Cal Poly San Luis Obispo


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.

Why You Need to Try Coworking at the SLO HotHouse

Have you ever heard of the phrase two minds are better than one? This phrase definitely holds its truth when it comes to coworking.

Coworking is about being independently productive around people who share similar values and goals. It’s about learning from and connecting with one another to achieve success. Research has shown that coworking spaces lead to a culture that drives innovation and furthers success of entrepreneurs and business professionals. So, whether you are interested in the synergy of like-minded people or just want a place to work with fast Wi-Fi and your own space, coworking may be a great option for you.

The SLO HotHouse is a community hub with more than 50 individuals and over two-dozen companies working out of the space. Members include professionals in real estate, marketing, law, photography, and development. With affordable 24/7 workspace, no leases, all the office amenities you could ask for and a location in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo, the SLO HotHouse is the perfect place to work toward accomplishing your goals.

“Before the SLO HotHouse I was running my business out of my home or in coffee shops,”said Luke Fox, CEO of WhiteFox Defense Technologies, Inc. and a SLO HotHouse coworker. “Being at home meant constant distractions. Coffee shops were costing me about $100 a month and were loud with limited hours. My business has really taken off since being at the HotHouse. The environment and culture they cultivate is an experience to behold!”

Take your company to the next level and come see for yourself why coworking at the SLO HotHouse would be a great choice for you! Book a tour today or click here for more information.

How to Get Involved in Forums

At once both a foundational and an educational pillar of CIE, the forum series unifies a community and a university around the pursuit of entrepreneurship. Hosted on a bi-monthly basis, CIE Forums explore innovative ideas and up-and-coming startups within an interactive and collaborative environment.

At times, the forum series serves as a host for the Elevator Pitch Competition finals or the introduction of the SLO HotHouse Accelerator companies. At other events, the forum is home to game-show style competitions and club showcases. Regardless of the content, though, CIE Forums provide attendees with a unique perspective into the startup scene on the Central Coast.

Each forum is divided into two sections: the P.E.N. (Pitches, Exhibits, Networking) and the panel.

During the P.E.N., attendees are introduced to the latest innovations on the Central Coast. Through networking, brainstorming or even competing, community members, faculty, and students can discover new connections and new ideas.

Following the P.EN., each forum transitions to the forum panel. Showcasing experts from the startup world, the panel centers its discussion around core issues crucial for success in entrepreneurship. Attendees are also able to submit questions for the panel to discuss, allowing the collaborative environment of the P.E.N. to continue throughout the evening.

From 4:30p.m.-7:30 p.m., the forum series enables freshman students to connect with venture capitalists and local business owners to brainstorm with Cal Poly faculty. While SLO may never possess the resources of Silicon Valley, the forum series offers a vision of an entrepreneurial ecosystem that fosters community alongside innovation.

To register for our free February forum, click here! 

CIE Welcomes Four Professors to the Faculty Fellows program

Four professors were named to the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship‘s (CIE) Faculty Fellows program. Lynne Slivovsky, electrical engineering, David Askay, communication studies, Taryn Stanko, management, and Graham Doig, aerospace, join the multidisciplinary cohort in preparing students to become emerging entrepreneurial leaders. The fellows will help to raise awareness of CIE programs and provide guidance to students and faculty with an interest in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Communication Studies Professor, Askay, applied to the CIE Faculty Fellows program because it provides him with the support to create a program that can harness local expertise to better address global problems.   Askay wanted to be part of something that allowed faculty, staff and students to collaborate and have the opportunity to make a difference.  He will create an OpenIDEO chapter on campus, with the goal of fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation focused on societal and environmental challenges.

Aerospace Professor, Dr. Doig, started the Prototype Vehicles Lab (PROVE Lab) to be a project-based organization where students can design and build unique, technology-demonstrator vehicles to break world records.  The fellows’ program allows him to take these plans for PROVE to the next level and help the students really go to town on their innovative ideas with the right support and mentoring.  Dr. Doig sees the Faculty Fellows program as a great investment of time and effort.

“These blazing-bright minds are going to go out there and do stuff we haven’t even thought of yet, a group of battle-hardened world-changers,” said Doig. “ Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”

Cal Poly entrepreneurs’ energy, enthusiasm, and passion made Professor Taryn Stanko interested in the CIE Faculty Fellows program.

“These students left a deep impression on me and made her excited about the entrepreneurial efforts going on at the SLO HotHouse,” Stanko said.

