office hours with CBEY's environmental innovation fellow, Urvi Talaty, 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 Sustainable Venture Prize.
  • Meet with CBEY mentors for feedback and connections to other resources at Yale.

Past Recipients

Over the years, the 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. 

SilviaTerra Partners with Microsoft

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.

FAQs

Please see FAQs below, and if you have more questions reach out to Urvi Talaty (urvi.talaty@yale.edu).

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 Sustainable Venture 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. 

Does my venture have to be a for-profit?

Yes, 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 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 22, 2022 by 11:59pm. Four teams will be chosen to pitch live to a panel of judges at Startup Yale, held on April 28-April 30, 2022.

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 Sustainable Venture Prize

To what extent is the 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.

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.”

Previous Events

Startup Yale

People & Partners

Urvi Talaty

Environmental Innovation Fellow at Yale Center for Business and the Environment (CBEY) and the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale (CITY)
Master of Environmental Management 2021

Eileen Nakahata

MBA 2023
Master of Environmental Management 2023

Winter Wilson

Master of Environmental Management 2022

Ekaterina Plotnitskaya

Master of Management Studies, Master in Global Business and Society 2022

Stuart DeCew

Executive Director at Yale Center for Business and the Environment
MBA 2011
Master of Environmental Management 2011

Peter Boyd

Lecturer at Yale School of the Environment
Founder & CEO at Time4Good Group

Julie Vance

Communications Coach at Executive Voice