First Niagara Partners on YEI Innovation Fund

Nov. 2013. New Haven, Conn.: First Niagara Financial Group (First Niagara) is increasing the likelihood of success for Yale startups with the announcement of their investment in the YEI Innovation Fund. Other limited partners and investors in the $3 million fund are Yale University and Connecticut Innovations (CI).

The Fund was created to support the most promising ventures emerging from the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (YEI’s) programs, with preference given to teams that have completed YEI’s competitive Summer Fellowship. Each venture must undergo a rigorous application process and founders are eligible for up to $100,000 to further develop their business and improve its market viability. Elm Street Ventures, a seed and early-stage venture fund based in New Haven, is managing the Fund.

First Niagara has a long history of supporting Yale, including sponsorship of the New Haven Open and the Arts & Ideas Festival. Their investment in the YEI Innovation Fund will provide much needed early-stage funding for Yale’s innovative ventures, giving them the means to expand and attract further investment and an incentive to stay in New Haven, contributing to local development.

Paul McCraven, First Niagara’s Senior Vice President of Community Development, said, “We’re pleased to support the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute in its efforts to grow Connecticut’s technology sector by investing in student business ventures.”

Connecticut Innovations, which provides support for Connecticut startups, has funded many Yale student ventures and has further strengthened its commitment to Yale companies with its investment in the Fund.

The application process for the first round of eligible ventures is currently underway, with final selection being made by an Investment Committee with representatives from Yale, CI, First Niagara and Elm Street Ventures. Yale expects to announce the winners soon.

James Boyle, Managing Director of YEI, says First Niagara is an invaluable partner in advancing Yale startups. “First Niagara’s investment in the YEI Innovation Fund highlights the great promise and potential of Yale startups to reach new levels of success,” Boyle says.

Current YEI startup success stories include database analytics company Hadapt, which secured over $16 million in financing; paperG, a San Francisco-based startup that automates the creation and distribution of online display ads and brought in $7.1 million in revenue in 2012; and Panorama Education, a startup that designs and administers surveys for schools that just received $4 million from Mark Zuckerberg’s foundation Startup: Education, Google Ventures, Ashton Kutcher’s A-Grade Investments and Yale.

The YEI Innovation Fund will not only provide the financial backing to turn out more successful Yale-based ventures, but will encourage all startups receiving support to grow their businesses in Connecticut.

About the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute

The Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (YEI) is a university department that supports the efforts of Yale students to launch successful, scalable ventures. YEI is staffed by experts with deep scientific and business expertise and provides access to a Mentor Network of 90+ experts in a range of industries including engineering, computer science, biotech, clean tech, chemical, pharmaceutical, venture capital, law, marketing and digital media. YEI provides year-round services to student entrepreneurs to develop and launch their businesses, including the Venture Creation Program for nurturing early-stage startups and the competitive 10-week Summer Fellowship where teams are given the funding, tools and connections to launch viable businesses by the summer’s end. YEI’s Tech Bootcamp teaches coding to students, while the YEI Consultants and VC Advisors programs provide hands-on business training and mentorship to students supporting emerging ventures. There are currently 75 active YEI companies that have raised over $70 million in funding and created over 300 jobs, including 70 in Connecticut. More information is available at www.yei.yale.edu

About First Niagara

First Niagara, through its wholly owned subsidiary, First Niagara Bank, N.A., is a multi-state community-oriented bank with approximately 420 branches, approximately $37 billion in assets, $27 billion in deposits, and approximately 6,000 employees providing financial services to individuals, families and businesses across Upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts. For more information, visit www.firstniagara.com.

About Connecticut Innovations

Connecticut Innovations (CI) is the leading source of financing and ongoing support for Connecticut’s innovative, growing companies. To maximize each business’ growth potential, CI tailors its solutions and often combines its funds with resources from other financial leaders to provide venture capital and strategic support for early-stage technology companies; flexible loans for established companies with new innovations; grants that support innovation and collaboration; and connections to its well-established network of partners and professionals. Through all these initiatives, CI has helped bring $4 billion in financing to Connecticut companies. The state’s most active early-stage investor, CI has created more than 26,000 jobs. For more information, please visit www.ctinnovations.com.

 CONTACT: Brita Belli, Communications Officer, Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, brita.belli@yale.edu.