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Poly Canyon Ventures | A Hatchery-born Company

In 2016, Cal Poly Investing Club members Nathan Johnson and Sean Reilly noticed an issue in the area of student entrepreneurship: a lack of investment funding.

“We saw a gap at the school where there were a lot of really exciting projects on campus that, with a little bit of funding, could explode into something more than just a project,” said Reilly.

The two decided to create an organization that could help student projects grow into businesses through venture funding. Thus, Poly Canyon Ventures was born and its “idea to incubation” mission went into action.

“Our core mission is to lower the risk bar for entrepreneurship at Cal Poly and help educate people to let them know they can do school and entrepreneurship at the same,” said Reilly. “With a little help from our organization, they can make that possible.”

The Poly Canyon Ventures team seeks out student business projects that are in need of initial funding to develop tangible prototypes or proofs of concept. They also ideally look to fund student teams that are interested in the CIE programs such as the HotHouse Summer Accelerator and the Hatchery program.

Johnson explained that they look for these Hatchery-based projects because they know firsthand how valuable and impactful the entrepreneurship-dedicated program can be for startups.

“We spent many days and nights in there working and thinking about the best way to structure Poly Canyon Ventures to help startups,” Johnson noted. “I think the Hatchery was a really crucial component of our organization.”

While in the Hatchery the two co-founders were provided with invaluable guidance via mentorship, weekly workshops, monthly check-ins and an array of other activities and events that gave them hands-on experience. Due to the entrepreneurial skills they learned in the Hatchery, Johnson and Reilly make an effort through Poly Canyon Ventures to inform students about the on-campus Hatchery and its resources.

They are also expanding their company’s missions, by partnering with the San Luis Obispo mayor Heidi Harmon and the Cal Poly Department of Sustainability to start the Climate Changer’s Fund. Through this, they plan to fund and foster clean technology innovation and entrepreneurship projects on Cal Poly’s campus.

Poly Canyon Ventures is a non-profit founded and managed by Cal Poly students. To learn more about the organization, visit https://www.polycanyonventures.org/.

For more information on the Hatchery and other CIE programs, visit https://cie.calpoly.edu/.

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Meet the CIE Entrepreneur-In-Residence: Dan Weeks

About seven years ago, Dan Weeks discovered the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). After visiting and speaking with student startup teams at the CIE, he returned home to San Diego to tell his wife that they were moving to San Luis Obispo.

Upon venturing back to the Central Coast, the Cal Poly alumnus dove full force into the local entrepreneurial effort. Weeks, a seasoned entrepreneur himself, currently splits his time between leading tech programs at the SLO County Office of Education, teaching entrepreneurship courses at his alma mater and mentoring student startup teams in the CIE HotHouse.

As the CIE entrepreneur-in-residence, Weeks mainly works with the innovative student teams that have already gone through the summer Accelerator program, helping them stay motivated through the trials of entrepreneurship.

“When you’re an entrepreneur, the highest highs and the lowest lows can happen on the same day,” he explained. “To some degree, I’m the cheerleader helping them persevere through the low spots, which happens with every team.”

Weeks says that he often helps the students stay committed to their goals once the fast-paced summer program ends and team members start seeing. He always reminds them that the path of entrepreneurship is not an easy one, but that it is a rewarding one.

While he is motivated to help each team reach success, Weeks acknowledges that plans can change for individual team members. Nonetheless, he stresses the value of going through the Accelerator program for both the overall startup team and each student themselves.

“All the attributes they’ll learn over the summer program will be valuable whether its a startup or any kind of company,” he said. “The entrepreneurial mindset is what makes you actually have more leverage within a company because you’re able to speak the language of business in a way that’s not boring.”

Between priceless mentorship and real-world experience, the CIE Accelerator offers students a platform to transform their ideas into companies. The 13-week summer program involves hands-on learning for the teams, following Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing spirit.

But as Weeks likes to put it, “entrepreneurship is Learn by Doing on steroids.”

