The Yale Innovators’ Prize is a $15,000 cash prize awarded to the for-profit or non-profit startup that has the potential to produce the greatest impact (financially, socially, or otherwise). The Yale Innovators’ Prize is open to any project, campaign, solution, venture, or non-profit led by a current Yale student(s). In addition to the potential prize money, the competition provides opportunities for mentorship, feedback, supportive services and networking.
The Yale Innovators' Prize supports the broadest array of student innovation at Yale University. Open to any team led by a currently enrolled Yale student, the Yale Innovators Prize is agnostic to field of work or industry that each applicant's innovation may fall into.
Yale Innovators' Prize Judges
Matthew is responsible for evaluating tech company investment opportunities at Connecticut Innovations. Prior to joining CI, Matthew held roles in venture capital investing in underserved tech founders, and in private equity focused on secondary markets, and he served in the military as a U.S. Army Special Forces Green Beret.
Matthew is currently completing a master's in public administration (MPA) from Harvard. He holds a master of business administration (MBA) from Yale SOM and a bachelor of science (BS) from the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Jenn is an Investor at FTW Ventures, where she is focused on opportunities related to Climate Solutions, Sustainable Packaging, and innovation in Health and Wellness.
Prior to joining FTW, she was a Senior Associate at Evolv Ventures, Kraft Heinz's $100M corporate venture capital fund, where she focused on Food Tech, Sustainability, and Packaging.
She is a 2021 graduate from the Yale School of Management, where she led initiatives on impact investing, venture capital, and entrepreneurship in the sustainable food/agriculture industry with time spent at a variety of venture firms, including Equal Ventures, AmplifyHER Ventures, and as a founding partner of Fishbowl Ventures, Yale SOM’s first student-run impact fund.
Jenn has always been food motivated: she ran the culinary entertainment department on board Holland America Line cruise ships before moving to New York City to work for the Marcus Samuelsson Group, a celebrity chef-driven media and restaurant group. In her free time, you can find Jenn hosting overly elaborate dinner parties or finding a mountain to hike in the northeast, where she currently resides with her 40+ houseplants.
Rashmi Pendse is the Director of North America Social Impact at Mastercard’s Center for Inclusive Growth. Previously, she was a founding member of the Citi Impact Fund, where she originated and executed venture capital investments in U.S.-based double bottom line startups and led the Fund’s Sustainability and Workforce Development verticals. Earlier in her tenure at Citi, she assisted senior management and multiple business lines with developing and implementing the bank’s Community Reinvestment Act strategy for serving and investing in low- and moderate-income communities in the U.S. Rashmi has also worked in international development, serving as an economic development advisor to the International Finance Corporation, USAID, and a number of nonprofit organizations. She began her career working in technology startups and investment banking. Rashmi studied history at Yale University and international affairs and economics at The Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Bologna, Italy, and Washington, DC.
Mario Ruiz is an early-stage fintech and commerce investor at Infinity Ventures. Prior to co-founding Infinity Ventures, Mario was a venture investor at PayPal Ventures and Dorm Room Fund, and a growth equity investor at Napier Park Global Capital. Mario started his career as an investment banking Analyst and Associate at Barclays in New York.
Mario is the former co-chair of the Junior Leadership Board for the Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO), which helps further the mission of the SEO Scholars educational program while also developing professionals into future non-profit board leaders. He is an alumnus of SEO’s Career and Alternative Investments Fellowship Programs.
Born and raised in the Bronx, NY, Mario received his BBA from Baruch College and his MBA from the Yale School of Management.