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.

Orfalea College of Business and Kennedy Library Launch $25,000 Competition

Cal Poly’s Kennedy Library and Orfalea College of Business announce the launch of the 7th annual Pitch Perfect Competition, open to all Cal Poly students.

This year’s competition asks students to suggest ways Kennedy Library can foster cross-campus collaboration at Cal Poly. The Orfalea College of Business will offer $25,000 in prizes and funding throughout three rounds of competition.

“We are grateful for the generosity and vision of the Orfalea College of Business in partnering with Kennedy Library on this competition for the last seven years,” said Anna Gold, dean of library services. “We’re also proud of the ingenuity and creativity of the many students who’ve participated.  It’s because of them that this year’s competition includes, for the first time, funding that will bring students’ ideas to life.”

In the first round of the competition, students submit a 60-second video pitch about their ideas for how the library can foster interdisciplinary collaboration at Cal Poly. For the second round, winners of the video pitch are invited (but not required) to write a one-page business plan for the idea they pitched in their videos.

The student or team who submits the winning business plan moves into the third and final round, working with library staff and faculty on developing their idea with $20,000 in funding.

In addition to the potential cash awards, participating in the Pitch Perfect Competition is a way for students to build their professional portfolios by documenting their process and building career readiness. The theme acknowledges that interdisciplinary collaboration is important not just while students are at Cal Poly, but in their future careers.

“Career readiness remains one of our biggest goals here in the Orfalea College of Business,” said Dean Scott Dawson. “Opportunities like this empower students in business and beyond to work like professionals by collaborating on a project that can have lasting impact on our campus community. I’m eager to see what fresh ideas students will pitch.”

The deadline for the first round, the 60-second video pitch, is February 23, 2015.

For more information about the competition go to

Orfalea College of Business Alumni Honored by Forbes Magazine

Forbes’ 30 Under 30 lists featured two Orfalea College of Business alumni among its 2015 honorees.

Jessica Becker, cofounder of InPress Technologies, was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list for healthcare. InPress Technologies is developing a medical device to stop postpartum hemorrhaging. Today, bleeding after giving birth remains the most common cause of death for new mothers around the world. The venture has already raised $1.5 million, including support from inventor and venture capitalist Thomas Fogarty. InPress Technologies grew with help of Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, including its HotHouse Accelerator program. Becker graduated from the Orfalea College of Business in 2011 with a degree in business administration and a concentration in entrepreneurship and small business. For more information on the startup, visit

Jesse Dundon, CEO of Hathway, was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 for advertising and marketing. Hathway is a San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based digital creative agency that develops apps and online campaigns for the likes of Behr Paint and Transamerica. Dundon cofounded the firm in 2009 and has since led its team toward strong growth, including establishing offices in Tokyo. He graduated the Orfalea College of Business with a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology in 2007. In 2008, Dundon earned his master’s degree from Cal Poly in the same subject. He currently serves on the college’s Industrial Technology Advisory Board. For more information on Hathway, visit

For more information on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 lists, visit