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.












Be the top interdisciplinary undergraduate entrepreneurship program in the nation and strategic economic development engine throughout San Luis Obispo County

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 Cal Poly alumni, Carson Chen, Richard Boberg, and Laura Pickering, iQ has already awarded over $350,000 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.

  • Cal Poly Entrepreneurs Club

    Formed by students and entrepreneurship professors, CPE is a student-run organization that enables aspiring entrepreneurs to pursue their passions by providing valuable resources such as weekly meetings, workshops, trips, events and communal support.

  • 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 Elevator Pitch Competition

    First-ever CIE Elevator Pitch Competition Forum where students have 90 seconds to pitch their product ideas, innovative services or startups for the chance to win $1,000.

  • Launched Summer Startup Accelerator

    The  Startup Accelerator is a 13-week summer program designed to give students everything you need to launch a real, scalable company.

  • 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.

  • SLO HotHouse Opens

    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 CIE.

  • Cal Poly CIE Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Opens

    The Cal Poly CIE SBDC offers a wide variety of services for both startups and established companies.

  • Faculty Fellow Program Started

    The CIE Faculty Fellows are growing the entrepreneurship culture at Cal Poly. Within each of Cal Poly’s six colleges, CIE Faculty Fellows incorporate innovation, and entrepreneurship into their coursework.

  • Launched Incubator Program

    CIE’s two-year  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.

  • 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.  

  • Innovation Sandbox Gets Dedicated Space

    Innovation Sandbox is a shared on-campus workspace for students to play with the latest prototyping/ideations tools, explore new subjects, develop technologies and share knowledge.

  • New SLO HotHouse Opens

    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 (CIE). The HotHouse is home to the CIE programs that support students and community members as..Read More

  • Entrepreneurship Minor Established

    Cal Poly Orfalea College of Business new entrepreneurship minor opens to students from all colleges allowing students to develop the entrepreneurial mindset.

  • CIE Opens Incubator Program to Community Startups

    For the first time, the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) will accept community startups into its SLO HotHouse Incubator program.

  • First Angel Conference

    Startups have the chance to win $100,000 in angel-backed investments by applying Angel Conference and pitching to a panel of judges.

  • HotHouse Annex Opens

    CIE opens a new facility to expand opportunities for new products, ideas and companies on the Central Coast.

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

Senior 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 at the CIE HotHouse and the Economic Development Director of the SBDC

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Damon Watkins

Director of Finance and Operations

With over 20 years of financial and management experience, Damon is the Director of Finance & Operations

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Jose Huitron

Director of Student Innovation Programs

Jose received his M.S. degree in Integrated Marketing Communications from West Virginia University. Huitron is a Lecturer in the

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Nichole McAllister

Operations Manager

Nichole McAllister, born and raised in San Luis Obispo County, has worked in the hospitality business since 2009.

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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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Lynn Metcalf

Professor of Entrepreneurship & CIE Faculty Fellows Director

Dr. Metcalf joined the marketing faculty at Cal Poly in 1986.

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Liz Fisher

Program Manager

Liz Fisher is the Program Manager for the Cal Poly CIE Small Business Development Center. She holds a B.S. in Public Relations

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Stephanie Zombek

Marketing & Communications Manager

Stephanie Zombek is a Cal Poly alum. She graduated with a B.F.A. in Art & Design concentrating in Graphic Design.

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Sheri Burlock

Administrative Specialist

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Madison Krum

Project Coordinator

Madison is a Project Coordinator at the Cal Poly CIE Small Business Development Center.

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Alexis Cox

Administrative Coordinator

Alexis Cox is an Admin Coordinator for the Small Business Development Center. She holds a B.F.A. in Art and Design from Cal Poly.

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Anvita Vyas

Student Innovation Outreach Coordinator

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Alyson Smith

Public Relations & Digital Marketing Intern

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