Cal Poly Adds Seven Startups to SLO HotHouse Summer Accelerator Program

Cal Poly CIE Accelerator Teams 2017Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) has accepted seven startup companies into this year’s SLO HotHouse Summer Accelerator program.

The intense 13-week program is designed for students and recent graduates who have developed new ventures and want help making them succeed.

The program provides $10,000 in seed money, hands-on strategic business guidance from faculty and mentors, and dedicated office space during the summer at the SLO HotHouse. Companies receive training, introductions to investors and resources to help move their ventures forward. At the culmination of the program, they will have an opportunity to pitch their ideas to investors during Demo Day.

The ventures represent a variety of concepts, including health foods, innovative footwear, sustainable building materials and smart solutions for San Luis Obispo house renters.

“Our accelerators are tackling the startup world head on,” said Lori Jordan, director of student innovation programs, who oversees the program. “We are giving them the tools they need to grow their company, and we are excited to see where their venture takes them and how they make an impact locally, nationally and throughout the world.”

Applicants representing disciplines from across campus competed for a place in the seventh annual accelerator program. Thirteen finalists presented their ideas to a panel of judges who chose the final seven companies.

“This program encourages risk takers, innovators and dreamers to pursue their passion,” said the CIE Executive Director Tod Nelson. “The accelerators are encouraged to think without limits. Through creativity, guidance, ambition and grit, these startups will grow to become pillars of the economy and supporters of our community.”

This year’s accelerator companies are:

Atsá Foods LLC is an innovative food company that is turning Native American superfoods into everyday nutritious snacks and returning value to the Navajo Nation Reservation. It was conceived by Rafael Pintor, agricultural business; Peter Haverkamp, food science; Neal Gorris, industrial technology and packaging; and Sam Baber, art and design.

Bluezone uses augmented reality, gamification and big data to inspire discovery and connection between users. It was developed by Brett, and Jimmy Kang, business administration.

DTE Materials manufactures hemp-based, high-performance, non-toxic and sustainable building insulation material. Created by Tanner Jolly, materials engineering, and Jose Urizar, civil engineering.

LocalzOwn is building a platform that its founders say is the smartest and easiest way to source and sell local artisan food products. It was started by Joseph Lyman, biomedical engineering; Michael Fekadu, computer engineering; and Leonel S. Farias, agricultural education.

Pashion Footwear has designed an adaptable shoe that can easily convert from a pump into a flat that is an innovative and pain-free approach to women’s footwear. It was designed by Haley Pavone, business administration, and Tyler Unbehand, industrial technology and packaging.

PolyRents has created technology that simplifies the housing rental process for landlords and their prospective tenants. It was created by Cameron Wiese, psychology, and Alexander Kavanaugh, software engineering.

Yellow Glass Media creates and curates socially relevant and unbiased media content to inspire viewers to listen, learn and empathize. It was conceived by Nesrine Majzoub, sociology, and Daniel Hornett, civil engineering.

The SLO HotHouse is a community space created through the efforts of Cal Poly, the city and county of San Luis Obispo, the business community and the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The goal of the SLO HotHouse is to support students and community members as they work to create new innovations and start business ventures. For more information, visit

The CIE opens a world of entrepreneurial opportunity to Cal Poly students, faculty and community members, and promotes entrepreneurial activity and dialogue across the university and throughout San Luis Obispo County. For more information, go to

Front row (from left): Rafael Pintor, Sam Baber, Peter Haverkamp , Michael Fekadu,  Haley Pavone, Tyler Unbehand and Nesrine Majzoub. Back row (from left): Neal Gorris, Jimmy Kang, Brett Foreman, Leonel Farias, Joseph Lyman, Cameron Wiese, Alexander Kavanaugh and Jose Urizar. Not pictured: Tanner Jolly and Daniel Hornett.

New SLO HotHouse Offers Community Coworking Space in Downtown San Luis Obispo

Cal Poly CIE SLO HotHouse

The Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) — which is providing workplace solutions for freelancers, startups and entrepreneurs — has space for new members at its new SLO HotHouse location in the heart of downtown.

