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$1.2 Million Gift Propels Tufts Venture Accelerator, Ensuring Access and Equity

Earle Yaffa, Kim & Alan Hartman, and the Joseph H. Flom Foundation gift $1.2 million to the Derby Entrepreneurship Center (DEC) in support of the Tufts Venture Accelerator.

For entrepreneurs at Tufts, summers are synonymous with the Derby Entrepreneurship Center’s Venture Accelerator — an eleven-week, structured educational experience that supports aspiring entrepreneurs in building new ventures with alumni mentoring, evaluation, peer inspiration, and faculty expertise. The experience provides invaluable resources and networking opportunities to budding entrepreneurs working hard for a shot at developing the next big thing.

This summer, a transformational gift of $1.2 million marks a new milestone in DEC’s ability to support aspiring innovators, thanks to Earle Yaffa, E61, Kim Hartman, J85, and her husband, Alan Hartman, and the Joseph H. Flom Foundation. The gift, which directly funds equity-free venture awards and programming for Tufts Venture Accelerator participants, affirms a commitment to ensuring access and equity for anyone with an idea — all while alleviating the financial pressures that students too often face.

“Since its beginning, we’ve seen the difference that DEC’s faculty and programs make in turning students’ knowledge and passion into real, meaningful ventures,” said Yaffa. “We are proud to support future entrepreneurs as they continue to challenge themselves and change the world through the Tufts Venture Accelerator.”

As a father-daughter pair of Jumbos, Yaffa and Hartman’s shared generosity brings their successful careers full circle to their alma mater. Yaffa earned his degree in mechanical engineering at Tufts and later became the managing director of Skadden, a multinational law firm known for expertise in mergers and acquisitions. Hartman, a political science graduate, rose through the financial world in senior leadership roles and currently owns KH Designs, a New York City-based interior design firm.

Reconnecting with the Tufts Venture Accelerator represents a homecoming for Yaffa and Hartman, who supported the program during its initial years. Having witnessed the success of those who went through its doors every summer, the pair realized that a gift would ensure that all students were given the same opportunity well into the future.

“For many students, it’s difficult to find the time and resources to commit fully to a new idea or project. Those who want the opportunity to focus on creating something new also need to support themselves through school with a summer job or internship. We wanted the Tufts Venture Accelerator to serve as a standalone program within DEC and allow all students the chance to take a leap on an idea they truly believe in,” Hartman said.

In addition to providing equity-free venture awards for participating students over the next decade, this gift will allow for additional development and expansion of the Tufts Venture Accelerator as the program continues to identify ways to improve its structure, support students, and bring eye-opening experiences to more members of the community.

“The collective generosity of supporters like Earle, Kim, Alan, and the Joseph H. Flom Foundation has allowed the Tufts Venture Accelerator to scale up our support for entrepreneurs over the next ten years,” said Elaine Chen, director of the Derby Entrepreneurship Center at Tufts and Cummings Family Professor of the Practice in Entrepreneurship. “This gift will help the Center empower a new generation of entrepreneurs to realize their impact through new venture creation.”

Tufts Gordon Institute Executive Director Kevin Oye added, “Our entrepreneurial community pursues their passions with boldness and conviction each and every day. We’re so thankful for Earle, Kim, Alan, and the Joseph H. Flom Foundation, who continue to rally their support for our future leaders and serve as a source of inspiration.”

Further backed by the support of the Joseph H. Flom Foundation, of which Yaffa is a director, the gift symbolizes the value of relentless dedication. The foundation was founded in memory of its namesake, Joseph Flom, a partner at Skadden who helped shape the practice of mergers and acquisitions as the field was emerging in prominence. 

“Making a difference runs deep in the Derby Entrepreneurship Center and the School of Engineering. Earle, Kim, Alan, and the Joseph H. Flom Foundation’s shared vision aligns perfectly with our forward-thinking approach to supporting future entrepreneurs and ensuring that all students have the same opportunities to shine. This insightful generosity furthers our ability to be an engine for good,” said Kyongbum Lee — dean ad interim of Tufts University’s School of Engineering and Karol Family Professor, with an appointment in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.

The continuation and growth of the Tufts Venture Accelerator will create more opportunities for Tufts students to build robust ventures with the knowledge they have gained in the classroom. Daniel Weinstein, E18, CEO and co-founder of Lura Health, shared that his experience in the Tufts Venture Accelerator shaped his startup in unimaginable ways.

“When we got into the Venture Accelerator, we were thrilled and we were going to do it without question,” said Weinstein, who was named to Forbes 30 Under 30 with Lura Health in 2021. “The Accelerator was an opportunity to dive in full time without the extra pressures of school and life. We immediately gained a sense of community with the other teams that wasn’t always possible during the school year.”

Today’s gift to the Tufts Venture Accelerator shines a light on future possibilities with expanded equity and access while offering a moment of reflection on how far the program has come.