Menu

Blog

Venturing beyond the stars: Little Place Labs utilizes collaboration with Cal Poly classrooms for entrepreneurial growth

While pursuing their MBAs at Oxford University, the brains behind Little Place Labs brewed up their startup idea over pints of Guinness. It all kicked off with one, then turned into five, and soon enough co-founders Bosco Lai, acting CEO, and Gaurav Bajaj, acting CTO, were deep into brainstorming. Fueled by laughter, camaraderie, and a dash of liquid courage, these co-founders turned pub banter into a startup known as Little Place Labs.

Little Place Labs, a space tech company, specializes in developing solutions for near real-time space insights. In a world heavily reliant on space data collected by satellites, their innovative approach involves implementing software that operates directly on satellites, enabling the transformation of space-collected data into actionable information delivered quickly to ground stakeholders. Their software is particularly crucial in situations where real-time decisions are imperative.

At the heart of Little Place Labs’ narrative is the profound significance of relationships and engaging with individuals.

“One of the key elements of why Little Place Lab exists is because I met my co-founder and some of the team members,” Lai said. “When you meet the right people, everything just kickstarts.”

The theme of relationships continued, as it was through a coincidental interaction that the Texas-based startup came to join the Cal Poly Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship  Incubator program. 

The CIE Incubator helps develop early-stage startups into financially secure and scalable enterprises. Entrepreneurs in the program are provided with mentorship, funding opportunities and other resources to develop their business. 

In 2022, while attending a space event in Los Angeles, Lai said he crossed paths with Judy Mahan, Cal Poly CIE Senior Economic Development Director. Their casual conversation delved into the essence of Little Place Labs and Mahan’s role within the organization.

Quickly captivated by the Incubator’s diverse support for various startups beyond space tech, Lai said he immediately recognized the unique prospect the program offered. More than just a chance to immerse Little Place Labs in California’s dynamic ecosystem, Lai saw it as a golden opportunity to foster profound connections with a program deeply connected to a university that encourages collaboration between startups, academia, students and professors.

Little Place Labs joined the Incubator in 2022 and participates in the program virtually from Texas.

Through the CIE Incubator, Little Place Labs was introduced to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly) professor Barry Lieberman, which they credit to be one of the best opportunities utilized from the program.

“Interaction with the personnel and people with Cal Poly really, really helped us,” Lai said. Working with the professors, students and directly with the university, helps us think through things not just from a commercial way, but also from a technical way.” 

Lieberman runs a commercialization of new technologies course at Cal Poly, structured around grouping his students to research for an emerging company in an under-researched market. Little Place Labs has collaborated with the students in this course the last two years.

Their participation in the course has proved to be a beneficial experience for both the students and Little Place Labs.

“We are able to really leverage the students during their time with Professor Liberman to do market research on Little Place Labs,” Lai said. “There’s a lot of excitement and a lot of work that we were able to leverage from the students during their time with us. We were very happy to use their work and merge it with our own.”

As the 2024 year begins, Lai said Little Place Labs is focusing on their business development. Specifically, working on partnerships, contacts, increasing exposure and planning seed ground fundraising events in the upcoming months. 

In line with their commitment to fostering relationships, they plan to continue working with Professor Lieberman and interacting with Cal Poly students.

“We really enjoy working with the professor and the students. We learned a lot, and I think that’s really valuable. Not all programs can provide us with that kind of exposure and interactions,” Lai said. “The Incubator is fantastic because it really provides you support in many different ways. The program is open to your imagination.”

Comments are off for this post

Revitalizing Professional Energy: A Filmmaker’s Journey at the CIE HotHouse

Taylor Jenisch’s transition from the solitude of remote work to the vibrant atmosphere at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) HotHouse in Downtown San Luis Obispo (SLO) was more than a mere change in location; it was a transformative experience that reenergized his professional life. 

Following the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread shift to virtual, at-home work, Jenisch, founder and CEO of Burning Boat Films, found it difficult to deal with working remotely and its lonely quality. Despite the flexibility and freedom remote work offered, Jenisch felt a drop in productivity and the weight of isolation, he said. 

“I came to the HotHouse and immediately felt the energy of other people, especially the entrepreneurs,” Jenisch said. “Productivity picked up massively and I had a better mood from the people around and being able to talk to others.”    