Business professionals looking for a welcoming coworking space to set up shop with other business-minded members, a place to launch the next big idea or American dream, or a convenient place to meet with clients, now have affordable solutions.

The CIE SLO HotHouse offers its members a comfortable work environment with fast Internet, 24/7 access, educational and social events plus business consulting at an all-inclusive price. Members also have access to meeting rooms, high-quality printers and a full kitchen with premium coffee.

With more than 15,000 square feet of space, the SLO HotHouse offers flexible short- and long-term memberships and an open area for coworking, along with a private phone booth, a lounge, three conference rooms, private offices, dedicated desk spaces and event space.

“As hotel brokers, the HotHouse has provided us with an energetic and progressive environment for building our business,” said Aaron Graves, principal of California Hotel Brokers and a SLO HotHouse coworker. “We are able to collaborate with other companies involved in technology, tourism and sustainability all under one roof. The input from other cutting-edge entrepreneurs helps to challenge us and forces California Hotel Brokers to become the best in the industry.”

The SLO HotHouse is a community hub with more than 50 individuals and more than two-dozen companies working out of the space. Members include experts in real estate, marketing, law, photography, and development.

“The SLO HotHouse was created for the community,” said CIE Executive Director Tod Nelson. “San Luis Obispo is full of talented entrepreneurs and visionaries, and the SLO HotHouse provides a collaborative environment. Our coworking space is a melting pot of creativity that generates a level of synergy that results from the proximity and collaboration of like-minded people. New relationships are developed. Ideas are challenged. Problems are solved.”

The SLO HotHouse is at 872 Higuera St. in downtown San Luis Obispo. For more information, go to

Cal Poly Announces Companies Selected for SLO HotHouse Program

2016 Accelerator TeamsCal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) has accepted eight startup companies into this year’s SLO HotHouse Summer Accelerator program, an intense 13-week program designed for students and recent graduates who have developed new ventures and want help making them succeed.

The program provides $10,000 in seed money, hands-on strategic business guidance from faculty and mentors, and dedicated office space during the summer at SLO HotHouse. Companies receive training, introductions to investors, and resources to help move their venture forward. At the end of the program, they will have an opportunity to pitch their ideas to investors during Demo Day.

The ventures represent a variety of concepts, including virtual reality, devices that aid in preventing sexual assaults, environmentally friendly transportation, and smart irrigation technology for growing wine grapes.

“We have an outstanding group of high-growth startups participating in this year’s accelerator,” said Lori Jordan, manager of student innovation programs, who is overseeing the program. “We are excited to match these companies with mentors in their industries and make them part of the San Luis Obispo entrepreneurial ecosystem so they can grow and make a lasting impact.”

More than 25 applicants representing disciplines from across campus competed for a place in the sixth annual accelerator program. Twelve final teams presented their ideas to a panel of judges.

“Our Accelerator is designed to attract and produce early-stage startups and rapidly increase the odds of each startup’s success,” said CIE Executive Director Tod Nelson. “By having this type of program in San Luis Obispo County, entrepreneurs – the risk takers, innovators, dreamers – can build their companies here and keep the knowledge they’re gaining right here. This is a long-term play: these startups will be pillars of our local economy in 10 or 20 years.”

2016 CIE SLO HotHouse Accelerator Companies:

– AT Irrigation — conceived by Adrian Eaton, mechanical engineering; and Timothy Holst, wine and viticulture — aims to revolutionize wine-grape growing by reducing water consumption and improving crop quality through a smart network of soil moisture probes and precision valves.

– Abode Venues is a residential venue directory that helps people find a custom, affordable, private residence to use for their meeting, event or wedding. It was created by Ashley Tovar, liberal studies; and Naomi Fuad, graphic communications (along with Cuesta College student Aryiana Hanson).

– — developed by Matthew Maxwell, business administration; Tavin Boynton, graphic communication; and Ryan Stojanovich, agriculture business — rents fast and environmentally friendly electronic-bikes to college students.

– Current — the brainchild of Elan Timmons, mechanical engineering; and Maxwell Fong, industry technology and packaging — is a company that developed a phone case to aid in preventing sexual assaults with a stun gun that automatically alerts the police.

