YEI Encourages Early Entrepreneurs Over Winter Break


During the past winter break, 12 Yale undergraduates representing seven ventures participated in a new program called yeiSPARK from the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (YEI). The program provided $500 and entrepreneurship fundamentals to accepted students via email in the form of videos and written materials. Students completed regular assignments and received remote feedback from YEI staff. Startup ideas included protection for falling smart phones, personalized cosmetic tutorials, a dynamic pricing app for theater tickets and an app for customized playlists that matches song beats with heartbeats.

Margaret Lee, YEI Membership Program Coordinator who oversaw yeiSPARK, says: “The students found the remote-learning aspect of the program very helpful, as they were able to use their winter break to dedicate their time and attention to their ventures without worrying about classes and homework.”

At the end of the program, all seven ventures submitted a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). An important component of the Lean Startup methodology which YEI teaches is building, measuring and learning through constant iteration based on customer feedback. An MVP is the simplest thing a team can pull together to begin reaching out and getting this feedback.

Erika Hairston (’18) (pictured) says she learned a lot through yeiSPARK about the concrete steps involved in entrepreneurship. “Never before have I learned so much about what it truly means to be an entrepreneur,” Hairston says. “Oftentimes I’ve heard the classic ‘keep your idea quiet and invent something brilliant alone’ method, but YEI has truly disproved that myth.”

YEI is looking to expand these early entrepreneurship experiences to Yale undergrads in coming semesters. “We’re exploring ways to further the reach of yeiSPARK to get more Yale students meaningfully engaged,” Lee says.

Brita Belli

Brita Belli is the Communications Officer for the Office of Cooperative Research and the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute. Prior to joining OCR, Brita was an editor and freelance writer whose work has appeared on the websites of the New York Times, National Geographic, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Environmental Health News,,, as well as in many print publications. She is the author of The Autism Puzzle: Connecting the Dots Between Environmental Toxins and Rising Autism Rates (Seven Stories Press).

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