First Annual Yale-NYU Pitchoff

Most students spend their summers working a 9-5 job, relaxing on vacation, or simply trying to decide their next steps. For the last two months, NYU and Yale students and recent graduates have foregone these opportunities to take part in exclusive summer accelerator programs to launch startup ventures. The Yale Entrepreneurial Institute Fellowship is a 10-week program for Yale’s most promising student startups. The NYU Summer LaunchPad program provides a select group graduating NYU student teams work with the mentorship, resources and funding to accelerate their ventures.

On July 17th, the two programs came together at Pivotal Labs to take part in a friendly competition known as the Yale-NYU Summer Accelerator Pitchoff, where teams from each of the schools' programs competed head-to-head in front of a panel of venture investors.

The Teams

Brooklinen: Founded by two NYU Stern ‘14 grads, Richard Fulop and David Fortune, Brooklinen aims to be the Warby Parker of bed linens. Brooklinen provides a selection of high quality home goods at accessible prices. Tweet them @brooklinen!

109Design: Launched with “entrepreneurship in mind,” this scoliosis brace consists of a sensor module to record data on the tightness and wear-time of the brace that delivers data directly back to your phone. The founders are Levi DeLuke (YC ‘14), Sebastian Monzon (YC ‘14), and Ellen Su (YC ‘13).

Limbr Activewear: Taking on the Lululemons of the world, Limbr aims to create functional fitness apparel designed to resist body movement to help conveniently tone muscle and burn calories. Founder Franklin Yao is set to graduate from NYU School of Medicine in 2017. Tweet them @LimbrActive!

Rallybus: Rallybus is a crowd-sourced, on-demand travel company providing bus transportation to special events like concerts and football games. Founders Siheun Song (DIV ‘15) and Numaan Akram aim to create a fun and exciting transportation experience for all event needs. Tweet them @RallyBus!

Smart Vision Labs: By simply taking a picture of the eye, Smart Vision Labs can measure your refractive errors and give you an eyeglass prescription on the spot. The founders are Marc Albanese (NYU Stern ‘08) and Yaopeng Zhou (NYU Stern ‘15). Tweet them @SmartVisionLabs!

Junzi Kitchen: A healthy Chinese food quick-service franchise serving authentic homemade wraps from Northeast China made with local, seasonal ingredients. Founders include Yong Zhao (FES ’14), Wanting Zhang (FES ’11), Ming Bai (Art ’13), Jasmine Guo, and David Yan. Tweet them @junzikitchen!


The Event

Guests began to arrive about an hour before the event began and consistently poured in until the moment the first pitch commenced. With plentiful food, beer and a beautiful space provided by Pivotal Labs, the crowd’s enthusiasm was infectious. The music was playing and the networking had begun. “The energy circulating throughout the room was palpable from the second you entered!” said NYU Entrepreneurial Institute Program Coordinator, Risa Cohn.

The room quickly filled to capacity as the event kicked off, with standing room only as 200 viewers awaited the showdown between these two universities. Each team was incredibly prepared and gave standout performances. The audience loved the sexy approach to designing affordable but high quality bed sheets from Brooklinen’s company and Limbr Activewear had everyone “oohing and aahing” at the prospect of burning more calories through technological advances in fitness apparel. 109Design took an approach that got people thinking-- why doesn’t this product already exist in the medical device arena? It’s critical! Smart Vision Labs presented a highly scientific product, explaining how these fundamental features has the potential to solve vision problems worldwide.

But ultimately the prizes went to Junzi Kitchen and Rally Bus. In her riveting presentation, Junzi Kitchen's Wanting Zhang had the audience laughing by drawing on common personal experiences of eating “Americanized versions of Chinese food,” and just as instantly had them intrigued with her new approach to healthy, sustainable and easy preparation of authentic Chinese wraps from her hometown in Beijing by the time her pitch was finished. Her ease in front of the crowd earned Junzi Kitchen the Best Presenter Award. Rally Bus’ Numaan Akram wowed the audience by reinventing the transportation process and making it an integral part of the event experience. Not only was his product interesting and useful, his presentation had audience members dying to know more. Rally Bus took home the grand prize trophy as the event's winner!

We can't wait for next summer as the two schools show down again with six new teams. Stay updated on the progress of the two programs on the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute Blog and the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute Blog.