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Seth Goldin is a sophomore at Yale studying computer science and global affairs. Seth is the Co-President of the Yale Entrepreneurial Society (YES). YES is a student-led non-profit founded in 1999 to support student innovation and entrepreneurship at Yale. I talked with Seth about their various programs and how students can get involved.
Edited lightly for clarity.
Kieran: Hey Seth, thanks for joining me today. Do you want to introduce yourself?
Seth: Nice to meet you. My name is Seth Goldin. I’m a sophomore at Yale studying computer science and global affairs, and I run the Yale Entrepreneurial Society with my Co-President, Teo Dimov. I’m also involved with some other campus organizations like club running.
Kieran: How did you first hear about the Yale Entrepreneurial Society?
Seth: I first heard about it when I was on campus for the pre-orientation program called Bulldog Days, which is Yale’s equivalent to after you get into college (but before you commit to going if you didn’t apply early action). You fly there to visit campus, and the current Yale students host you for a few days. It’s just this incredible experience where you meet all these prospective incoming students. You go to art shows and explore campus, and every club hosts an event to get to know people, including the Yale Entrepreneurial Society. I saw them at their table, went to their event, and learned about their resources. That was a significant factor in my decision to go to Yale because I wasn’t even aware that anything like this existed. So, meeting Grace Gerwe, the current President at the time, and speaking to her about it was very impactful.
Kieran: The Yale Entrepreneurial Society (YES) is a student-led non-profit founded in 1999 to support student innovation and entrepreneurship at Yale. Is there any other important background information that people should know about the org?
Seth: Like many campus organizations, the entrepreneurial society has gone through ebbs and flows. Miles Lasater founded it in the late 90s, but there were times when it operated in many different forms on campus. It is an umbrella organization for different subclubs that effectively offer students various resources. The main thing that everyone has in common is that they are interested in entrepreneurship or venture capital. A couple of other background things that could be interesting are that it’s one of the largest clubs on campus. We have around 380 members, a combination of fellows and people participating in various programs. Members apply to join and are accepted at the beginning of the year. So, it’s not like an email list or something. The other thing that might be interesting is that many people involved in YES are also involved in other campus entrepreneurial organizations, such as the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking. It sounds like you chatted with Matt Gira about this earlier for your website. The Tsai Center has a ton of resources for students at Yale, so many people who are in YES are involved with the Tsai Center in some capacity.
Kieran: YES is partnered with the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking. How would you describe that partnership?
Seth: The Tsai Center and the entrepreneurial society have a ton of overlap in what they’re trying to accomplish, which is to support entrepreneurship amongst students at Yale. Both YES and Tsai Center support both undergraduate and graduate students. As our organization is entirely run by undergraduate students, that is definitely our focus. The Tsai Center is also focused on all of the different graduate schools that Yale has, including the School of Public Health, law school, global affairs programs, medical school, business school, etc. So there are a lot of different groups that they need to support. The way I would look at it is they are the institutional entrepreneurship programs, and we are the student-run ones. They are trying to provide education and enrichment programs. We also want to provide social opportunities. We want to help people meet each other, support people working on projects, and help people get involved in this community.
Kieran: YES runs several programs, including a startup incubator, VC fellowship, LAUNCH, Friends & Family, startup internships, and even a high school fellowship. Can you give a brief overview of your programming and what you’re trying to accomplish with each program?
