Coworking: A Startup’s Competitive Advantage

Michael Allen, CEO and co-founder of Imajize, made a company that provides customers with beautiful, sharp 360 degree images of their product, ready in no time. Their 360º viewer lets customers spin products virtually, online. They sell both 360 degree images and 360 degree image software.

With 360 degree photography being a relatively new industry, coworking at the SLO HotHouse has given Allen the resources he needs to be successful in the field and expand his business fast. Watch our video below to see how coworking at the SLO HotHouse is a great way for your startup to find its competitive advantage.

Social Media: An Essential Tool for Your Startup

When you’re getting your startup off the ground, you spend countless hours working on your business model canvas and value proposition, getting out of the building and looking for customers. It is too often that creating a social media presence for your company takes a backseat to the other tasks on your startup to-do list.  

Don’t let this be the case for your startup! The time to start building your following is NOW! Publicize your company, and let people see first-hand the hard work you are putting in to make your dreams a reality. Social media is a powerful tool! Use it early and use it often. Use it to showcase your work, connect with customers and create opportunity.

Here are a few tips for your startups social media strategy:

1. Don’t try to be on every platform.

One big mistake companies make on social media is spreading themselves too thin. If you can’t keep up with five social media platforms, then don’t spread your reach that far. It’s better to be on one platform and have a really strong presence, than be on multiple and have a mediocre presence.

With that said, pick your platforms with purpose. What platform is your customer segment on? Is your company interesting visually? If not, steer clear from Instagram. What platforms allow you to connect best? Many investors and business professionals are on Twitter, so this could be a great opportunity to get noticed in the startup world.

2. Be real.

Part of what is so unique to a startup is how it creates a lifestyle for the people who are a part of it. Share your life inside and outside the office. Let your followers get to know you. By being authentic, you will connect with people and draw them in.

3. Everything you share is a part of your brand.

Yes, you should share things in and out of the office, but with that said, make sure everything you share is on brand. Are you a wedding planning company? Share a shot of fresh blooms from the florist you got that day or an artsy cup of coffee you enjoyed at a local coffee shop. A great way to determine whether or not something fits your brand is to determine your company’s top 5 brand buzzwords. An example of a buzzword set could be: adventurous, innovative, fun, creative and happy. If your post doesn’t represent your brand buzzwords, then don’t post it.

4. Create content that adds value.

Social media is about interacting. You won’t gain a great social media presence simply by sharing what your company does. You’ll gain a great following by interacting with your followers and creating content that adds value to their lives. For example, if you’re a bike shop write a blog about how they can fix a flat  with a product you sell when they’re out on the trails. Or, offer Instagram followers a coupon code for their next online purchase. By intertwining your product with special tips and deals, you make sure that the interaction isn’t one-sided. Your followers should experience benefits through following you. This gives them a reason to stay interested.

5. Be consistent. 

A great way to make sure that you post good, frequent content is to make a social media calendar. Plan out your posts and schedule them. By keeping track of your posts in an organized fashion, it’s easier to track analytics and adjust your strategy based on what worked well and what didn’t. Don’t be afraid to change and evolve as you experiment with social media and grow your following.

Experiment with social media. Be bold, have fun and most importantly, engage with people! Also, let’s stay connected; be sure to follow the CIE on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

The CIE’s SBDC Can Help You Grow Your Business

The CIE’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is an amazing resource for both new and established businesses.  They offer no cost professional business consulting from industry experts, low-cost trainings, and many other innovative tools to help startups and small businesses succeed in San Luis Obispo County.

“Taking advantage of the resources SBDC offers has helped us grow fast and smart,” said Matt Maxwell, CEO of BoltAbout, Inc. “The quality of consultants and the mentorship we have received has helped us to avoid costly mistakes and some real pitfalls.”

Judy Mahan is the director of SBDC and the CIE incubator. Watch our vlog below as she explains all that SBDC offers, and how you can utilize these cost-effective resources to grow your company.

Learn, Network and Build With the Cal Poly Entrepreneurs Club

Cal Poly Entrepreneurs (CPE) is a club on campus that promotes innovation, entrepreneurship and the Learn by Doing spirit. CPE President, Alexa Rozell, leads the student-run club. 

In addition to her role at CPE, she is also the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Hatchery coordinator for our on-campus program that fosters entrepreneurship initiatives among the student body, where she helps nurture the development of student-led startups at Cal Poly from idea generation to launch.

CPE and the Hatchery are open to all Cal Poly students. The broad range of majors across all colleges is part of what makes these programs so unique. They provide a great network to meet talented people and form a startup team. 

To learn more about CPE and the Hatchery, watch our video below to see for yourself what the hype is about. 

Graham Doig | CIE Faculty Fellow

Our CIE Faculty Fellows promote innovation and entrepreneurship on and off Cal Poly’s campus. They have passion for the Learn by Doing spirit and are innovators themselves. Graham Doig is no exception to this.

