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/.