Anyone ready to dive full force into their visionary startup can apply to be part of the CIE’s programming or can start by dipping their toes into entrepreneurship with Weeks’ Introduction to Entrepreneurship course at Cal Poly. 

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Get to Know the 2019 Innovation Quest (iQ) Finalists

Eleven Cal Poly startups have been selected as finalists for Innovation Quest (iQ), an opportunity for entrepreneurial-minded students to showcase what they have built, coded, designed or prototyped throughout their efforts at Cal Poly. $30,000 in equity-free funding will be available to three winners, decided by a panel of judges and announced April 27.

Get to know the student-founded startups competing in iQ this year:

Armadillo Designs

Creating the All-Access Camper, which is a customizable camper shell with a convertible roof.

Buteo

Creating a bird detection and deterrent technology that utilizes autonomous fixed wing drones to help vineyard managers and other berry farmers protect their crops from bird damage and receive valuable data about the health of their vines.

Golden California Crust

A ready-to-bake, 100% vegan, gluten and dairy-free walnut-based pie crust made with organic sugar and walnuts grown in California.

HealthBlock

A code-free platform enabling health researchers to create & deploy remote studies, while providing a decentralized application that securely connects them with consenting participants.

Physio

A wearable device that allows people suffering from wrist pain to recover from their injuries at home, without going to a physical therapist.

PolyMuir

Leading an industry transition from petroleum-based plastics to sustainable algae based alternatives, beginning with a waterproof coating for performance rain coats.

Popshop

Allows users to shop pre-approved clothing with custom parameters in a consolidated supply chain, congregate all event information in one location and offer custom websites for every function.

Roopairs

Provides a field service management software to service companies to streamline their business operations.

Santronics

Provides an automated, adaptable, and caregiver-oriented hand hygiene compliance monitoring system for hospital infection control teams, designed to reduce healthcare-associated infections by providing insightful accountability to healthcare providers.

Tulum Cosmetics

A direct-to-consumer brand, developing a matte liquid lipstick with FDA approved medical treatment to heal and conceal cold sores.

Wayve

A universal sink and spout attachment that filters non-potable water into safe drinking water.

For more information on iQ, past winners and this year’s prizes, visit https://cie.calpoly.edu/prepare/innovation-quest/.

Make sure to follow @CalPolyCIE to receive live updates on this year’s competition.

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Entrepreneurship Electrified | Cal Poly Alumni Create a New EV Power Solution

By: Lauren Arendt

 

Electric vehicles (EV) are taking the world by storm. NeoCharge, an incubating company in the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), is working to provide better-charging solutions for residential EV owners. NeoCharge CEO Spencer Harrison and CTO Akhil Veluru designed their first product, a smart adapter for EV’s at home, to save EV owners time and money, ultimately making residential EV ownership more practical and accessible.

“As an [electric vehicle] owner, level two charging is crucial,” Harrison said. “Our product gives you the fastest way to get the affordable charging you need at home.”

The team says their residential focus is was sets them apart in the EV world. They focus on how people charge their EV’s at home, what that experience looks like and how to make it as seamless as coming home and charging a cellphone or laptop overnight.

“Whatever way we can make [charging EV’s] as seamless and convenient as possible,” Veluru said. “That’s really what our goal is.”

NeoCharge developed the first iteration of their product and currently allows customers to sign up for beta testing. They plan to make tweaks and add features based on customer feedback. WiFi functionality and software that lets customers choose whether they want to use renewable energy to charge their EV’s are on the short list of features they are already looking to add in the second round.

To prepare for manufacturing and the necessary safety testing preceding it, the NeoCharge team is in search of funds.

Harrison and Veluru didn’t get to where they are today overnight. They started their entrepreneurial journey alongside the CIE as a part of the hatchery program, an entrepreneurial epicenter on the Cal Poly campus where interdisciplinary groups of students congregate to solidify ideas, form teams and receive the early mentorship and guidance they need.

“There are tons of people to reach out to and tons of connections who can help you with anything that you need help in,” Harrison said. We’re new to this so getting help from other people is a huge thing that the CIE can provide.”