Jenisch started Burning Boat Films, an entertainment company focused on creating documentary and narrative films, in Copenhagen. Eventually, he shifted his company’s base to SLO, engaging with independent contractors both locally and globally. 

Jenisch discovered the HotHouse through a mutual friend who was actively involved. Intrigued by the space, Jenisch decided to give it a try for a day, which has led to nearly a year of coworking. 

“The community and the people in the HotHouse were the biggest selling factor — they’ve got a really nice group of people,” Jenisch said. “Every day you get to meet someone new, which has helped me build solid business connections.” 

About a month after joining the HotHouse, Jenisch attended the CIE’s monthly Small Business Development Center’s (SBDC) Coffee and Conversation where the SBDC brings in a guest speaker to provide advice about a specific expertise ranging from sales to marketing to general business strategies. Following this event, Jenisch received a full investment in one of his films. 

“Through one of the Coffee and Conversations, I received a full investment for a film, which is insane for that short of time at a coworking space,” Jenisch explained. “I realized there are a lot of untapped resources here,” Jenisch said. 

Having grown up in Europe, Jenisch initially struggled with how to structure a business in America. However, Jenisch said he received a lot of help from the CIE staff and other connections within the HotHouse. He described transitioning to the HotHouse as a “180-degree turn for the better.”

“If you’re finding it difficult to motivate yourself to put in a full day of work because you’re working in a room or have kids at home and are getting distracted, it’s a nice opportunity to come into a coworking space,” Jenisch said. “Get some socialization in and become fed by the motivation of other people.”

Comments are off for this post

Tailored solutions: Intersect Executive Performance redefines peak health for corporate leaders

Logan Jennings’s routine in San Francisco was a balancing act between grueling hours at a hedge fund and workout sessions alongside his friend, and soon to be co-founder and chief results officer, Jacob Hubert. However, a sudden health scare ultimately rewrote his life’s trajectory. 

A blood clot in his shoulder threatened his life. It took a close friend’s plea to prompt Logan’s visit to the hospital –– an action that proved to be a critical, life-or-death decision. The forced pause from his usual workout grind and prospect of losing his active lifestyle triggered a profound realization: he didn’t want to keep working for others. The experience ignited a desire to create something more aligned with his passions of fitness and health.

It was during regular hospital visits and recovery support that Hubert and Jennings came up with the idea for their startup, Intersect Executive Performance.

“I started visiting the hospital and thereafter he would come meet me for hours and we would talk and understand what the holes in the fitness industry were and where we could fit in,” Hubert said. 

The startup works to provide top leaders with a personalized, data-driven plan on how to best improve all aspects of their health without drastically changing executive’s already busy schedules. 

Intersect Executive Performance has a two-part process, which allows them to curate the optimal plan for their user. First, they collect the user’s parameters of work schedules, home life, stress levels, sleep quality, health history, gym accessibility and dietary restrictions. Then they analyze the results of the user’s blood biomarker and gut intelligence testing results.

Afterward, the team works with experts to create a personalized plan to enhance the team’s seven pillars of peak performance: energy, sleep, stress, daily habits, movement, nutrition and focus.

Like Jennings, Hubert was fully immersed in the corporate world after graduating, being employed at a consulting firm and sharing a passion for health and fitness. 

“[Fitness] was the only way I was able to stay sane with the amount of hours I was working,” Hubert said. “I was having success in my role, but I wanted that opportunity to grow. I knew that my potential wasn’t going to be as a cog in the machine. My potential was going to be in a place that required me to struggle and not have a safety net.”

Given their shared passion and solace in fitness, the two knew they wanted to do something in health and fitness performance, Hubert said. And their experience working in corporate America provided them insight into their target market of top leaders and executives. 

“We found there’s a hole in the assumption around these top leaders having everything figured out. But in reality, they need help balancing,” Hubert said. “When I was working in my consulting firm, a lot of my leaders seemed like they’re handling everything, but they’re struggling to balance it all. They might have been fulfilled from a work perspective, but they felt other aspects of their life slipping as a result of the burden that they take on by being a leader in their business and community.”

Their services are provided primarily virtually, with weekly touch points and opportunities for phone calls and direct messaging to allow executives to continue focusing on their responsibilities.

“Our goal is really not to take up time or add things to an already crowded plate but really be able to blend into their lives,” Hubert said.

