Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Opens Incubator to Local Startups

SLO HotHouseFor the first time, the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) will accept community startups into its SLO HotHouse Incubator program. Applications will be accepted through Nov. 22.

Startups applying for the program must submit a business plan and answers to a series of questions that a committee will review. The committee will look for companies with technology innovation, scalability and high growth potential. Up to four ventures will be accepted into the intense 24-month Incubator starting Jan. 11, 2016.

“Thanks to the community’s support, we are able to accept local startups into our program,” said Judy Mahan, director of the CIE Incubator and Small Business Development Center (SBDC). “Our Incubator Program includes everything needed for early-stage companies to develop into financially stable, high-growth enterprises by providing the tools, training and infrastructure that helps facilitate smarter, faster growth.”

Programming for the SLO HotHouse Incubator includes mentorship, monthly peer-to-peer roundtable discussions, an advisory board for each startup in the program, participation in Pitch Night, networking opportunities, and exclusive access to various entrepreneurial events in the community. Businesses will also be able to utilize all of the CIE SLO HotHouse resources, such as office space, conference rooms and an invaluable peer network.

“This program provides emerging enterprises with a strategic path; a wide array of vital business development services and resources; and ongoing guidance, motivation and support to help new ventures succeed,” said CIE Executive Director Tod Nelson.

This new batch of incubating companies will pay a membership fee of $300 per month for open workspace and $600 per month for enclosed office space.

“Growing in an incubator increases a business’s chance of success and potential for long-term economic impact,” said Jeff Buckingham, SLO HotHouse Community Advisory Board member. “Entrepreneurs thrive when they live in a supportive environment, and when entrepreneurs thrive, so does the local economy.”

Community startups interested in applying for the CIE SLO HotHouse Incubator program should go to

Entrepreneurship Professor Wins Provost’s Award for Philanthropy

Jon York and President Jeffrey ArmstrongEntrepreneurship Professor Jonathan York was honored at Cal Poly’s annual Fall Conference event with the Provost’s Leadership Award for Partnership in Philanthropy. The award is given to current and former faculty members who demonstrate superior achievement in fundraising to advance the mission of the university. Provost Kathleen Enz Finken recognized York for his work building support for Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE).

York and Dr. Lou Tornatzky founded the CIE in 2010. Since then, York, who also serves as the center’s faculty director, has been instrumental in building a strong community of support for the CIE’s student-centered programs. The CIE has grown to support student pitch competitions, an annual Hackathon, an on-campus Hatchery, the SLO HotHouse Accelerator and Incubator programs, and study away opportunities with Draper University in the Silicon Valley. He has also engaged a vast network of entrepreneurs who regularly visit Cal Poly and the HotHouse and mentor student startups as they work through the CIE’s programs.

York has been teaching in Cal Poly’s Orfalea College of Business since 2007. Previously, he led a 30-year career as a CEO, entrepreneur and venture capitalist.

York is one of 10 Cal Poly faculty members and three university staffers were honored for exemplary service at the 2015 Fall Conference held Sept. 14 on campus.

“We have many reasons to celebrate our faculty and staff for their dedication and their hard work,” said Enz Finken, who is also Cal Poly’s executive vice president for academic affairs. “Our annual faculty and staff awards are one way for us to acknowledge all of this fantastic activity that is going on around our campus. These are colleagues who engage, inspire and go beyond the call of duty.”

Other Cal Poly Award award-winners include:

Distinguished Scholarship Award
Wyatt Brown, Professor, Horticulture & Crop Science Department

Philip Costanzo, Associate Professor, Chemistry & Biochemistry Department

Lars Tomanek, Associate Professor, Biological Sciences Department

Distinguished Teaching Award
Todd Grundmeier, Professor, Mathematics Department

Sandy Stannard, Professor, Architecture Department

Dustin Stegner, Associate Professor, English Department

Outstanding Staff Award
Don Popham, Project and Event Manager, Facilities Services

Donetta Rosson, Administrative Support Coordinator, Agricultural Education & Communications Department

Maria Arvizu-Rodriguez, Academic Advisor, Student Academic Services

Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award
Kristen Cardinal, Associate Professor, Biomedical & General Engineering Department

Learn by Doing Faculty Scholar Award (planned and in-progress research)
Steffen Peuker, Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering Department

Learn by Doing Faculty Scholar Award (published research)
J. Kevin Taylor, Chair & Professor, Kinesiology Department


Five Student Startups Split $45K in Cal Poly’s Innovation Quest Competition

LiftGator Team The LiftGator team accepts the first place award at Innovation Quest.