From the hatchery, the NeoCharge team entered the 13-week-long summer HotHouse accelerator program. Here, they not only received seed funding, but a network of peers, seasoned mentors and industry connections to get their company off the ground.

Today, NeoCharge can be found in the CIE HotHouse as a part of the two-year-long incubator program supported by mentorship and the vibrant CIE community.

“Definitely consider the CIE Incubator program,” Veluru said. “It’s a great way to get off the ground, especially if you’re new to running a startup. I didn’t know anything about running a startup when I first came here and I have learned a lot.”

You can learn more about the products offered by NeoCharge and even sign up to be a beta tester at www.getneocharge.com

 

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From the Hatchery: second year business student launches WearToGiv

By: Lauren Arendt

Online shopping has become a major part of many people’s lives, but second year business major Tiffany Yeung wants to add a whole new layer to the experience of buying and selling clothing and lifestyle items over the web: philanthropy. That’s why she created WearToGiv, an online retail store that works as a profit share with other companies to give them money for their philanthropies and charities.

Through her online platform, Yeung partners with companies and runs campaigns. When products are sold through the campaign on WearToGive.org, a percentage of the profit goes back to the philanthropy or charity they choose. To date, WearToGiv has partnered with more than 100 organizations around the country and donated thousands of dollars to organizations such as Autism Speaks, The Alzheimer’s Association and the Arthritis Foundation.

“We wanted to create a place where people felt good about donating but also received something in return,” said Yeung.

Yeung has been invested in entrepreneurship from an early age. She launched her first company in seventh grade where she sold custom-made T-shirts. In highschool, as an active member of Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), she launched a website selling corsages and boutonnière.

“I have always loved startups,” said Yeung. “My whole life I have always known I wanted to do entrepreneurship.”

She is now a member of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Hatchery, an on-campus program where students come together to build entrepreneurial teams, develop their ideas and learn from mentors.

“The Hatchery has given so many opportunities not only for my professional growth, but personal growth,” Yeung said.

Finding her mentor and growing a network are two of the most impactful takeaways experienced by Yeung in the CIE Hatchery. She encourages other students to visit the Hatchery, regardless of what major or interest they have, because of the unique experiences found there.

“I am really excited to be a part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem here in San Luis Obispo,” said Yeung. To learn more about getting involved with entrepreneurship on the Cal Poly campus, join our community on Instagram @ciecalpoly, follow us on Facebook and get to know our programming at https://cie.calpoly.edu/blog/whats-on-campus-the-hatchery/.

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Meet a CIE HotHouse Coworker: David Figueroa

The central location of San Luis Obispo between Los Angeles and the Bay Area draws many to live in the area. David Figueroa, the co-founder and director of projects for DCR Designs, chose to work remotely in San Luis Obispo for this very reason. Figueroa partners with transportation agencies in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, meaning he is required to travel to both metropolitan cities frequently.

“We have projects in both the Bay Area and Los Angeles,” Figueroa said. “I might as well be in between the two large areas, right?”

While living in San Luis Obispo became an obvious choice, working remotely in a less metropolitan area presented a challenge. Figueroa wanted to be surrounded by more like-minded people in order to gather inspiration, network and grow. That’s where coworking at the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) HotHouse came in.

“I really wanted to be with more people,” Figueroa said. “If you’re a small firm, you can easily get locked into isolation. You don’t have to do that here at the HotHouse.”

The variety of different people around him was another draw to the CIE HotHouse. Professionals, students and everyone in between make the coworking space a unique melting pot of ideas and innovation.

“I like being in a mixed group,” Figueroa said. “Especially the younger people who have all these awesome ideas and a lot of great experience already in their lives.”

Aside from the energy supplied by those around him, Figueroa said the CIE HotHouse offers plenty of other perks. Educational and social events offer even more networking opportunities while the large kitchen and a variety of different lounges create a comfortable, productive environment.