With a clear goal in mind, the two California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo graduates turned to the Cal Poly Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship’s (CIE) Incubator program in the fall of 2022 to gain knowledge in entrepreneurship and startups.

The program helps develop early-stage startups into financially secure and scalable enterprises. Entrepreneurs in the Incubator program are provided with mentorship, funding opportunities and other resources to develop their business. 

“Although we both graduated from the school of business, we realized that we don’t know what we don’t know,” Hubert said. “There’s so many different stones that need to be turned, and every time you untorn a new stone, there are 1,000 more stones underneath that.” 

Beyond providing resources and knowledge, the Incubator has also provided the startup with a community. 

“The killer of startups is a lack of focus. There’s a lot of noise, and the CIE provides a community that has gone through and heard the noise before,” Hubert said. “Even though not every person in the Incubator is in the same industry or solving the same problem, [the Incubator] allows us to learn from each and grow alongside other people who are struggling and growing and learning.”

The team was also introduced to consultant Mitch Emerson, who is now a part of the team’s advisory board. 

“Mitch Emerson has had the biggest impact on our growth and success,” Hubert said. “Mitch has technical background, but his operation skills and understanding of what matters what and what doesn’t and how to shift your focus and how to prioritize has been instrumental to our ability to grow and succeed.” 

The Incubator program, Hubert said, perfectly embodies the saying, “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together,” Hubert said. “The CIE really provides that sense of togetherness.”

 

Comments are off for this post

Cal Poly students shine at entrepreneurial conference, embracing Cal Poly’s core value ‘Learn By Doing.’

Four Cal Poly students attended the 40th annual Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO) Global Conference & Pitch Competition held in Tampa, Florida, immersing themselves in Cal Poly’s practical learning approach known as ‘Learn By Doing.’ CEO is a global network for collegiate entrepreneurs and innovators with more than 250 college and university chapters; they support and inspire the growth of any student that seeks to be entrepreneurial. 

Out of the 600 startup teams that applied, Cal Poly business administration seniors Benjamin Arts and Mathew Reis made it to the top 25 as finalists with their startup Té Piña

Té Piña is a pineapple-based beverage that provides consumers with a healthier alternative to energy drinks. 

Arts attended the CEO event in 2022 as a spectator, having been recommended by faculty as a student who would effectively represent the Cal Poly entrepreneurship program. This year, after feeling confident in their startup, Arts and Reis decided to apply to the competition.

Prior to the CEO event, Arts and Reis participated in the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Summer Accelerator, a three-month program that provides Cal Poly students and recent graduates with the resources needed to turn their startups into real, scalable businesses.

“During the Summer Accelerator, every Friday you are pitching and receiving constructive criticism. After going through an experience of 12 weeks of pitching, it’s really hard to be put in a scenario where you’re not ready to go under fire,” said Reis. 

Because of their involvement with the Summer Accelerator, Arts and Reis felt more equipped talking about their business than other teams pitching, Arts said.  

“With general pitching and answering certain questions, it showed that we have [pitched our business] 100 times,” Arts explained. 

Joining Arts and Reis were the President and Vice President of Cal Poly Entrepreneurs (CPE) Michelle Wu and Jacob Boyd who are both business administration sophomores. CPE is a student-run club that unifies entrepreneurs on campus. 

Each year the CEO organizers invite the President and Vice President of entrepreneurship chapters in their organization to enjoy the event as spectators. 

The CEO conference was a great opportunity to network and get more involved in the startup culture, Boyd said. 

“Seeing other leaders involved and being so passionate about what they’re doing motivates me as well,” Wu explained. “It’s a reminder that we are all in this together.” 

Going into the conference, Boyd was concerned that compared to other entrepreneurship chapters, CPE would be lacking as a club. To his surprise, members of other chapters came to CPE for advice and “being able to help them out was pretty cool,” he said. 

Reis, Arts, Boyd and Wu all found the CEO event to be invaluable in terms of meeting mentors, participating in workshops, expanding their network and taking advice from keynote speakers, they said. 

“The whole experience was ‘Learn By Doing’ and it showed us what it is like to be a real entrepreneur,” Wu said. “I’m grateful to have experiences like this coming out of Cal Poly.” 