Seth: The one I can talk about with a ton of enthusiasm to start is this LAUNCH program. If you’re a prospective Yale student, we created this for you. When you come to Yale, everyone is required to join a pre-orientation program. That can range from a hiking trip to a poetry slam — if you’re international, they have a program designed to help you get used to becoming a student in the US. This year, we created a new program, which started for the first time this fall called LAUNCH, which helped 120 students coming into Yale as the class of 2027 assimilate into our community with a huge focus on entrepreneurship. This was a 4-5 day program. We split it into fun activities like day hikes and going to NY, and then we also brought in a ton of amazing founders to speak about their experiences. Some of the speakers were Anne Wojcicki from 23andMe, Max Mullen from Instacart, Michael Seibel from Twitch, and Sara Du from Alloy Automation. So, an incredible set of talks, virtual and in-person, to help these students coming into campus get used to the community and what they might want to get out of the college experience. So think a little about those questions and any advice they had for them. As someone already one year in, I thought it was incredibly valuable. So that was a super cool experience, and it is also sort of a feeder or pipeline into a lot of Tsai and YES programming. So, that is LAUNCH, and it’s continuing again next year. It might be a little bigger with a new group of leaders. Another program you mentioned was the VC fellowship, which is trying to help students learn more about venture capital and get involved in that. There are two other programs that we consider very important; one is an internship program. So, we have an internship program that helps any student, regardless of their affiliation with Yale, get connected with startups for summer internships. This program is essential to us because getting that experience is one of the most valuable things you can do as a student to figure out if entrepreneurship or joining a startup is something you aspire to do. We have a whole team of people focused on recruiting startups, looking at applications for students, and running the portal. We also have a whole team that runs a high school fellowship. So, if you’re in high school, this is something that you can do right now. We have a fellowship you can apply to. We have Yale students who have participated in YES and Tsai programming who run workshops about entrepreneurship for high school students to try to share more about resources at Yale and entrepreneurship in general. If you apply to Yale, you can say you participated in this program. So that is another thing we run that we think is important for growing the community beyond Yale. We also do tons of fun mixer events for students to help them get to know each other and run a speaker series. We always bring people to campus to share their stories, give advice, and offer mentorship. From Cory Levy, who runs Z Fellows, to this past fall, we brought Kevin Ryan, the founder of DoubleClick, MongoDB, and Business Insider, and Joe Tsai, one of the founders of Alibaba, to campus. That was through a partnership with the Tsai Center, which we call the INSPIRE speaker series. Those videos, if they are not already, should be on YouTube for people to watch in the coming months.
Kieran: How do students get involved with your programming? It looks like some are open to all students and other programs you need to apply to or be invited to.
Seth: Yes, so, as you said, it is variable depending on the specific program. Some are more competitive than others due to the number of people who can participate. We streamlined it a lot this year. Everyone has to apply. If you’re involved in YES, then you’re a YES Fellow. There is a singular application, and it’s not super long or complicated. It is basically who you are, what you are working on, and your experience or interest in entrepreneurship so that we know you will be a participating member of this community. Once you join, there are many applications you can fill out for the subclubs or opportunities that exist beyond that. Most of that happens the first week of each semester.
Kieran: What are you looking for when selecting students for these subclubs?
Seth: So, for the VC fellowship, I didn’t make those decisions this year, so I’m not 100% sure what the criteria were, but I can tell you, in general, our goal is to be as inclusive as possible. We’re not expecting that everyone who joins this organization has started and sold a company. The goal is to help students unsure whether this is something they want to go through with and discover if this is the right fit for them. We have this program that runs every Friday night called Friends & Family on the second floor at Tsai City. Anyone can come, and there is food and drinks, and you can work on whatever startup or side project and ask other people for help. That is open to everyone regardless of how serious what you’re building is. So there is a range.
Kieran: What do you see as the biggest opportunities to improve YES in terms of how you support entrepreneurship at Yale?
Seth: Something we’ve been working on is offering students more mentorship opportunities. So, just before the break, we ran this virtual mentor series, which is an hour-and-a-half event two days in a row where we brought a lot of people onto a Zoom call in a bunch of different categories, from marketing to tech journalism to growth hacking, to offer one on one advice or individualized advice to people. So that is something we’re working on for our students. Somewhere I think we can improve as well is to help students learn about opportunities beyond Yale’s campus. There are a lot of excellent fellowships or programs not affiliated with any institution you can apply to in the valley. I hope that as this entrepreneurial scene grows at Yale, more and more people are applying and participating in those programs because that has been impactful for me personally over the past few years.
Kieran: Is there anything I didn’t ask about that you think is important to know for a student considering the Yale Entrepreneurial Society?
Seth: If you’re considering Yale and you’re interested in entrepreneurship or startups, then the main thing you should take away from this call is there is a group of people at Yale who are also interested in entrepreneurship and will support you. People I met when I visited Yale are a huge part of why I’m here. If you’re interested in learning more about this or getting more personalized thoughts, please email us, and we’ll do our best to respond!