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Venturing Together: Reflections from the Fall 2023 Venture Development Programs

A diverse group of individuals gathered in a room, engaged in conversation and interaction.

Over the course of the last semester, 42 teams spanning industries from healthcare and tech to sustainability and the arts joined the Fall 2023 Venture Development Programs (VDP) at the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale (Tsai CITY). These programs aim to cover the full breadth of venture development, from crafting a vision to official launch and funding. Between the early-stage ventures in Launch Pad and Accelerator and the more established groups of the Advanced Founders, this semester’s cohort of VDP teams saw an increase in creative ventures, like 17o1 Records in Launchpad, as well as in AI-driven insights, as with WealthMeUp and Win Number in Accelerator. 

The Venture Development Programs are run by Matt Gira and Sade Owoye, Director and Associate Director of Student Programming, respectively, in collaboration with Victor Padilla-Taylor, Director of Mentor, Advisor, and Partner Networks, and the rich mentor network at Tsai CITY. Each week, teams gathered in person for Venture Development Fridays, a day of community geared toward keynote talks on fundamental topics in entrepreneurship and individualized mentorship opportunities from industry experts. Equally important, Venture Development Fridays offered students, even outside of the VDPs, the opportunity to actively participate in the innovation community at Tsai CITY. 

The goal across each of these programs, whether or not teams continue through the VDP pipeline, is to offer students translatable experiences that they can carry forward to their future ventures and careers outside of Yale. “We’re building a more robust pipeline each and every semester, which exponentially grows every year,” Sade shares. “For this academic year, I’m seeing a lot of the same ventures that joined Launchpad move to the Accelerator program or jump to the Summer Fellowship. So there is that synergy that we’re seeing, but not everyone’s path is linear when it comes to venture development. Some ventures stay in Launch Pad multiple times, some do make that move over, but we’re really working to find a home for everyone.”

Below, hear from student founders Gabi Wiggill, Bade Adepegba and Daniel Jayeoba, and David Foster for their insights behind the joys and challenges of growing their ventures as part of the Venture Development Programs this semester. 

Meet the Founders

  • Gabi Wiggill (SPH ’25): Gabi is the founder of The Period Equity Movement and a participant in the Fall 2023 Launch Pad program. The Period Equity Movement aims to develop a comprehensive program to provide students with reusable and disposable period products, along with the necessary health education to destigmatize menstrual health in the United States and abroad. 
  • Oyebade (Bade) Adepegba (SOM ’24) and Daniel Jayeoba: Bade and Daniel are co-founders of Guideli and participants in the Fall 2023 Accelerator program. Guideli is solving the frustration that immigrants face in navigating complex immigration processes and settlement hurdles in their new countries. 
  • David Foster (YC ’24): David, alongside classmate Erik Boesen (YC ’24), is a co-founder of UMenus and a participant of the Fall 2023 Advanced Founders program. UMenus is connecting universities to their students through innovative dining apps.

Why did you apply to a venture development program?

Gabi [The Period Equity Movement]: “It’s a pretty scary thing, doing ventures and developments. When it came time to apply, I realized I needed what the program provided: I needed support, I needed mentors, I needed people around me that have skill sets that are so different from mine, who would lend me different aspects to my approach. It’s been really wonderful having a support system of people who can help me do what I love to do, which is idea building. So yeah, that’s why I ended up applying to Launchpad and I’m very glad I did.”

Bade [Guideli]: “During my first year, I worked as a portfolio manager at Tsai CITY helping student entrepreneurs navigate their first time in entrepreneurship. I saw how we really helped those entrepreneurs and how the entire Tsai CITY ecosystem opens you up to a host of experts who understand entrepreneurship and can help you on that journey. So that’s really what inspired us to apply for the Accelerator.” 

David [UMenus]: “We originally created our app to solve a student problem and we never built it with the idea of a business in mind. But we began to have conversations about folks potentially acquiring us, so last year we applied for Accelerator and the Summer Fellowship and were lucky to be accepted to both. At the end of the fellowship, Erik and I still wanted to remain engaged with Tsai CITY, and I think the Advanced Founders program is a great way to do that. It’s been wonderful to get to know the other teams in the cohort, and one of the aspects that I didn’t expect was the way it gave us all a little bit more confidence.”

How did the program help your venture grow? 