Comments are off for this post

Defying Expectations: Untold Entrepreneurship Stories from Cal Poly Alumni

At the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) we tend to highlight success stories of companies who follow the path of our programs. While these startup journeys are undoubtedly inspiring, there is no one-size-fits-all formula for success. The road to it is not a one-way path; it’s more like a complex network of intersecting routes — you just need to find yours. 

The following five Cal Poly alumni are examples of entrepreneurs who forged their distinctive paths to success. Their stories remain untold, not because they didn’t succeed but because they didn’t follow the traditional CIE success narrative. Nevertheless, we want to celebrate them because they are prime examples of resilience and the essence of entrepreneurship. 

By sharing their stories, we hope to inspire individuals who resonate with their journey. Maybe you are not a Business major or concentrating in Entrepreneurship but want to pursue building a startup — Esha Joshi demonstrates that it’s possible! Maybe your first startup doesn’t scale like you’d hoped — Kaitlyn Henry shows that the skills obtained from entrepreneurship will open the door to more opportunities. 

Becoming an entrepreneur is simple and where entrepreneurship can take you is limitless. 


Esha Joshi | How majoring in computer science led to a successful startup venture

Cal Poly College of Engineering (CENG) alumnus Esha Joshi had a passion for startups, leading her to explore entrepreneurship. 

“I was definitely very interested in doing something with startups — potentially even starting my own company — in college,” Joshi said.

In 2016, during her senior year, Joshi joined the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Hatchery. Her first startup, Repay, aimed to tackle the problem of inefficient reimbursement processes between businesses and their interviewees.

Joshi described this phase as both fun and educational, serving as a small precursor to running her own company.

The entrepreneurial skills she acquired during her time at the CIE became instrumental in her journey. Today, she is the co-founder of Yoodli, an app that leverages Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help users to build confidence while public speaking. 

“The CIE helps students acquire the tools, develop the skills and cultivate the mindset of an entrepreneur,” Joshi explained.

Joshi’s remarkable journey to Yoodli led to her receiving prestigious awards, such as GeekWire’s Youngest Entrepreneur of the Year in 2022 and Forbes 30 Under 30: Consumer Technology in 2023. She and her co-founder have successfully raised more than $7 million from investors, including Madrona Venture Group and Vulcan Capital.


Kieran Scandrett | How a horticulture startup led to a career in sales

Cal Poly Orfalea College of Business (OCOB) alumnus Kiernan Scandrett pitched his innovative idea during iQ in 2018 and won second place. His startup Clove was a pre-seed, consumer product, subscription box and premium cooking content company aimed at becoming the HelloFresh of gardening. 

After winning second place in iQ, Scandrett joined the Summer Accelerator.

Despite Clove’s inability to secure sufficient funding to continue, Scandrett considers running the company one of his “proudest moments.” 

Inspired by his experience at the CIE, his co-founder encouraged him to pursue a career in sales, recognizing that entrepreneurship is inherently about selling ideas and solutions.

“As an entrepreneur, you are always selling. That’s your life: selling people on your products and your solutions, but most importantly, just selling yourself to people,” Scandrett said. “So it was there and then, almost immediately after that meeting, that I decided that I was going to pursue a career in sales.”

With his entrepreneurship education and horticultural experience, Scandrett successfully progressed to the position of Head of Sales at Habitat Horticulture, a role he held for nearly four years. 

Scandrett’s message to aspiring entrepreneurs encourages those to believe in themselves and to not allow good ideas to go to waste.

“Believe in yourself and if you have trouble doing that, think about the person in your life who believes in you the most,” said Scandrett. “Try to bring that energy or manifest that same (confidence) in yourself.” 


Kaitlyn Henry |  How following her curiosity led to success with a career in investing

In 2016, Kaitlyn Henry, Cal Poly OCOB alumna, was involved in both the CIE’s Innovation Quest (iQ) and Summer Accelerator where she explored her AgTech startup, SpotDrop. 

Henry said the Summer Accelerator played a pivotal role in their startup. It allowed them to move swiftly and learn from their failures, Henry said. She described her time as “the most amazing experience.”

Her experience in the Summer Accelerator expanded her knowledge about Venture Capital.

“Everything that I had done up until that point — being the business counterpart to a technical founder or technical team — venture capital and investing in startups felt like an extension of that… It took the parts that I loved about both (of my prior) jobs, and I got to experience all of that on a broader scale every single day,” Henry explained.