– Everyday Bike Components produces a high-quality bicycle cargo solution for bicycle commuters. Richard Riedl, mechanical engineer; Loren Sunding, manufacturing engineer; and Griffin Paul, biomedical engineer, started this venture.

– ObserVR — created by Lucas Toohey, business administration; and Jacob Copus, computer engineering — is a virtual reality application that allows a user to stream multiple 2-D videos in a 3-D environment, creating an immersive environment for simultaneous viewing.

– PCKit, a venture that ships customers the parts and instructions they need to build their own gaming desktop, was created by students Nicholas Verhage, computer engineering; Michael Wong, industrial engineering; and Kiley Becker, business administration.

– Spectrvm — designed by Jared Becker, mechanical engineering, and Gannon Daynes and Sonya Bengali, business administration — is an insert for hydration backpacks that allows people to feel the music, by vibrating bass frequencies from live DJs at electronic dance music (EDM) festivals, through the body.

Cal Poly’s Innovation Quest Competition Awards $30,000 to Student Startups

Mantis Composits accept their first place checkAn interdisciplinary team of four Cal Poly students earned the $15,000 first-place prize in Cal Poly’s 13th annual Innovation Quest (iQ) Competition for their startup Mantis Composites, a company that is developing carbon fiber 3-D printing technology to provide full service design-to-manufacturing of high performance materials for automotive, aerospace and biomedical applications.

Aerospace engineering students Ryan Dunn and David Zilar, materials engineering student Michael Chapiro, and electrical engineering student Michael Delay have been working on Mantis Composite for a year and half and participated in Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Summer Accelerator program last year. Their platform allows customers to create composite parts for machines and devices with stronger, lighter and more intricate geometry than current technologies allow.

More than 150 applicants representing 43 teams from across campus competed for $30,000 in this year’s iQ competition. Twelve teams of finalists were selected to present their ideas to a panel of judges with a broad range of entrepreneurial experience.

“We were very impressed by the caliber of innovative startup ideas that emerged for this competition and the maturity of prototypes and products being developed,” said Thomas Katona, assistant professor of innovation and entrepreneurship in Cal Poly’s Biomedical Engineering Department. “We had a fantastic spectrum of product ideas, including water management technologies, digital marketplace platforms, and fundamental materials development. This competition showcased Cal Poly’s top student startups and the polytechnic spirit.”

Sociology major Luke Fox and his business partner Michael Taylor of Trinity County, Calif., won second place and the $10,000 Rich and Jackie Boberg Innovation Award for their startup, DroneFox, an invention designed to help emergency personnel detect, identify and intercept unauthorized drones.

Business administration majors Lucas Toohey and Matt Twohig, computer science student Annie Liu, and computer engineering students Jacob Copus, Justin Cellona and Nikhil Ahuja took third place and $5,000 for ObserVR, a virtual reality application that allows a user to stream multiple 2-D videos in a 3-D environment, creating an immersive environment for simultaneously viewing multiple eSport or sporting events.

The top three teams are invited to interview and compete for the CIE’s SLO HotHouse Summer Accelerator program, a 13-week intensive business launch program. Accepted teams receive $10,000 to help fund their startup, are paired with experienced mentors, and receive workspace and business guidance throughout the summer.

Cal Poly graduates and business leaders founded iQ as a nonprofit philanthropic corporation to create a mechanism for Cal Poly students to apply their skills and innovative ideas to create companies and jobs and to build a culture of social responsibility. Since its inception, iQ has awarded more than $375,000 and alumni companies of the iQ program have begun to financially support the competition.

“Parsons is pleased to have sponsored Cal Poly’s iQ competition for the third consecutive year, and we congratulate this year’s winners for their ingenuity and success in translating skills they learned in the classroom into innovative products and business ideas,” said Chuck Harrington, Parsons’ chairman and CEO. “As a global engineering, construction, technical and management services firm, we understand the importance of empowering today’s youth through innovation and learning.”

Half of the 32 award winners over the last 10 years are still in business, including Grinds Coffee, InPress Technologies, RepairTech and Higea Inc.

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

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