June 20, 2014: Since last month, area chili festivals have welcomed a new addition: Tummyzen, a zinc-based, Yale-patented antacid. Produced by startup Eli Nutrition, Tummyzen offers fast-acting, long-lasting relief to heartburn sufferers without the unpleasant side effects typically associated with other heartburn medication.
Tummyzen’s journey began when Hasan Ansari, a serial entrepreneur and MBA student at Yale, participated in Yale’s Technology Commercialization Program, a program jointly run by the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (YEI) and the Office of Cooperative Research. Through the program, Ansari met Dr. John Geibel, Vice Chair of Surgery and Professor of Surgery and Cellular and Molecular Physiology at Yale. Geibel had discovered the effectiveness of zinc in stopping acid secretion in the stomach—without any side effects and while providing increased health benefits. Nearly 10 years later, his discovery became the basis of Tummyzen’s patented formula.
Instead of traditional marketing, free samples have been key to the startup’s growing success. As a testament to this strategy, the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology’s Small Business Incubator Grant Program (SBIP) recently granted $30,000 to Eli Nutrition to fund the production and distribution of its sample packs. According to Paul Striebel, SBIP’s program administrator, “Mr. Ansari is a bright and energetic entrepreneur with an exciting new product. His Tummyzen antacid is something that everyone needs to know about.”
To pair their new product with the right sales strategy, Ansari and Geibel joined forces with another Yale faculty member, Barry Nalebuff, a professor at the Yale School of Management and the cofounder of Honest Tea. In a case study for his class, Nalebuff invited his MBA students to sell the antacid. The students found that once people tried Tummyzen, they could see for themselves whether it worked, giving rise to Tummyzen’s demo-first strategy.
According to Nalebuff, “The sales pitch was easy: Tummyzen is Tums turbocharged with zinc. So the students just had to find regular Tums users to see if they’d rather take one tablet than pop a half dozen or more Tums. And when the students found folks who had acid reflux, the sale was even easier: Those folks were keen, even desperate, to find something safe and effective.”
Eli Nutrition developed Tummyzen during a 2013 YEI Fellowship, a competitive 10-week accelerator program for Yale’s most promising student and student-faculty startups. This past February, the startup received a $100,000 investment from the YEI Innovation Fund, a fund jointly run by Yale, Connecticut Innovations and First Niagara Bank to deliver critical early-stage funding to the most promising startups from YEI.
The venture is working in an office on Whitney Ave. in New Haven. With the recent grant, they are planning to spend the summer distributing thousands of additional Tummyzen samples at area festivals and events. “Once people try it,” says Ansari, “the product speaks for itself.”
CONTACT: Brita Belli, Communications Officer, Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, (203)436-4933, firstname.lastname@example.org