Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Continues Growth Spurt

Students working in the SLO HotHouseCal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) continues its streak of growth and startup success through a wide variety of programs and activities to stimulate the Learn by Doing spirit and assist entrepreneurs in following their dreams.

Under the leadership of executive director Tod Nelson, the Amazon leader who was appointed to lead the CIE in the spring of 2015, the center has expanded its SLO HotHouse to a 15,000 square-foot space on Higuera Street above Ross Dress for Less. The expansion provided new workspace for the 13 startups in the Summer Accelerator program and 12 businesses in the 24-month Incubator program. Looking ahead, the larger space could allow for each program to roughly double in size, as well as allowing space for other CIE programs like Coworking and the Small Business Development Center for Innovation.

With the new square footage, the CIE has also been able to expand its Incubator program to include members of the local community for the first time. Applications from local startups for the program closed at the end of November, and two companies will start working in the space this year.

Nash Family Entrepreneurship LabOn campus, the CIE has new resources at hand. Students now have access to the Nash Entrepreneurship Lab and the Hatchery, newly renovated spaces where early-stage startups can refine their concepts and business plans as they prepare for launch. Students have access to interactive workshops, insights from an entrepreneur in residence, a mentor network, and dedicated office space 24/7. Curious inventors can also work with prototyping software and tools in the Innovation Sandbox, a space that encourages exploration within all disciplines.

Among faculty, the innovative spirit has continued to take hold. The CIE’s Faculty Fellows program has grown to include 12 faculty members representing every college at Cal Poly. These educators incorporate innovation and entrepreneurship within coursework, serve as CIE ambassadors within their discipline, and help guide motivated students through the different entrepreneurial career paths.

Cal Poly continues to look ahead to find the right space on campus and in the community where students and young ventures can continue to grow. The university recently leased an additional 6,000 square feet of commercial space and 32 apartments for students in downtown San Luis Obispo.

With these programs in place and expanding, the CIE continues to see increased demand for its resources. A record numbers of students are engaging in pitch competitions, hackathons, and startup-centered career fairs.

For more information on the CIE and how to support its programs, visit