Business Student Haley Pavone Wins CIE’s 7th Annual Elevator Pitch Competition

Business student Haley Pavone pitches at Cal PolyA third-year undergraduate business administration major won the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s seventh-annual Elevator Pitch Competition on Nov. 9 at the Performing Arts Center Pavilion.

Haley Pavone is the founder and CEO of Pashion Footwear that is developing a convertible high-heel shoe now undergoing research and development in the Orfalea College of Business’ Hatchery program. She was the top pick of a panel of four judges for the $1,000 prize. In addition, she received the $500 Audience Choice award.

According to Pavone, Pashion is an innovative fashion startup working to create a “practical and fashionable” approach to the classic stiletto heel — an adaptable shoe that can fully convert from pump to  flat. “Combining excellent technical execution with trendy styles, Pashion Footwear is the up-and-coming solution to the pain, injury, and inconvenience associated with wearing high heels,” she wrote.

Elevator Pitch Competition participantsHosted each fall, Elevator Pitch allows undergraduate and graduate students to share product ideas, innovative services or a startup plan at any stage of development. Students across all majors were encouraged to apply. Entries from 50 Cal Poly students were whittled down to the top six, who presented their ideas in a high-pressure, fast-paced, 90-second pitch to the judges, all startup founders.

New this year was the addition of Cuesta College, which submitted their top four student companies. Sarah Keas received the $1,000 top prize. Her Breathe Bans proposal offers a new take on a device that provides emergency shots for allergic reactions that is more convenient to carry and use because of its small size and versatile design. The other Cal Poly entrants were invited to join the Hatchery.

Other student participants were Brett Tyler, Brayden Podesta, Sierra Scolaro, Sarthak Khillon, Jax Gottwald, Olga Holubeck, Ross Levine and Tommy Sidebottom. Ten pitches were made over 45 minutes.

“It was a hard choice for the final judges,” said Candice Conti, CIE communications manager. “They deliberated to the very last possible minute. Overall, the pitches were really good and so were the ideas.”

Student Startups Pitch at Cal Poly CIE’s Demo Day

CIE Demo Day 2016Eight startups founded by Cal Poly students and recent grads pitched to a packed house at Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entreprenurship’s Demo Day on Friday, Sept. 9. The event marked the conclusion of CIE’s Summer Accelerator, where each team received seed funding, intensive mentoring from leading entrepreneurs and innovators, and work space in the SLO HotHouse for 13 weeks.

The entrepreneurs networked with a crowd of more than 300 community members, Cal Poly supporters and potential investors at the Performing Arts Center. Orfalea College of Business students and alumni were part of six of the eight companies presenting.

Matt Maxwell of BoltAbout presents during Demo DayBoltAbout
Finance senior Matt Maxwell and his team developed a scalable electric bike rental company aiming to revolutionize transportation in college towns and in busy urban areas. The company empowers commuters to choose a more sustainable way to get around by offering high-quality bikes, maintenance, and month-to-month rental options.

Burro Components
Biomedical engineering major Griffin Paul and mechanical engineering grad Ricky Riedl engineered sturdy, adaptable parts that enable a variety of bicycles to carry significant loads. The new rack design is designed to lower the center of gravity of a bicycle’s front wheel to carry cargo safely.

Finance major Maxwell Fong and industrial technology and packaging senior Elan Timmons teamed up to create a smartphone case with a built-in stun gun used for self defense. The product’s integrated app also dispatches police to the scene of the incident, notifies emergency contacts, and starts recording video to help identify and apprehend an assailant.

Ashley Tovar, a liberal studies senior, and Naomi Faud, a graphic communications sophomore, established an all-in-one website where brides and event planners can book space and vendors directly. Their vision is to create a marketplace that allows homeowners, landowners, and businesses to list their properties and event services.

Entrepreneurship student Lucas Toohey and computer engineering student Jacob Copus helped create unique technology that allows multiple streaming of 2D content in a 3D environment. Its interactive features and functions take advantage of booming virtual reality technology.

Kiley Becker of PCkit presents at Demo Day.PCkit
Entrepreneurship senior Kiley Becker, computer engineering senior Nicholas Verhage and industrial engineering junior Michael Wong are behind PCkit, a cost-efficient gaming computer kit that customers could build themselves. The kits would be adaptable to specific games and would come complete with all tools, parts, and instructions necessary.

Business students Gannon Daynes, Sonya Bengali and Kendall Melton teamed up with mechanical engineer Jared Becker to create the Vibro hydration backpack that vibrates bass frequencies from the music played at live music festivals. The company looks to tap into the growing market of electronic dance music (EDM) festivals around the world.

Entrepreneurship alumna Kaitlyn Henry and mechanical engineering junior Adrian Eaton presented their sustainable drip irrigation technology that helps the agricultural community save water and grow more consistent crops. The team targeted the Central Coast’s grape growing industry, and plans to expand to other crops and regions.

