Just over the last year, Kayra Yasa, a 20-year-old Turkish-American, launched and scaled an apparel marketplace, became one of the first employees at a biotech startup, and now is working on an AI-powered hormonal health startup with a top AI researcher she met during her time as a Pareto Fellow. That’s taking the entrepreneurial plunge and making waves.
Refresh Miami caught up with Yasa to hear more about her story, and the integral role that Miami has played in her path to becoming a founder.
The native Miamian’s entrepreneurial journey began at the local Design and Architecture Senior High (DASH), which let her dive head first into Miami’s creative scene. “I became an absolute weirdo, making all my own fabrics or my own textiles out of the most random materials like kombucha, or making plastic out of seaweed,” Yasa said.
Her experimentation with these materials eventually led her to be interested in STEM, motivating her to pursue material science and engineering at college. Yasa landed at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, which has one of the highest ranked undergraduate programs for material sciences.
When the pandemic hit, Yasa returned to Miami to continue studying remotely. But the pull toward entrepreneurship was too strong to ignore.
Last November, Yasa and Madison Delgado, her friend from DASH, came together to develop Instate Collective, an online marketplace that exclusively sells apparel that was made in the United States.
“Madison and I were discussing the implications of Covid and the pandemic on small businesses, and what we could potentially do to help,” Yasa explained. “We realized there was a huge gap in the market for American made items online. There were no marketplaces for it. We wanted to be that solution.”
In April, the duo was featured in a Cafecito Talk with Miami mayor Francis Suarez. They are constantly launching new brands, and have scaled up to a 10-person team. Delgado studies environmental policy and sustainability at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg, and ensures that the brands they sell stand up to the marketplace’s high ethical and sustainability standards.
In January 2021, Yasa started working for biotech startup Virex Health, which is developing medical diagnostics for at-home and point-of-care use. She pivoted to this role full-time, taking a leave of absence from her studies: “Virtual school was just not nearly as beneficial or as great of a value proposition as working at the startup.” This experience inspired Yasa to further explore “what we can do to utilize artificial intelligence within healthcare.”
Yasa recently completed the Pareto Fellowship, a highly selective weeklong program organized by Pareto Holdings that aimed to promote Miami as a top destination for ambitious young innovators. While at the fellowship, she and Felix Sosa, a PhD student at Harvard and MIT studying AI and cognitive science, came together to develop ideas to solve hormone health issues holistically. Sosa is originally from Hialeah, and previously studied at the University of Central Florida.
“It’s a problem I’m extremely passionate about,” said Yasa. “The endocrine system is one of the least studied parts of your body, and hormonal issues disproportionately affect women.”
Yasa and Sosa hope to develop an AI-powered tool to help diagnose and more effectively treat endocrine-related issues.
“I never imagined myself talking about my hormone health issues like my acne as a high schooler and other taboo subjects with the founder of Shutterstock [Jon Oringer], Edward Lando, and Nadav [Ben-Chanoch] on a Zoom call,” Yasa said.
However, putting herself out there has already paid off. Yasa and Sosa’s venture, while still in stealth mode, has already attracted early attention from investors. Yasa credits the Pareto Fellowship for making her idea come to reality: “I was just excited to get that opportunity and take advantage of every single moment.”
READ MORE ON REFRESH:
- Pareto’s recipe for launching great companies in Miami: Venture building, investments and now the pareto Fellowship
- Miami’s hard tech scene is bigger than you might think – and growing
- Meet this South Florida founder on a mission to improve the lives of the def – like her
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