Those interested in following in joining Figueroa at the CIE HotHouse coworking space can schedule a free tour, claim a workspace, or purchase a day pass. Membership amenities include WiFi, educational and social events, access to the Small Business Development Center consultants, lounge areas, kitchen, easy access to downtown San Luis Obispo and all the free coffee you can drink. Sign up today here: https://cie.calpoly.edu/coworking/

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Two CIE Faculty Fellows Find Artificial Intelligence Empowers Business Teams

By: Lauren Arendt

 

The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s (CIE) very own Faculty Fellows, Lynn Metcalf and David Askay, presented a study in conjunction with Unanimous AI showing that when connected by artificial intelligence (AI), business teams make better decisions when working together as opposed to working as individuals.

The AI tool used to connect these teams is referred to as “Swarm AI” is created by Unanimous AI. It connects networked teams over the internet and allows and empowers them to share their combined insights in real time.

Sixty small teams took a standard social intelligence test best known as “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” (RME). This test has historically served as a strong predictor of team effectiveness and overall collective intelligence. All team members took the test individually, but then again together connected online using the Swarm AI tool.

When team members took the RME test individually, they averaged 68 percent accuracy. When they came together to work together as an AI-powered “hive mind,” the teams average 85 percent accuracy. Even more, the average team connected by AI outperformed 93 percent of all individuals.

“These results are exciting because they reveal that human swarms are capable of making accurate decisions without explicitly communicating with each other,” Askay said. “Rather than sharing information, they are sharing intent based on the information they possess.”

These significant results lead to many possibilities for the application of Swarm AI when applied to business teams. From making optimized decisions and more accurately forecasting how customers will react to messaging, to product features and sales statistics, the study shows how powerful teams can truly be in comparison to the individual.

“Artificial swarm intelligence enables groups to make smarter decisions, because it incorporates and integrates the tacit and explicit knowledge of all group members,” Metcalf said. “The results of our research demonstrate that human swarms enable groups to arrive at a negotiated consensus that is more accurate than decisions made by vote.”

Alex Waddel, a Cal Poly student who interned with Unanimous AI as a data scientist, says that an interesting part of the research findings is the fact that they can be applied in infinite settings.

“The most exciting part was seeing that the algorithm and Swarm intelligence system that they used can be applied in so many different disciplines in order to make good decisions,” Waddel said. “You can make a prediction, but what’s even more valuable is when you make a prediction and can say how confident you are in that prediction. That’s how you reassure people that it really works.”

The CIE Faculty Fellow program hosts influential faculty from every college at Cal Poly. This powerful group introduces innovation and entrepreneurship to students in their respective fields while pushing their students outside of the traditional classroom experience.

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Get More Productive at Work with these 7 Tips and Tricks

Woman looking at TV

By: Lauren Arendt

Have you ever found yourself reading the same line of text over and over again, procrastinating a task you’ve been dreading all day, or in a midday slump where you just can’t seem to get anything done? If so, this may be a sign that you need to make some changes to get more productive at work.

Working as an entrepreneur pulls people in many different directions and requires high levels of productivity day in and day out, however, this draining lifestyle easily leads to fatigue. Entrepreneurs know, however, that this slip in efficiency is simply not an option in the fast-paced, make-it-or-break-it lifestyle they lead.

We have some tips and tricks that entrepreneurs can incorporate into their everyday routine to get more productive and avoid fatigue at work.

1. Set clear, attainable goals

It is very difficult to get started when you don’t know where you are going. Setting reasonable goals and outlining the steps to accomplish them helps focus your day and jumpstart productivity. If you are too overwhelmed with tasks to complete, getting started on any which one is daunting. Rather than taking on too much at once, simply pick a handful of tasks for the day and give them your all.

Setting goals can be as simple as writing them down on a piece of paper. Writing or typing them out is important to get more productive, however, because you are forced to define them. Your goals feel much more tangible and less impossible once outlined in writing.