Doig is an assistant professor in the aerospace engineering department and the faculty advisor for Cal Poly’s PROVE project.

PROVE is the prototype vehicle lab on campus. Students are working to build the world’s fastest solar-powered vehicle. Students are currently raising money to continue prototyping and enhancing the design and motor in the vehicle. Through working on this project, students are learning real-world skills; they are not only engineering the vehicle, but also learning the industry and the business.

Doig facilitates this hands-on learning experience. He creates a bridge between Cal Poly and CIE, by encouraging students to think with an entrepreneurial mindset.

Watch our vlog below to get an inside look at PROVE.  See how these students are making this car a reality.


Coworking at the SLO HotHouse

Greg Gibson, CTO of Motimatic, is one of our coworkers at the SLO HotHouse.  He enjoyed launching his company here in SLO, and he is taking advantage of all the benefits coworking has to offer.

He attributes coworking as a factor to his success, “Being a part of this community, an even informal conversation in front of the coffee machine has inspired ideas.  With coworking, you get the benefits of working at a large company as a small startup.”

Click on our video below to learn more about Greg, his company and his experience with coworking.

ObserVR is Changing the VR Industry

ObserVR is a virtual reality analytics platform.  The company provides data-driven insights to power truly immersive experiences. ObserVR’s analytics capture behavior, analyze engagement and fuel growth. They analyze consumer data in order to help VR companies improve in-app functions and keep users engaged.

Check out our video blog for the inside scoop on ObserVR. Click below to meet CEO, Lucas Toohey; COO, Justin Cellona and CTO, Jacob Copus; and learn how they are changing the VR industry.

Become a CIE Mentor Today

Here at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), we do a lot of work with teams and companies to help get their venture off the ground. This work includes on-campus programming in The Hatchery, the Summer Accelerator and the two-year Incubator. The cornerstone to all of our programs is mentorship.

We have over 140 mentors working with the CIE who bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to all of our teams and companies. The CIE mentor program includes entrepreneurs from high tech, venture capital, big retail, niche products and more. From San Luis Obispo, Bay Area, Los Angeles and out of state, we have mentors who provide guidance for multiple business types and help young entrepreneurs build, grow and sustain their businesses.

During the past Summer Accelerator, we had over 30 mentors come through the building to host workshops, meet with teams’ one-on-one and lead round table discussions. In addition to this, each of the eight teams had a Lead Mentor who met with them every week as they set milestones, worked through issues and grew their business.

Our amazing mentors make it possible for the CIE to provide a wide range of resources to teams and companies. We are so grateful for all of the time each mentor has given to the program, and look forward to the future!

If you, or someone you know is interested in mentorship, please fill out an application here.

Start Your Business Before You Graduate

The Hatchery is an on-campus program that fosters entrepreneurship initiatives among the student body.  From leading students in developing essential entrepreneurial skills to hosting weekly workshops, the Hatchery has all the tools students need to launch their startup.

Cal Poly entrepreneurship student, Haley Pavone, is using the Hatchery to get her company off the ground.  Watch the video below to learn about Haley’s company and how CIE resources are helping her reach her goals.

For more about the Hatchery and other CIE programs and opportunities click here.

SLO HotHouse Incubator Startup Expands in San Luis Obispo

CIE Incubator company, BoltAbout, recently moved to a new warehouse facility in downtown SLO. As the electric bike startup expands in both bikes and customers, the move to the warehouse was essential for BoltAbout, according to CEO Matt Maxwell.

With the new warehouse just down the street from BoltAbout’s downtown CIE SLO HotHouse office, it makes for a convenient location for customers and allows the BoltAbout team to work closely together.  The new warehouse also gives BoltAbout the space they need to store and work on the bikes.

“We have everything the customer needs to do a rental there,” says Maxwell.

The warehouse is bringing in money to San Luis Obispo and keeping it there.  From paying movers to encouraging customers to spend time downtown, BoltAbout is focused on helping enhance San Luis Obispo.

“We’re making downtown more vibrant and more prosperous; in a small way, but hopefully over time it will get bigger,” says Maxwell.

BoltAbout’s new location is helping the company bring the SLO community together.  On the first Thursday of every month San Luis Obispo Downtown Association hosts a bike night where community members come together for a fun time and ride their bikes through downtown.  BoltAbout is opening the doors of their warehouse to customers and the community on these nights for pizza.  Maxwell says that this is one of the ways that BoltAbout creates an experience for their customers.

BoltAbout is expanding to Santa Barbara and San Diego this spring, but SLO will always remain the headquarters, according to Maxwell.

“We’re going to keep good jobs and the culture of BoltAbout in SLO.  Cal Poly and CIE have provided the foundation for one of the most profound experiences of my whole entire life. Without Cal Poly and CIE there’s no way I’d be where I am today.”

Come by the new warehouse at 757 Monterey Street.  Meet the friendly BoltAbout team and bolt off on your own electric bike.  Visit BoltAbout’s website here for more information.

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