CIE’s Accelerator program is one of many ways Cal Poly students can explore their own business idea or innovate a new product or service. Throughout the year, it also offers pitch competitions, hackathons, industry tours, and community forums. The CIE also offers an on-campus Hatchery for young startus, and an Incubator program for more mature ventures looking for co-working space in a thriving entrepreneurial environment in Downtown San Luis Obispo. For more information, visit

TechPitch Brings Together Entrepreneurs, Community Leaders & Business Alumni

Tyler Dycus, alumnus and Business Development Lead at Tandemech Engineering, stands with the wall-scaling robot.

Tyler Dycus, alumnus and Business Development Lead at Tandemech Engineering, stands with the wall-scaling robot.

Orfalea College of Business alumni made a big impact on the fourth annual TechPitch event on October 22, hosted by Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, the Economic Vitality Corporation and Softec. The event brought together six early-stage technology startups from San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties to pitch to a panel of angel investors for a $5,000 prize.

The Cardboard Guys, founded and run by three business alumni, pitched their product line of inexpensive, recyclable corrugated cardboard furniture for kids and college students. Justin Farr (Industrial Technology ’14), Jordan Keplar (Industrial Technology ’14) and Jake Disraeli (Entrepreneurship ’13) shared their plans for a crowd-sourcing campaign to propel production forward.

Tyler Dycus, recent Orfalea College of Business graduate and co-founder of Tandemech Engineering, supported Tandemech’s presentation of its wall-scaling robot. Tandemech and The Cardboard Guys were both part of CIE’s HotHouse Accelerator program during the summer of 2014. The ventures are now involved with CIE’s Incubator program to help sustain key growth and secure funding.

The winning team from the pitch competition was Superior Solutions Manufacturing, who presented the removable lift gate for pickup trucks, called the LiftGator. Superior Solutions Manufacturing swept both the judge’s award and the audience choice award. Their cash prize also comes with professional consulting services to aid the business’ launch.

S. Brett Whitaker (Business Administration ’86), who owns Whitaker Construction, donated the cash prize for the pitch competition and served on the panel of judges. Fellow judges included Jo Anne Miller, co-founder of SLO Seed Ventures; Paul Meyer, managing partner of TechCXO; Laura Pickering, partner of Innovation Quest; Rick Stollmeyer, co-founder and CEO of MINDBODY Inc.; and Helio Fialho, founder of LeftLane Sports and CEO of Auspient Inc.

Douglas Hutcheson, former CEO of Leap Wireless, was the evening’s keynote speaker. He discussed how he founded Cricket Wireless to pioneer unlimited wireless calling in the 1990s. His business was acquired by AT&T in March 2014.

For more information on CIE, visit

Business Students and Alumni Shine at Entrepreneurship Forum

Students, alumni and faculty from the Orfalea College of Business gathered at the Performing Arts Center for Cal Poly’s first Entrepreneurship Forum of the academic year, hosted by the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship. The event attracted campus-wide participation in the student pitch competition and a panel discussion on the entrepreneurial journey.

The final round of the 5th annual Ray Scherr Elevator Pitch Competition was the highlight of the evening. Of the 282 video pitch submissions, 10 finalists ranging from freshmen to graduate students were selected to pitch their big idea in just 90 seconds. Two business students were among the entrepreneurs on stage in the preliminary Idea Cloud division and more mature Launch Pad categories.

Katherine White, a business administration freshman, won the Audience Choice Award for ClockIn, an app that would use mobile geolocation technology to create a digital time card for hourly employees. Fourth year Industrial Technology student Katie Boe pitched an app called DingBot that aims to collate and streamline frequently used mobile app functions for quicker access. The competition’s judges awarded her idea 3rd place in the Launch Pad category. The evening’s overall winner was Chad Kihm, an industrial engineering student, for his pitch introducing a suite of mobile game education tools, called “Game of War Real Tips.” He was awarded $1,000 to develop his idea and the opportunity to pitch at the Collegiate Entrepreneurship Organization’s National Elevator Pitch Competition in Florida.

Entrepreneurship professor and CIE co-founder Jonathan York led the panel discussion, “From Dorm Room to Board Room,” exploring how successful entrepreneurs transition from a big idea to a successful venture. The panelists, who also served as judges in the pitch competition, included two Orfalea College of Business alumni. Sander DiAngelis, a 2014 entrepreneurship graduate and 2013 pitch competition participant, spoke about how his company, Moja Outdoors, benefited from CIE’s HotHouse Accelerator and Incubator resources. Romy Taormina, a marketing alumna from 1993, described her path toward the successful launch of her invention, Psi Bands, to combat nausea in pregnant women and chemotherapy patients.

DiAngelis and Taormina joined Alex DeNoble, executive director of the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center at San Diego State University, and Jo Anne Miller, co-founder of SLO Seed Ventures and managing partner at Brown Dog Partners, on the panel. Their discussion ranged from the importance of passion in a startup, to “bootstrapping,” to taking advice from other entrepreneurs.

The forum is the first in this year’s series, which will cover topics like entrepreneurship education and finance. For more information on CIE, visit