In 2016, she was recognized as the Entrepreneurship Outstanding Senior of the Year among more than 300 students for her remarkable achievements in cross-disciplinary entrepreneurial collaboration within the CIE’s Incubator program.

Although SpotDrop didn’t achieve product-market fit, Henry emphasized that she “learned a lot along the way.” 

With the help of the entrepreneurial skills Henry developed during her time with the CIE, she is now the Vice President at OpenView, a venture capital and private equity firm, a role she has held for five years.  


Patrick Pezet & Matt Canepa | How free pizza led to the start of a successful business

Cal Poly OCOB alumni Patrick Pezet and Matt Canepa stumbled upon an idea that would revolutionize Major League Baseball—an innovative coffee pouch as a healthier alternative to chewing tobacco.

After Pezet and Canepa came up with the idea, they saw a flier on campus that read: “Have a Cool Idea? Free Pizza!” Not thinking too much into it and hungry for some free pizza, they decided to go and present their idea.  

To their surprise, people took a keen interest in their product, leading them to pitch their idea, Grinds Coffee, at iQ. They won the competition and received a $15,000 check.

Soon after, Grinds Coffee took off. 

“Free pizza literally got us in the door. That’s why we walked in. And then that community — the small community and mentorship around it — that’s why we exist today. That’s why we gave it a shot,” Pezet shared. 

In 2013, Pezet and Canepa pitched Grinds Coffee on Shark Tank, a popular reality show where wealthy investors calculate startups who pitch for funding. Grinds Coffee was featured in ESPN the Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine and Fox Business Channel that same year.

Today, Grinds Coffee is a successful business with a product used in Major League Baseball and beyond. As of September 27, 2023, they had sold over four million cans.

“Don’t hold back a question, or a thought, or an idea because you’re unsure or not confident,” Pezet said. “Get involved and give it a shot.” 

Comments are off for this post

Tractor Cloud: Powering Productivity with a High-Tech Twist for Farming Efficiency

CEO and founder of TractorCloud, Morgan Swanson, is plowing through conventional agricultural practices to cultivate a new era of efficiency with a tech savvy twist where crops meet code.

TractorCloud is developing a software, equipped with complementing hardware, which aims to provide farmers the ability to detect and predict maintenance needs to increase farming efficiency, Swanson said. The startup is creating a fitness app for tractors, allowing farmers to collect data on their tractors to ensure they are running effectively.

“I’m the type of person that if I see something in the world that I don’t think is right, I’ll generally do something about it,” Swanson said. “When I heard that farmers were having difficulty accessing the computers on the tractors they had purchased, that didn’t feel right to me. So I started trying to get access to those computers on the tractors that were at Cal Poly while I was a student there [and continued my journey to improve agricultural technology since].”

To make his vision into a successful business, the startup is participating in the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s (CIE) Incubator program, and he has long been familiar with the CIE. TractorCloud has been involved with the CIE and Cal Poly CIE Small Business Development Center (SBDC) since 2021 when TractorCloud joined the CIE Summer Accelerator program and became an SBDC client. Swanson said joining the Incubator after completing the Summer Accelerator did not feel like a decision; instead it felt more like a natural sequence.

The Summer Accelerator acts as a prerequisite to the Incubator Program, Swanson explained. Specifically, Swanson said the Summer Accelerator provides entrepreneurs a strong foundation on how to start and grow a business, which translates into knowledge on how to use the plethora of resources provided to them in the Incubator Program.

“When you’re in the Summer Accelerator you’re like a little kid running around and you don’t really know what things are, but by the end of the Accelerator you start to understand the way this world works,” Swanson said. “In the Incubator program you’re not going to have people telling you what to do. You’re ready to use their [CIE’s] resources and figure out how that’s going to fit in your journey. [To do that] you have to be comfortable with your identity as a company, and the Accelerator can help you develop that.”

One of the beneficial resources provided to startups throughout the program are the weekly meetings with lead consultants, each with varying areas of expertises, assigned to every startup to help guide and resolve issues and needs they are facing that week, Swanson said.

“I was really grateful that they [the consultants] were there when I was stuck on something. Having that person checking in with you is like something to keep you on track every week,” Swanson said. “All the mentors I’ve talked to have their own perspective they can help you with. I had a mentor named Ulrika Lidstrom, and she was awesome. Then when I didn’t feel like that was what I needed, I was able to transition to a different lead mentor. The Incubator is like insurance – something you can fall back on when you get stuck.”

