Tod Nelson, an entrepreneur and former Amazon employee, has been appointed the first executive director of Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE).
Nelson, who begins his post July 1, will be responsible for representing the CIE to its supporters and alumni while building relationships with the local entrepreneurial community to bolster the program’s growth.
“Tod’s extensive industry experience and passion for student success puts him in the perfect position to lead the CIE,” said Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong. “The CIE is Learn by Doing in action, and its programs energize the entire campus.”
Nelson began his career at Amazon in 1995 as one of the company’s first 10 employees. During his tenure, he led the launch of Amazon Music and Video in Germany and worked on the launch teams of Amazon Music and Video in the U.S.
As a business consultant, Nelson has spent many years helping new companies navigate through the start-up phase and develop e-commerce and social media marketing strategies.
Recently, Nelson has been closely involved with the CIE as the entrepreneur in residence at the on-campus incubator, the Hatchery, and as a lead mentor for the CIE’s student programs. Nelson has also taught introductory entrepreneurship courses in Cal Poly’s Orfalea College of Business.
Nelson will work closely with CIE co-founder and faculty director Jonathan York and Judy Mahan, Small Business Development Center director, to expand programming and help entrepreneurs connected to Cal Poly and the Central Coast pursue their dreams.
“We are excited to have Tod join the team as executive director,” York said. “He is a visionary leader and tireless advocate for entrepreneurs, and he has focused his career on leveraging innovation to create jobs and empower communities.”
Nelson’s position begins as the CIE’s SLO HotHouse begins to move into expanded space on Higuera Street above Ross Dress for Less. With the new space, the SLO HotHouse will expand its services and accept more applicants from the local community into its accelerator and incubator programs. A record 17 new startups will join the SLO HotHouse summer accelerator program this month. If all make it into the incubation program in the fall, there could be as many as 25 startups working in the new space.
“I’m thrilled to take on this role as CIE is boldly moving forward,” Nelson said. “I truly believe that by connecting Cal Poly to the local community and business leaders, the CIE is creating opportunities for the Central Coast to be a hub for innovation and entrepreneurial activities as it becomes a premier hot spot for startups.”
The CIE has grown considerably in recent years, extending resources and events to more students, faculty and community members than ever. On campus, record numbers of students are engaging in pitch competitions, hackathons, startup career fairs and Learn by Doing programs such as the Innovation Sandbox, which encourages innovative exploration across all fields of study. The CIE also launched the Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs program and supports more than 20 companies at the SLO HotHouse, 12 entrepreneurial programs, and a continually growing network of innovators.