Cal Poly San Luis Obispo


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

For more information on the Hatchery and other CIE programs, visit

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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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Wildnote revolutionizes fieldwork and protects natural resources | Meet a CIE Incubator

The digital world has revolutionized the way people from many industries do their jobs. Kristen Hazard, CEO of Wildnote Inc., a Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) incubating company, realized that biologists, botanists, archeologists and other scientists still used primarily pen and paper and largely missed out on the benefits of digital tools. This observation inspired her to launch Wildnote Inc., a mission-driven organization focused on enhancing and protecting natural resources by building the best-in-class, go-to digital platform for collecting, managing and reporting environmental data.

A typical day for biologists and other scientists conducting field work demands that they record data using pen and paper on the scene and then later manually transcribe their notes into a clunky PDF or Word document to send to a project manager. This transcribing can be tedious busy work after a long day on the field, but also leaves room for error.

Wildnote takes away the need for manual transcription, saving people time and allowing for consistent, real-time data across a team.

“This is a classic paper to digital play,” Hazard said. “It basically means we are revolutionizing the process of collecting, managing and reporting this kind of data.”

Utilizing the technology leads to higher efficiency, higher accuracy and the exact same type of information from each person out in the field. When the project manager gets the data, they are working in a web app. This means they can go to a photo gallery, look at the different data collected from a single spot and export that data.

Wildnote’s mission to protect and enhance natural resources doesn’t stop at creating digital solutions for biologists: the company is a registered B Corporation and a member of the 1% for the Planet program, which means Wildnote donates one percent of gross revenue to environmental organizations.

“If you have a business in San Luis Obispo, you aren’t doing it because housing is cheap, you’re here because of the nature,” Hazard said. “We have clean air, clean water, so why not keep giving back to the local natural resources in a simple way like becoming a member of 1% for the Planet.”

Wildnote started their entrepreneurial journey in San Luis Obispo with the Small Business Development Center, hosted by the CIE, and utilizing the free consulting available. The team then entered the incubator program, a two-year-long program open to community members and Cal Poly students alike.

“We found out that the CIE allows community companies,” Hazard said. “I like to call it the old folks incubator or the late bloomer incubator.”

The modern office space in downtown San Luis Obispo, the support of mentors and consultants, and the CIE’s creative, can-do energy are some of the Wildnote team’s favorite benefits. Access to investors and learning unfamiliar skills gave them the boost they needed to grow into the company they are today.

“I get a lot of people who come to me about launching a startup,” Hazard said. “The first thing I always say is to either apply for the SBDC or incubator program. If you can get in, you are immediately given all of these resources you need to grow the company.”

If your community startup is interested in receiving office space, gaining mentorship and joining a vibrant, energetic community of like-minded entrepreneurs, visit and explore the tools that empowered Wildnote to revolutionize their industry.


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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.


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.


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


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


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


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.


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


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.


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

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


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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, 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

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Meet a CIE Incubator: De Oro Devices

By: Lauren Arendt


Imagine feeling like you can’t move a muscle; as if your feet are glued to the floor. This is what freezing of gait feels like, one of the most common and debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.

The CIE Incubator company De Oro Devices is dedicated to improving the lives of people with Parkinson’s disease and their first product is a device designed to manage freezing of gait.

“Freezing of gait is an incredibly debilitating symptom,” De Oro Devices Founder and biomedical engineering senior at Cal Poly Sidney Collin said. “It creates a lot of anxiety, creates fear and anxiety and is the leading cause of falls.”

Freezing of gait is caused by a lack of communication between the brain and the body. Collin found, however, that research shows this communication can be jump started using a series of audio and visual cues. This is what inspired the De Oro Devices product designed to counteract freezing of gait.

“We put the most effective audio and visual cues, put them into a small, portable device that fits onto any cane or walker and allow someone to regain movement and overcome freezing of gait episodes wherever they are,” Collin said.

The team has developed a prototype of the product that has already made a difference in people’s lives. It will be the least expensive and most portable device on the market designed to mitigate freezing of gait and the anxiety that comes with it.

“My intention as a person is to use the technology in the world to improve people’s quality of life and this company is an amazing way for me to do that,” Collin said. “Success for us is making products that have a real impact on people’s quality of life.”

De Oro Devices got their start in the Hatchery in Spring 2018. After building a team and solidifying their idea in the on-campus space, the company applied for the accelerator program and were admitted into the Summer 2018 class. After ten weeks of intensive preparation, De Oro Devices launched at Demo Day and continued their journey into the incubator.

“The CIE has been amazing,” Collin said. “There is no way I would be where I am without this program.”

Collin said the support of mentorship, funding, workshops and even office space made the CIE an invaluable experience for De Oro Devices.

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You Know You Need to Cowork When…

By: Lauren Arendt

  1. You clean everything in your house before starting your work

Who knew you were such a diligent cleaner? Or is it more likely, you are a diligent procrastinator. Everyone has less motivated days, but when your home is your work and your work is your home, it is easier to blur the lines and get distracted.

  1. You actually aren’t that great at multitasking

You think you can watch TV, complete your work and eat a sandwich at the same time, but that probably doesn’t help your productivity much.

  1. You can’t stop snacking

Are you eating because you’re hungry, or because you’re bored? You may be having more frequent snack-attacks because you can, not because you should.

  1. You have the attention span of a five-year-old

There are five tabs open on your computer and Instagram is up on your phone. You’re probably working for 20 percent of the time and online shopping, scrolling through social media and checking your email for the other 80 percent.

  1. Work is getting in the way of the enjoyment of working from home

Working from home probably sounded so great, but when you were envisioning this greatness, were you considering the actual work? More likely, the vision included sleeping in, wearing pajamas all day and being your own boss to some extent. The actual sitting down, getting your computer out and doing work may not have fit into the work from home fantasy, but it is very much the reality.

  1. Your coworkers have four legs and a tail

Sometimes you just need someone to talk to about work stuff. Not only are second opinions valuable, but also work drama happens, and your four-legged-friends may not be able to level with you the way you need them to.

  1. You wore the same shirt three days in a row

Working from home means you don’t have to shower, right? Wrong. Personal hygiene is important for productivity and professionalism, even if you the only “coworker” you have is your four-legged friend.

  1. You take your work home with you… because your home is your workplace

Sometimes, boundaries can be important. The work-life balance is crucial to mental health but when your work and life happen in the same environment, the lines can blur.

If any (or all) of these points sound like you, it may be time to consider transitioning from the work from home lifestyle to something more concrete. The CIE HotHouse is an option that offers a diverse, energetic community that exists to support your professional goals. You might need to change out of your pajamas, but you’ll be feeling right at home with the space’s top-notch amenities, free coffee and relaxing spaces. Learn how you can sign up today here:

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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:

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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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