Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

About CIE

Impact Stats

The Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship has had a distinct and measurable impact on and off Cal Poly campus.












The Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship's mission is to empower innovators and leaders to change the world.

CIE Short Story

Knowing there was an abundance of curious, technically savvy and entrepreneurial-minded Cal Poly students, two business professors had a vision. They wanted every student regardless of major to be exposed to entrepreneurship inside and outside of the classroom.

In 2010 their vision came to fruition when they opened the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), and since it's inception, the Center has expanded its programming on and off campus making it a driving force for job creation in our region and throughout our state.

  • Innovation Quest (iQ)

    Founded in 2004 by Cal Poly graduates and business leaders, Carson Chen, Richard Boberg, and Laura Pickering, iQ has already awarded more than $300,000 in support of Cal Poly innovators and entrepreneurs who have used the program as a platform to launch successful businesses.

  • Entrepreneurship Concentration

    The entrepreneurship concentration is opened to business administration and economics majors in the Orfalea College of Business. The entrepreneurship concentration aligns with a plethora of resources in CIE to afford students collaborative Learn by Doing experiences with students from all disciplines on campus.

  • 1st Elevator Pitch Competition

    Students have 90 seconds to pitch their product ideas, innovative services or startups to a panel of judges for the chance to win $1,000.

  • Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Opened

    Since its inception in 2010,  the CIE opened a world of entrepreneurial opportunity to Cal Poly students, faculty and community members, and promotes regional economic development throughout the region.

  • 1st Startup Weekend

    Held once a year, this competition empowers students and community entrepreneurs from all disciplines to come together and build a startup in 54 hours.

  • HotHouse Opens

    The 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 CIE. The HotHouse is home to the CIE programs that support students and community members as they work to create new innovations and start business..Read More

  • Cal Poly Entrepreneurs largest Interdisciplinary Campus Club

    A student-run club that unifies entrepreneurs on campus, Cal Poly Entrepreneurs hosts dozens of entrepreneurial events, activities and special guests every year.

  • The Hatchery Opens

    The Hatchery is an on-campus program that provides an entrepreneurial experience to students and allows them to cultivate the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in any business.

  • 1st Hackathon

    Held annually, the Hackathon highlights the best of Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing motto, giving students across campus the opportunity to create,  design and build with fellow students and mentors.  

CIE Staff Bios

John Townsend

Executive Director

John Townsend is an innovative entrepreneur, an experienced business executive, and a passionate educator.

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Cory Karpin

Director of Development

Cory grew up working in a small family business.

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Judy Mahan

Economic Development Director

Judy Mahan has a dual role as the Incubator Director for Cal Poly CIE at the HotHouse and the Director of the Small Business

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Candice Conti

Marketing and Communications Director

Candice Conti is an entrepreneurial-minded strategic marketing and communications professional with over 17 years of experience

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Nichole Elliott

Operations Manager

Nichole Elliott, born and raised in San Luis Obispo County, has worked in the hospitality business since 2009. She lived in German

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Thomas Katona

Asst. Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Thomas Katona received his Ph.D. and M.S. degrees from the University of California, Santa Barbara in Electrical and Computer

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Jonathan York

Co-Founder and OCOB Professor

Dr. Jonathan York is a long time CEO and entrepreneur who is the founder of the Cal Poly Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

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Liz Fisher

CIE SBDC Project Coordinator

Liz Fisher is the Project Coordinator for the Small Business Development Center. She holds a B.S. in Public Relations

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