Alena Gribskov has worn many hats during her explorations of New Haven. She first came here as a student and then, several years later, returned to the city as a young professional to head up much of the outreach and programming at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute. Now, she’s a regular participant in the city’s marquee scavenger hunt, a pilates enthusiast, and an organizer of “speed networking,” a sort of speed-dating-for-entrepreneurs event that happens regularly at YEI.
Q: What is an upcoming event at YEI that you would recommend?
On Thursday, December 6th, we’ll be hosting a dinner for Yale students with Josh Koppel, the cofounder of Scrollmotion, a software company that creates enterprise apps for mobile and tablet platforms. He’ll be talking about his experience starting a venture in the mobile space, which is growing phenomenally right now.
Q: When did you get to New Haven? How did you start to become part of the community here?
I moved back to New Haven about two years ago. I went to school here, but living in the city is a totally different experience. I started off by finding a great fitness studio, Sarah Aldrich Pilates, and checking out the City Seed farmers’ market every Saturday. Even though New Haven is a city, it is small enough that you…quickly start seeing familiar faces wherever you go – can’t beat that!
Q: What’s a must-do annual event in New Haven?
One of my favorite events is Cluefest, a city-wide scavenger hunt hosted every summer. Costumed teams race around to different points in the city by bike, car, and even party bus, solving clues about New Haven culture and history. It’s a great way to discover new places and meet new people. The most enthusiastic and positive team wins the coveted Spirit Award, which really sets the tone.
Q: How do you normally find out about new events?
As many ways as I can! I find out about the best events from Roammeo, Twitter (the #nhv hashtag is great!), and email lists. Whenever I go to an event I enjoy, I make sure to get plugged into whatever system they use so I can hear about their next ones.
Q: What’s the best event you’ve stumbled into?
I fortuitously discovered one of the first Flights of Fancy wine-tasting events downtown. It’s a really fun evening – shops around downtown each offer wine for tasting as well as a discount, and it’s a great excuse to get a bunch of friends together, try new wines, and get some shopping done. Now I try to go every time it’s held.
Q: What’s the hardest event you’ve ever had to host?
The trickiest events we host at YEI are ones with complicated logistics, but they are also among the most rewarding.
Our “Startup Speed Networking” events, which are essentially speed dating for student entrepreneurs searching for cofounders, take a lot of work on the backend. We make sure to advertise to a variety of student populations – to get a mix of business and technical cofounders, for instance – then try to divide them up into groups that make the most sense for networking…
Last year, we had over 100 students participate in speed networking at YEI, and we got a lot of great feedback about the energy of the events and the diversity of students there.
Q: What’s a good organization that people shouldn’t overlook?
I’ve been enjoying the monthly event series hosted by On9 that highlight the up-and-coming Ninth Square district in New Haven. In the last few years, there has been a wave of new businesses opening, including a cooperative grocery store, several fitness studios and salons, and more.
Last month’s theme was “Create On9,” showcasing the creative offerings of the neighborhood, and next month’s is “Shine On9,” just in time for the holidays.