Beyond supplying resources to help kickstart and propel startups into the market with networking opportunities, consultants and a physical work space, the Incubator program provides a community among entrepreneurs, Swanson said.

“If you’re struggling with finding people that are gonna give you emotional support and engagement with your company,” Swanson said, “you will find that the Incubator is a place where just by you being an entrepreneur is enough for you to get care and respect from the people that are involved.”

Comments are off for this post

Self-care September as an entrepreneur

September marks the start of National Self-Care Awareness Month. While this is a reminder to reflect on the importance of self-care, mental health is important all year long. As an entrepreneur, it is easy to forget to prioritize oneself when in the midst of prioritizing a business.

Meeting one’s goals as an entrepreneur takes a lot of time and effort. Entrepreneurs often deal with unusual working hours, stressful decision-making, financial uncertainty, risk of failure and more. Prioritizing self-care is an integral part of creating a work-life balance, avoiding burnout and staying on track to sustained success.

Even during the busiest of times, entrepreneurs should carve out time to take care of themselves. Refocusing energy on oneself and revisiting the activities that provide joy can help create new energy, ideas, and productivity. 

Here is what the CIE community enjoys to prioritize self-care and avoid burnout: 

“Self-care is when I take 20-minute walks throughout my day,” Lynsey Fowler, SBDC Administrative Graphic Design Coordinator. 

“After work, I will do some kind of activity because I’ve been sitting still all day. I’ll go climbing, surfing or hiking,” Sydney Harrison, CIE Marketing and Communications Coordinator. 

“Making sure to take time for yourself and not get swept up in the hustle and bustle of doing your job. As entrepreneurs, we are very passionate about what we are working on. But at the end of the day, it’s still work, so it is important to do things that reenergize you and bring you joy,” Mccall Brinskele, founder and CEO of Mense.  

“Self-care means doing things that make me joyful throughout the day. That could be eating ice cream, dancing or talking to my parents and my brother,” Sarah Hirst, CIE Graphic Design Intern. 

“Being outdoors, being in nature,” Cory Karpin, CIE Interim Executive Director. 

“Clearing my social calendar and making sure that I have time to myself, at least an hour a day whether that’s scrolling on social media, listening to music or taking the long route to work from my car and just being outside,” Stephanie Zombek, CIE Marketing and Communications Manager. 

“Take a day off, plan it and make space for it. I try to get eight hours of sleep and go on runs if I feel antsy,” Avi Peltz, founder and CEO of TensorMaker. 

“I try and get some meditations in throughout the day. It definitely clears the level of thoughts that are circulating in my mind,” Ryan Meffert, founder and CEO of Double Helix Design.  

“Usually if I am working on projects or school work, I always make sure to take a break. I like to eat a lot of snacks while I’m working. Sometimes I like to go out and watch the sunset and spend time at the beach,” Abby Yue, CIE Videography Intern. 

“As a student, I like to prevent burnout by practicing meditation and breath work at home – that’s what I like to do to stay centered,” Libbie Stone, SBDC Videography Intern. 

“I try and get into this concept of anti-rivalry – not try and compare myself to others constantly. I need to show up for myself and achieve the things I set for myself. As soon as I compare myself to others, that is when the danger happens of burning out.” Kevin Meffert, Life Coach.  

“It is good practice to set reasonable hours to work. We usually have to work more than most people, but you should still set your work hours and when you are not available to be contacted,” Taylor Jenisch, founder and CEO of Burning Boat Productions. 

“Self-care means getting good rest, exercising and eating healthy food so that you can have energy to go about your day,” Samantha Moberly, co-founder and CEO of Social Spark.

Comments are off for this post

The CIE’s Favorite Books

National Read a Book Day is a time to celebrate our love for books and stories. In a world where 81% of us wish we had more time to read, this day offers a perfect opportunity to tackle our ‘to-read’ lists. Reading isn’t just an escape; it’s a wellspring of ideas and inspiration for entrepreneurs. 

Over the past year, over 74% of Americans have enjoyed at least one book, despite their busy lives. Electronic platforms make reading on the go easier, with nearly 20% of books read digitally. Whether you prefer physical books or digital screens, pick up the book at the top of your stack and embark on a literary adventure! 