Gabi [The Period Equity Movement]: “I feel like what I started out with at the beginning of the semester and what I’m doing right now are different. I started out this semester trying to continue a project that I did in undergrad, however I’ve also dabbled in the international side of things. I’m South African and I’ve always wanted to do something for my home country. Now, I’m setting up a project in South Africa to address period poverty, especially since it’s such a taboo topic. After being connected from one person to the next, I’m now working with a non-profit in South Africa to help students in high school get access to period products that would last for many many years.” 

Bade [Guideli]: “I remember the first keynote session was on crafting your mission, and that really helped us create how we’re going about our idea and implementing it. Then there were other particular sessions, like when they brought in a lawyer to speak about IP, and also sessions on HR and administrative tasks that were not a part of our core solution but can have a very big impact on our venture. So those were really helpful sessions.”

Daniel [Guideli]: “We also met weekly with our mentor, Daniel Acheampong, and he’s phenomenal. This is somebody that we’ve known and read about prior to joining the Accelerator program, and for us to then join Accelerator and have him personally mentor us has just been invaluable. He sends us tons of resources and materials that he thinks will be helpful for us. Even the show of confidence in our business and our idea has just been really rewarding. It’s been a great partnership and relationship so far.”

David [UMenus]: “The way that the Advanced Founders program has helped us is by allowing us to stay connected with mentors and meet people at the recent pitch-off. I think the challenge at Yale is that so much is happening and it’s very easy, if you don’t make an active effort, to lose touch with the community. So I think the Advanced Founders program was really great for keeping us grounded with the Tsai CITY community, which is truly one of the communities that I’ll want to stay connected with post-graduation.”

What are your key takeaways from this semester?

Gabi [The Period Equity Movement]:

“The program showed me my own strengths and weaknesses. My one big weakness is verbalizing what I’m trying to do and knowing that it takes a lot of explanation. Another key takeaway is that there are a lot of very wonderful and capable people at the ready and always there that I can rely on. The people and the mentorship—they’re incredibly valuable and it grounds me, knowing that I’m not just doing this thing on my own.”

Daniel [Guideli]: “Key takeaways are to demand validation and customer centricity. I think we were first of all very biased to not want to work with customers because we thought our product wasn’t out yet, but [Tsai CITY Venture Advisor] Daniel [Acheampong] helped us understand that every interaction with the customer helps to prove your solution and also prove that there is a demand for this, and I think that insight has been invaluable.”

David [UMenus]: “No matter how much time you spend in a place, there’s always something new to learn about it. I’ve spent hours and hours at Tsai CITY and there were people that I hadn’t previously met that I got to meet through the Advanced Founders program. One of the main highlights from the Advanced Founders program was getting to meet the new teams. It’s been really useful to talk through problems together as a group, since we all have shared struggles and it’s always much more helpful when you have the full group workshopping your issue.”

What are the next steps for your venture moving forward? 

Gabi [The Period Equity Movement]: “Well, we probably need a new name, to be honest. But the end goal is to create something that is adaptable and implementable across countries. It’s not a novel idea what I’m suggesting, it’s just that so many programs like this have failed and their success rates have been low because people are too uncomfortable about using reusable products. So we’re going to be focusing on strategies to overcome that. It’s very early days, but it’s also exciting, because you can go in so many different ways.” 

Daniel [Guideli]: “Big picture, we want to be the household name in the immigration space. We want to be the one-stop shop or solution for immigrants moving from any part of the world to any part of the world. That’s our core model: we want to make this process as seamless as possible to ensure that they don’t have all the cumbersome barriers that are usually encountered. In the long term, we intend to also partner with governments or hope to have some sort of collaboration to ensure that Guideli’s customers have easier paths to securing visas, to getting into new countries, to experiencing all the good things in different parts of the world.”

Bade [Guideli]: “I think most people, when they think about immigration, they think about helping immigrants that are just coming into the United States. Long term, we also want to pull for example from Indians trying to go to Pakistan, Pakistanis trying to go to Kuwait, Americans trying to relocate to Bangladesh—that global mobilization and interconnectivity is what we’re trying to do on a broader scale.”  

David [UMenus]: “We’re excited to hopefully pursue some deals and we’re grateful for Tsai CITY’s support in helping us with our first deal. We’ll continue to stay involved with Tsai CITY and push for our venture. It’s a long and slow process, but I feel like we’re learning a ton, and I’m so grateful that I have the Tsai CITY community behind me to support me in this challenge.”

Visit the Venture Development Program page to learn more about LaunchPad, Accelerator, and Advanced Founders.