Make sure to cross your goals off and reward yourself once they are complete to incentivize yourself to move onto the next project. Take a walk outside, get your favorite lunch, or go spark up a conversation with a coworker or friend to gear up for the next item on your to-do list.  

2. Set goals of different sizes and scopes

Don’t simply focus on the next few hours or days in front of you. Rather, keep the big picture in mind at all times. You aren’t putting all of these hours of work in just for the sake of it, but for an overreaching mission to make a change in your life or in the life of others.

Make that overreaching mission the goal that guides all subsequent goals. This will add meaning and value to even the most monotonous daily tasks.

3. Surround yourself with inspiration

You might have a goal or mission guiding your work as an entrepreneur, but you might lose sight of it when working on tasks from day-to-day. Feeling like your work is meaningless or unimportant is a gateway to losing motivation and subsequently becoming less productive.

Surrounding yourself with reminders of the bigger picture is a key way to get more productive. Whether it is a quote that reminds you why you started out on your entrepreneurial journey, a sketch of your product prototype, or a photo of your team framed on your desk, keep something in plain sight that reminds you that every menial task is leading up to something great.

4.  Avoid Multitasking at all costs

A little-known fact is that multitasking in biologically impossible. You might think you are negotiating over the phone, answering an email, and watching Netflix all at the same time, but chances are, you aren’t giving any one of those tasks your full attention. Multitasking severely limits creativity and oftentimes causes many more errors. The number of thoughts and ideas a person can process is limited at any given time, meaning that when you multitask, new, creative ideas will be blocked out and errors will be missed much more easily.

“Monotasking,” or doing one task at a time, serves you better in the long run. You will not only complete tasks more quickly, but the tasks will be completed with more quality. Rather than doing everything at once poorly, do one thing at a time to the best of your ability.

5. Go outside as frequently as possible

Let’s face it: offices can be pretty bleak, especially after spending hours on end in them. Make sure to get up and go outside to get refreshed. Taking frequent breaks might seem counterproductive, but the reality is that by resting the brain and eyes and moving the body, you will be much more productive during the time you are working.

Spending too much time indoors working will lead to fatigue and slower brain processes, but getting up, going outside, and hitting the reset button helps you come back to work more productive, creative and positive than before.

6. Get a change of scenery

As said before, spending too much time in one dreary place can suck the life out of a person. One way to combat this is to change up the setting every now and then.

If your office is near a coffee shop, park, or library, take advantage of the mobile technology of today and spend some time getting out of the office and into a new, more exciting location. You will likely find that this new setting is not only free from the distractions of your office but offers new inspiration for creativity.

Check out these great lunch spots around San Luis Obispo to peak your inspiration.

7. Take note of what distracts you

Awareness is the first step in creating change. There are likely things all around you in your work space that distract you–some of which you can change, and some you cannot. Maybe social media is your main distractor, or maybe it’s your coworker’s conversations in the next room. No matter what it is, take note of when you are distracted so that you can work to stay focused in the future.

If the distraction is something you can change, don’t go cold turkey. For example, if social media or your cell phone serves as your largest distractor, rather than turning it off completely, set a timer and only allow yourself to use it in intervals. This will serve as an incentive to get more productive when you’re supposed to, as you know your designated social media time (or whatever else distracts you) time is just around the corner.

Next time you are feeling distracted or fatigued at work, simply make small changes throughout your day to get more productive. Write down your goals, big and small, complete one task at a time, go outside and take breaks on a regular basis, get a change of scenery from time to time, and make sure to take note of your main distractors to have more productive days that lead to a more productive entrepreneurial journey.

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CIE Faculty Fellow Spotlight: Ahmed Deif

by: Lauren Arendt

The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Faculty Fellows exist at Cal Poly to help foster entrepreneurship throughout the Cal Poly campus by connecting with students across multiple disciplines. One of these education innovators, Ahmed Deif, incorporates not only entrepreneurship and innovation into his industrial technology classes but games, too.