This National Read a Book Day, let’s celebrate the deep connection between reading and entrepreneurship. Dive into a book that sparks your imagination and fuels your entrepreneurial spirit. 

Keep reading below to see what books the CIE community has been enjoying.

CIE Marketing & Communications Manager, Stephanie Zombek: A Gentle Reminder by Bianca Sparacino. 

Associate Professor of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Tom Katona: Silence by Shusaku Endo. 

Director of Finance and Operations, Damon Watkins: Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov

CIE Videographer Intern, Abby Yue: Beartown by Fredrick Backman

CIE Marketing and Communication Coordinator, Sydney Harrison: Swell by Liz Clark.

CIE Graphic Design Intern, Sarah Hirst: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Innovation Programs Coordinator, Oliver Haas: Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

CIE PR and Digital Marketing Intern, Schuyler Eley: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Co-founder and CEO of Horizen Tech, Owen Works: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. 

Co-founder of Té Piña, Benjamin Arts: Cut the Bullshit: The Truth About Sales and Marketing by Linus Ocasio

Co-founder and Chief Results Officer of Intersect, Jacob Hubert: $100M Leads: How to Get Strangers to Want to Buy Your Stuff by Alex Hormozi.

SBDC Assistant Director, Liz Fisher, and Co-founder of 2022 Summer Accelerator startup Ryde, Emily Gavrilenko: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Digital Media Coordinator at San Diego Community Power, Alyson Smith: Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin.

Comments are off for this post

Empowering everyday developers: Cal Poly graduate revolutionizes machine learning accessibility

From a young age, liberal arts and engineering graduate Avi Peltz has been intrigued by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). AI involves computer systems attempting to model and apply human-like intelligence, while ML, a branch of AI, focuses on using data and algorithms to replicate human learning.

“Machine learning was this shiny, cool new thing that seemed really powerful,” Peltz said. “I have always been curious about it.” 

Growing up in tech-savvy Berkeley, Peltz watched many demonstrations of computer vision models that could identify objects and images. He described it as “astounding.” He saw developers bringing “incredible” creations to life and aspired to be a part of that. 

Peltz has always been technically minded, he said. Throughout high school, he built different websites and computer games. He also worked on various robotic and ML projects. This quickly taught him how ineffective pre-existing tools were that are intended to help perform basic tasks. 

After growing irritated with the complexity of ML tools, he sought to create a solution. That is when he began building his startup, TensorMaker.

TensorMaker is a platform that makes building ML applications fast, easy and accessible to everyday developers.

“A lot of the impetus of wanting to build TensorMaker was my own frustrating process during ML projects and not having very helpful tools,” Peltz said. “I wanted to create a better user experience.” 

TensorMaker aims to streamline the ML pipeline — a series of steps including the development, deployment and monitoring of an ML model. TensorMaker guides users through this pipeline without needing any prior ML experience.

“Most people trying to build these types of tools are focusing on enterprise ML teams and making them more productive,” Peltz explained. “We’re focusing on everyday developers.” 

By making his technology accessible, Peltz is enabling technology companies in domains ranging from agriculture, manufacturing and life sciences to take advantage of the power of ML while still maintaining their focus on the core competency of their business.

After working on TensorMaker throughout college, he decided to compete in the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Innovation Quest (iQ)

Innovation Quest is a competition that encourages student entrepreneurs to pursue their innovative ideas and help with the funding and resources needed to launch their ventures. 

TensorMaker was one of 14 finalists to pitch their startup at iQ 2023. Although he did not win the competition, iQ allowed him to develop more answers about his business, talk to potential users and do customer research, Peltz said. 

Following Innovation Quest, Peltz applied for the CIE Summer Accelerator. The Summer Accelerator is a program for Cal Poly students and recent alumni that provides them with mentorship, weekly workshops and $10,000 in seed funding. 

TensorMaker was one of the eight teams accepted to the program. 

“We received our first customer through the CIE community and without being here, we probably would not have had that relationship,” Peltz explained.

The CIE provided Peltz with not only the business language that he wasn’t initially confident in but also mentors who continue to lead him in the right direction, he said.

“Being in a space with people who are motivated to work on exciting projects motivates you to work even more,” Peltz said.