Cal Poly hosted the finals of the 12th annual Innovation Quest (iQ) competition on April 24, bringing together students and alumni from different fields of study, including business. An interdisciplinary team of two Cal Poly students and an alumnus took first place for their invention of LiftGator, a removable, full-size hitch- mounted lift gate.

Justin Russo, a mechanical engineering student; Matt Kloss, business administration, and Marty Affentranger, a graduate of the mechanical engineering program, won the $15,000 Carson Chen Innovation Award. The LiftGator is designed to attach to the rear of a pickup. One person can install it in under three minutes.

More than 170 applicants representing 55 teams from across campus competed for $45,000 in this year’s iQ. Eighteen finalists presented their ideas to a panel of judges; five teams won prizes and corporate-sponsored awards. Orfalea College of Business students played a role on four of the five winning teams.

“We had so many deserving teams, it was really fun to see the students put the pressure back on the judging panel at the end of the day,” said Thomas Katona, associate professor of innovation and entrepreneurship in Cal Poly’s Biomedical Engineering Department. “We had a great spectrum of product ideas, including medical devices, Web and mobile apps, and food and water management technologies.  Our polytechnic spirit was truly on display.”

Additional prizewinners were Chad Kihm, an industrial engineering student, Brian Pocock, agribusiness, Becker McGuire, business administration, and team members Matt Ortiz and Luke Bland, who won the $10,000 Rich and Jackie Boberg Innovation Award for their product, App Scrolls. The creators said App Scrolls has the potential to become the largest online community to connect, educate and entertain mobile gamers.

Eric Adler and Garrett Hall, both mechanical engineering students, and Jeffrey Hufford, an electrical engineering student, took third place and $5,000 for SENCE, a wireless smart water meter that provides homeowners with real-time water usage information via a phone app.

Tanner Cook, mechanical engineering major, Wyatt Nelson, aerospace engineering, David Juarez, business administration, Morgan Gramling, environmental management & protection, and USC student Adam Gramling won the $10,000 Parsons Innovation Award for Higea Technologies for creating a material that enables extraction and recovery of petroleum from spill zones.

Stanley Laszczyk and Harvir Humpal, biomedical engineering students, and Jessica Krtek, business administration, won the $5,000 Quality of Life Plus (QL+) Award for the U-Turner, an ergonomic body sling that helps nurses more easily turn patients on their side for treatment.

These teams will be invited to interview for the SLO HotHouse Summer Accelerator program, a Cal Poly CIE venture. Accepted teams receive $10,000 to help fund their startup, mentorship, workspace and business guidance. The LiftGator team is already part of the HotHouse program, so the team that took sixth-place in the iQ competition will be invited to interview as well.

Innovation Quest, held in cooperation with the Cal Poly Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE), is designed to encourage innovators to pursue their ideas and help with the funding needed to launch their business.

Cal Poly graduates and business leaders founded iQ as a nonprofit philanthropic corporation to promote innovation and give back to the community. Since its inception, iQ has awarded more than $300,000.

Thirteen of 24 award winners are still in business, including local companies such as InPress Technologies, RepairTech and iFixit.

For more information about iQ and the winners, go to:

Business Students Among First Graduates of Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs Program

Silicon Valley EntrepreneursThe first cohort of 17 Cal Poly students immersed in an intensive 10-week entrepreneurship and innovation “boot camp,” will graduate from the new program this month.

The Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs: A Study-Away Entrepreneurship Immersion Program is a collaborative effort involving Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE) and Extended Education, and Draper University. Students from all disciplines throughout Cal Poly took part in a unique entrepreneurial experience in the world’s capital of technology innovation: Silicon Valley.