Ahmed Deif works as an assistant professor of industrial technology and packaging in the Orfalea College of Business at Cal Poly, teaching both undergraduate and graduate students. He first became interested in becoming a CIE Faculty Fellow when he realized that the marriage between business and engineering that industrial technology embodied was similar to the marriage between technical thinking and business found in entrepreneurship.

The classes revolve around creating a hands-on approach to educating that gets students excited about innovation in supply chains and the new trend in transforming supply chains from cost centers to value centers.

Deif achieves this lofty goal through gamification or creating games out of otherwise less engaging lesson plans. He said that he uses this strategy because, statistically, using the hands allows students to access untapped knowledge otherwise impossible to reach.

“Instead of just speaking for two hours and getting [the students] bored and sleepy, I introduce the problem for 10 to 15 minutes and then we play a game,” said Deif. “This robust education approach keeps students very engaged.”

A graduate student in the Cal Poly MBA program, as well as a student in one of Deif’s innovative industrial technologies classes, Christiaan de Nysschen, agreed that the gamification approach creates a more interactive and engaging educational experience.

“One reason I would recommend this course and this professor is first of all the unconventional approach,” said Nysschen. “Case studies are the norm in other classes which is nice, but also very theory-based where the games incorporate a new element with something that is both memorable and applicable.”

Deif said that there is one problem that comes with introducing games into the classroom: over enrollment. Students have heard about these game-centric courses and enroll in his classes in large numbers. He now has a cap on many of his courses.

While Deif introduces innovation and entrepreneurship at the intersection between business and engineering, numerous other CIE Faculty Fellows bring the entrepreneurial spirit of innovation to their fields of study across all six colleges at Cal Poly. Learn more about the impact these CIE Faculty Fellows have on the Cal Poly community, as well as how to become a CIE Faculty Fellow here.

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Learn, Prepare Launch: App Scrolls Founder’s Entrepreneurial Journey

Chad Kim, the CEO, and founder of the SLO HotHouse Incubating company, App Scrolls, started out his company with a mission to build online communities for top grossing mobile games. Keeping in mind that the number one reason people stay in a game is because they made friends in that game, Kim wanted to create a place for players to learn more about the games, join chat rooms, and most importantly, make connections and build teams.

At the beginning of his journey, Kim used the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) resources to qualify his business ideas.

“If I can win these competitions then I will invest my time and my life into this company,” said Kim. “But if I can’t, then it’s not good enough.”

After competing in the Elevator Pitch Competition and taking home the grand prize, and then entering the Innovation Quest and receiving the second place award, Kim saw the quantitative proof he desired to prove his idea could work.

From here, Kim applied and was accepted into the SLO Hothouse Accelerator program. He said that he started off feeling uncomfortable with and uncertain about what his entrepreneurial journey would entail, but that the different seminars and mentors in the program helped him get a better grasp of what was necessary for success.

After about two years of growing his company, Kim said that he came to what felt like a halt. This led him to work for another company for about six months. In this time, he realized that he functioned best when working in his “sweet spot.” To make App Scrolls work, he needed to play his strengths and build a team to do the rest.

He jumped back into App Scrolls with a new momentum, joining the SLO HotHouse Incubator program and acquiring a new batch of influential new clients.

In the SLO HotHouse Incubator program, Kim found that relationships with other teams became one of the most influential aspects of his journey. The social connections he made in the at CIE and in the SLO HotHouse helped guide him through unfamiliar territory when building his own business, as he could learn from the mistakes and successes of others. He even started hosting game nights to help build comradery among the teams.

Beyond connections with other teams in the SLO HotHouse Incubator, Kim connected with mentors that were “game-changing” in his entrepreneurial process.  

“Apply to the incubator if you want to be around like-minded entrepreneurs who will help you build your business,” said Kim.

Kim’s future plans are to continue building upon the original App Scrolls mission to help players build relationships with each other and provide an authentic place for them to come together away from the game publishers.

Community and Cal Poly student startups are accepted on a rolling basis. Learn more about the SLO HotHouse Incubator program or submit an application at https://cie.calpoly.edu/launch/hothouse-incubator/.

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