Professor Stanko is currently developing a new course, “Negotiation for Entrepreneurs”, which will focus almost exclusively on the unique issues facing founders of young companies.  She believes that negotiation is a critical tool for entrepreneurs who must negotiate with stakeholders on issues that are fundamental to the success of their new companies.

Electrical Engineering Professor, Lynne Slivovsky, is focusing her project on human-centered innovation and design. She is interested in computer vision and pattern recognition, human computer interaction, haptics, robotics and digital system design.  Slivovsky will help in inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs.

These four fellows are part of the 2016-2017 class of CIE Faculty Fellows.  They are joining fellows Enrica Costello, art and design; Bob Crockett, biomedical engineering; Dale Dolan, Electrical Engineering; Lorraine Donegan, graphic communication; Charmaine Farber, graphic communication; Mary Glick, journalism; Brian Granger, physics; David Janzen, computer science; Lynn Metcalf, marketing; Clare Olsen, architecture; Christiane Schroeter, agricultural business; and Umut Toker, architecture.

Where Are They Now: Favor

Ben & Zac photos for Fortune

Photo courtesy of Favor


Favor co-founders Ben Doherty and Zac Maurais graduated from the CIE SLO HotHouse in August of 2012. Their app-based service allows customers to get anything they want delivered to their door in under an hour.

“The SLO Hothouse taught us important entrepreneurial lessons and supported us immensely in the early days,” said Maurais. “We’re very grateful for the community they’ve created.”

Whether it’s a tasty dinner from a top restaurant or essentials from the convenience store, Favor’s network of personal assistants can deliver whatever you need in just a couple taps.

Currently, Favor is available in 20 cities across the country, and the company has raised over $30M in funding to fuel their explosive growth. Based in Austin, TX, Favor boasts nearly 200 employees.

“We created a fun and flexible way for people to earn extra money,” said Doherty. “With over 16,000 runners on our platform, it’s rewarding to see how many awesome people are using what we’ve built.”

For more info on Favor, click here.

Where Are They Now: InPress Technologies


Hello everyone!

This last weekend, I was lucky enough to go exploring in a new startup community in Durango, Colorado. I was invited to speak at a handful of events that brought pre-existing business owners, community movers-and-shakers, and university students and faculty together for the first time.

And wow – what excitement and energy!

Witnessing the seeding of a new entrepreneurial ecosystem renewed my gratitude for our own wonderful startup community & InPress’ growth within it. Reflecting on our progress since the summer of 2011 until today, much of what we’ve accomplished has been aided, encouraged and improved by the support of San Luis Obispo entrepreneurial community.

We started as a rag-tag group of not-yet-graduated students with an impossible dream of saving women’s lives around the world. Today, we have and are hiring the best talent available – all of whom are motivated by that same mission.

We started with a few dollars here and there for small expenditures, and not nearly enough to move full steam ahead. Today, we’ve raised three rounds of funding – the last of which set a value for our company and brought in an incredible and experienced cadre of investors that truly double as advisors and advocates.

We started with a sketch of a concept for a new technology and next to no proof that it would work. Today, our company is ISO certified, and manufactures a validated device that has quickly and successfully stopped postpartum hemorrhage for 10 women.

We have come so far, and yet, we have a long way to go.

It is our mission to ensure that this technology is available to every woman that needs it. This company, this team, and this technology would not exist today without the early and constant support of the SLO entrepreneurial community. In the years to come, I expect to say much the same.

Thank you all for contributing to the vibrant and wonderfully supportive SLO startup community. You can bet that we’ll be around – supporting all you as best we can & asking for help when we need it.

See ya around, SLO-ites!

Jessie, Nathan and the whole InPress team.

New Startups Join the SLO HotHouse Incubator Program


After three months in the SLO HotHouse this summer, five accelerator companies will continue their startup journey in the SLO HotHouse Incubator program: Spectrvm, Gatherologie, ObserVR, BoltAbout and Current. They will join the companies currently residing in the incubator program: Reduce. Reuse. Grow., Calivore, Flume, BrandPlug, App Scrolls, Bottlefly and Higea Inc.

While the challenges of building a startup remain, the Incubator offers a diverse support system critical for success in the market.

“Once a startup integrates into our Incubator program, their runway for support and resources has been extended for a full two years,” said Judy Mahan, director of the CIE Incubator.

With access to local mentors and advisors as well as guaranteed office space in the SLO HotHouse, each incubator company holds the tools they need to progress their business.

“We help each startup set up an advisory board, we provide access to capital through our relationships with investors, we continue our coaching and mentoring program, as well as provide ongoing guidance with business planning workshops and boot camps,” said Mahan.