Over the course of the Summer Accelerator, TensorMaker worked on releasing its initial prototype. Peltz is eager to make his technology accessible to everyday developers and to explore the potential impacts of TensorMaker on a broader scale. 

“Whether it’s making agriculture more efficient and measured or being able to identify tumors in radiology scans, there are so many applications that can use these ML techniques and improve human well-being on the planet,” Peltz said.

TensorMaker, along with the rest of the 2023 Summer Accelerator cohort, will pitch their startup and showcase their progress at Demo Day on Sept. 8 at 4 p.m. at SLO Brew Rock. Tickets are available here.

Comments are off for this post

Cal Poly graduate from Hawaii combats plastic pollution with an affordable zero-waste marketplace

Within the four walls of his childhood home in Hawaii, economics graduate Aidan Riehl embarked on an entrepreneurial journey, which is contributing to an environmental shift towards sustainability.

Sophomore year of college, Riehl wanted to create a business with a positive impact on the environment and society. However, he did not know what to address first. 

One day, as Riehl walked along the beaches of his hometown, he realized the problem was right in front of his face. The issue he dealt with daily was the alarming amount of plastic pollution around him. 

Growing up in Oahu, Hawaii, Riehl said he witnessed the effects of plastic pollution his whole life. Determined to make a difference, Riehl set his sights on tackling this issue and promoting a zero-waste lifestyle.

Riehl’s epiphany led him to ask the question, why don’t people shop sustainably or plastic-free? The answer became clear to him — the prices are too expensive. 

That is when the idea for Riehl’s startup, Ecoternatives, formed. 

Ecoternatives is an online marketplace that sells sustainable and plastic-free products at more affordable prices. 

As a one-man team, Riehl took time off from school, stayed in Hawaii and operated his business from his room. He bought $3,000 worth of products and shipped packages by himself. 

“I bought dressers from Craigslist and shoved soaps and lip balms in them,” Riehl said. “My mom would walk into my room and smell all the flora and sweet scents and think ‘This is not what a teenage boy’s room should smell like.’” 

Ecoternatives started growing through word-of-mouth recommendations, Riehl said. Then, he started sharing his website through social media channels and reached out to zero-waste nonprofits to help promote his business.

Over time, Ecoternatives evolved into not only a basic e-commerce store but also a community, Riehl said. 

“I’ve created such a cohort of people who are so passionate about this problem, who are very like-minded and who believe sustainability is too expensive,” Riehl explained. 

Riehl said Ecoternatives is different from other zero-waste stores because of his commitment to sourcing products. Unlike other zero-waste stores, Riehl does not settle for pre-vetted options. 

To find products for Ecoternatives, Riehl said he takes days researching the most affordable and sustainable options. He ensures that the product and its company follow strict social and environmental guidelines; for instance, energy-efficient sourcing, supply chain transparency and ethical labor practices. Finally, he tests the different products to see how they compare.

After working on Ecoternatives for two-and-a-half years, Riehl applied for the Cal Poly Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CIE) Summer Accelerator. The Summer Accelerator is a program for Cal Poly students that provides them with mentorship, $10,000 in funding and other resources to help build their business. 

Ecoternatives was one of the eight teams accepted to the program. 

Riehl described the Summer Accelerator as an “amazing opportunity.” He appreciates the ability to speak with experts in different industries who help him better understand the parts of his business, he said. 

“The CIE has helped me grow Ecoternatives by connecting me with the right people at the right moments,” Riehl said. 

Ecoternatives is currently running a fulfillment center in Texas that ships orders to the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. He has made $110,000 in sales with nine months of active business. Ecoternatives is also donating a portion of its profits to other zero-waste nonprofits with each order. 

Looking forward, Riehl wants to create his own sustainable products to sell on Ecoternatives for an even lower cost. 

Riehl aims to extend Ecoternatives beyond commerce. He wants to organize beach cleanups and educational workshops for kids on how the consumption of goods can affect the environment. 

“Working on Ecoternatives made me more optimistic about sustainability because I’ve learned all the positive things my business can do,” Riehl said. “I’m very excited to expand our overall environmental and societal impact and show people that we can make sustainability more affordable.”

Ecoternatives, along with the rest of the 2023 Summer Accelerator cohort, will pitch their startup and showcase their progress at Demo Day on Sept. 8 at 4 p.m. at SLO Brew Rock. Tickets are available here.

Comments are off for this post
1 2 3 17