Cal Poly’s Orfalea College of Business and College of Liberal Arts co-sponsored a concentrated three-week course, followed by seven weeks in San Mateo at Draper University. The aim was to help would-be entrepreneurs embrace risk and find the motivation to innovate.

Of the 17 students representing Cal Poly, 10 were business students concentrating in everything from economics, to industrial technology, to finance. Cal Poly’s cohort of undergraduate students studied alongside master’s degree candidates and working professionals at Draper University.

“As a freshman, I needed to complete some prerequisite courses in order to take some of the entrepreneurship classes I was interested in,” said Katie White, business administration major. “This program offered me a chance to take those classes and to spend 10 weeks with driven, ambitious, smart entrepreneurs in an environment that would help me take my idea much farther than I could solely on campus.”

The program touched on broad issues such as finance, the legal system, creativity and survival. Courses focused on such varied topics as venture capital, sales and digital marketing, negotiation, prototyping, and the important lessons of failure.

The program culminated with a pitch competition in Silicon Valley where more than 30 teams pitched to an audience of venture capital investors. Cal Poly students led three teams that placed in the competition’s top five. Industrial Technology senior Tiffany Keller took second place in the competition with PolyLabs, a smart keychain that remotely accesses apps with the push of a button thanks to Dingbot technology. Economics sophomore Eli Burch and business administration freshman Katie White took third place with Clock’d, a bluetooth enabled app that allows hourly employees to clock in and out of work while recording data for improved work efficiency. Fifth place went to business major Tommy Espinoza, who partnered with fellow Draper student Yoni Dejene; their concept for Investful imagines an online school with interactive and project-based courses on trading stocks.

Both PolyLabs and Clock’d have been accepted in to the CIE’s Hatchery, Cal Poly’s on-campus incubator for student projects and startups.

“This program has better prepared me to become an entrepreneur in many ways,” said industrial technology senior Matt Prout. “I have gained invaluable insight on creating a company from successful entrepreneurs and experts in many different fields. I’ve learned important lessons and have done activities that pushed me in various aspects of my life. All of these skills and experiences directly translate to life as an entrepreneur.”

Business Students Win Two Awards, Funding in Cal Poly’s Pitch Perfect Competition

Kennedy Library and Orfalea College of Business are proud to announce the first round winners of the Pitch Perfect Competition. The contest partners with the the Cal Poly Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship to encourage students to pitch an idea that fosters interdisciplinary collaboration at Cal Poly. The Orfalea College of Business has provided $25,000 in prize money make a student’s idea into a reality.

In February, students from all colleges submitted video pitches for developing new spaces, apps and programs to bring people together across campus. After judges weighed in, the winners of Round 1 are:

Best Overall $1,000 & President’s Pick $850: PolyProjects by Kathryn Cassidy
Best of Orfalea $750: CoLab by Ashlee Lam (Orfalea College of Business Student)
Most Creative $700: Brilliant Minds by Sean Christensen AND Expand by David Quiray
Fan Fave $700: PolyPaths by Jenna Hoffman (Orfalea College of Business Student)

“I couldn’t be more impressed by and proud of each and every student who participated,” said President Jeffrey Armstrong. “I am particularly struck by the number of students who focused on wanting tools to help connect with other students across academic disciplines. I have no doubt their combined interest and energy can and will lead to some tangible ways to enhance collaboration. This is what Learn by Doing is all about.”

In this year’s expanded competition, all students who entered Round 1 are invited to enter Round 2. In that round, students will develop a one page business canvas for the idea they pitched in the video. One canvas is selected as a winner and awarded an additional $1,000. Students who complete Round 2 will also be considered for the SLO HotHouse Accelerator Program. The deadline is April 20, 2015.

The CIE will host an information session on how to write a one-page business canvas on Thursday, April 2 during UU Hour (11 a.m. – 12 p.m.) in the Entrepreneurship Ideation Lab (Bldg. 2 Rm. 206).

The student or team who submits the winning business canvas will work with library staff and faculty on developing their idea during summer quarter 2015 with a generous program budget. This may involve developing a prototype, collaborating with a vendor or otherwise finding creative ways to implement a new idea. They will also be considered for the SLO HotHouse Accelerator Program.