Despite all of the resources at an incubator company’s disposal, the program is designed to promote long-term sustainability.

“We strive to ensure that when these startups graduate from our incubator program they have grown into sustainable and scalable businesses that will thrive locally,” said Mahan.

Since the program’s inception in 2011, nine companies have graduated from the SLO HotHouse Incubator. In 2018, CIE hopes to add five more companies to one of our favorite lists: companies who no longer need our help.

The Value of Philosophy in Entrepreneurship 

A photo by Thomas Kelley.

During my three years at Cal Poly, I’ve studied philosophy while working for the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). During my interview for my position at CIE, I was asked about the relevance of studying philosophy for a job centered around entrepreneurship. This question followed me throughout my collegiate career, and I’ve often joked that my internship at CIE helps ease my parents’ concerns over my major choice.

However, despite widespread notions that studying philosophy is impractical or irrelevant to “real-world” careers (e.g. entrepreneurs and engineers), I’ve personally witnessed that studying philosophy is one of the most practical and relevant pursuits available today, especially for those in the startup world.

A rarely publicized fact, those who studied philosophy in college have founded some of the most successful companies around the world. Philosophy majors founded LinkedIn, Paypal, Slack, Whole Foods, Intel, and Wikipedia.

Damon Horowitz, who serves as Google’s in-house philosopher, founded several successful startups before getting a Ph.D in philosophy, calling it the “best decision he ever made.” Major publications like The Atlantic, Forbes, Bloomberg, and The Huffington Post have written about the increasing impact of philosophy majors on the business world, some going as far to say that philosophy is the most practical major available to college students.

It seems that popular perception fails to account for the immense success of philosophers in the startup world. How does a discipline that focuses on the foundational structure of reality and pride itself in abstract thinking produce such great entrepreneurs?

First, philosophy teaches you how to think. And if you can think well, you can create well, lead well and build well. Further, the study of philosophy demands clear and concise writing as well as rigorous analyses of difficult arguments. These attributes translate directly to an entrepreneurs’ skill set, allowing co-founders to parse through the unnecessary fluff and focus on the crucial elements necessary for the success of their startup. It also enables an entrepreneur to quickly and compellingly communicate the vision of their venture.

However, studying philosophy is not simply an exercise in strengthening your critical thinking abilities. Philosophy’s subject matter immerses itself in the questions that entrepreneurs should be and need to be wresting with—namely, the question of what it means to be human.

In ethics, one of the fundamental pillars of philosophy, we’re attempting to answer the question, “How should we live?” And whether or not you’ve spent time contemplating that question, your startup (and its product or service) represents a de facto answer to ethical concerns.

If you have an app that helps friends communicate through short video messages, you’re promoting certain values (i.e., how time should be spent and how we should relate to other people). Similarly, if you have a clothing startup that donates a percentage of your proceeds to developing countries, you, too, are promoting a certain set of ethical norms. Entrepreneurs who are cognizant of which values and lifestyles their companies endorse, either explicitly or implicitly, will create better startups and a better world.

For some, this kind of thinking may sound idealistic and unnecessary. However, choosing to ignore a philosophical approach to your startup does not entail neutrality on these issues. Simply building a profit-accumulation machine ignorant of its impact on the world amounts to an endorsement of a self-centered and egoistic philosophy. From issues like climate change to working conditions in developing nations, this next generation of entrepreneurs cannot afford to produce philosophically lazy businesses.

In a Bloomberg article, “Philosophy is Back in Business,” Dov Seidman wrote, “Philosophy can help us address the (literally) existential challenges the world currently confronts, but only if we take it off the back burner and apply it as a burning platform in business.”

Asking the more existential questions about your startup, while challenging, provides a sturdy foundation from which the future of your company can build upon. Elon Musk summarizes this approach concisely: “Boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there.” By implementing a more holistic approach to entrepreneurship, we will begin to incorporate an analysis of business success that includes human impact alongside profit margins.

What does this mean for entrepreneurs without a philosophy background? If you haven’t read Plato, does that mean your startup is destined for failure? Clearly not; however, taking an ethics course, reading the classic thinkers or even listening to a podcast on the history of philosophy all present great opportunities for personal growth that will inevitably extend to your startup.

As obvious as it sounds, only humans do entrepreneurship. This is because only humans can reason, that is, synthesize abstract information, project outcomes and reflect on past decisions. A discovery from Aristotle, this insight remains just a valuable over 2000 years later. When we reason well, we become better people and consequently, better entrepreneurs. Maybe that philosophy course in college was more practical than you thought.

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