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Cal Poly students revolutionize firearms industry with secure and affordable firearm safety solution

Grip Safe founder and CEO Shaun Tanaka (left) and lead engineer Dylan DeFazio (right) standing in front of a green background with graphics that identify their name and company.

2022 Summer Accelerator Spotlight: Grip Safe

Gun owners in the United States currently have two primary storage options available: cable locks and gun safes. Most gun owners use cable locks, which are much more affordable than gun safes — but also much less secure. 

“You can cut through [cable locks] with scissors or garden shears,” said Shaun Tanaka, a recent interdisciplinary studies and business administration graduate who is now pursuing his Master’s in public policy.

Meanwhile, gun safes are very secure, but also quite expensive. Gun safes can sometimes be even more expensive than actual guns, Tanaka said.

Tanaka, who has a military background, recognized a need for increased firearm safety — as well as an opportunity for innovation within the firearm safety space. Having worked extensively with firearms in the military, he decided to approach the issue from a mechanical standpoint. 

Tanaka, equipped with an idea for an affordable and effective firearm safety device, utilized the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Hatchery to found Grip Safe.

The Hatchery is an on-campus program designed to help Cal Poly students develop their startup ideas. Through the Hatchery, Tanaka met Dylan DeFazio, who is a mechanical engineering junior and the lead engineer at Grip Safe.

“What initially appealed to me about Grip Safe was the fact that Shaun was in need of technical knowledge,” Defazio said. “At Grip Safe, I focus on the manufacturing and prototyping side of things, and I get to put my mechanical engineering degree to use.”

DeFazio joined Tanaka in building a firearm safety device which, once installed on a firearm, acts as a lockbox. If an unwanted user attempts to break off the device, they will likely break the gun itself, which Tanaka said is “part of the beauty of our design.”

The pair recently received a notice of allowance from the United States Patent and Trademark Office on their patent application.

ITanaka and DeFazio also brought Grip Safe to Innovation Quest (iQ), a prototyping and business plan competition hosted by the CIE in which Cal Poly students pitch their innovative ideas to a panel of judges for the chance to win thousands of dollars in funding. Grip Safe won the third place prize of $5,000.

“Innovation Quest allowed us to test our business idea, test our pitch, and honestly, we learned a lot about ourselves, as well,” DeFazio said. “That allowed us to hit the Summer Accelerator running.”

The Summer Accelerator is an intensive, 13-week program that provides Cal Poly students and recent graduates with the resources needed in order to turn their startup ideas into real, scalable businesses. Grip Safe was one of seven startups accepted into the program in 2022. 

They are currently working on developing and iterating their prototype and collecting customer feedback. They hope to have a finished product by Demo Day on Sept. 13 at 4 p.m. at SLO Brew Rock, where the Summer Accelerator teams will showcase the progress they made throughout the summer and pitch their startups.

Tanaka founded Grip Safe with the intention of not only making firearm safety more affordable and accessible, but also with the intention of saving lives.

“I got into this space because I lost a childhood friend to an unsecured AR-15,” Tanaka said. “We’re working on a device that will save lives [which is why] we want to be the go-to solution for firearms safety in the United States.”

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Cal Poly student builds platform to ease the process of renting outdoor equipment

Venture Rent founder Shubh Khandadia standing in front of a green background, with graphics that say "Venture Rent" and "Shubh Khandhadia."

2022 Summer Accelerator Spotlight: Venture Rent

Business administration senior Shubh Khandhadia is connecting people to outdoor rental shops with his startup Venture Rent.

Venture Rent is a platform on which people looking to plan their next outdoor experience can find local rental shops. Users input their location and their outdoor experience of choice, and Venture Rent provides a list of relevant rental shops, along with a description of each shop, photos and reviews. Users can then select a shop and book their rental through Venture Rent.

“Our goal is to make it as easy and convenient as possible,” Khandhadia said. “If you’re going to a new place or planning a vacation, we want you to be able to book your outdoor experience in a minute or less.”

The platform is starting with watersports, connecting users to shops that offer products like kayaks, surfboards and fishing boats for rent. Khandhadia said he plans to eventually expand to also include other outdoor activities, like hiking and backpacking.

Venture Rent began as a peer-to-peer platform for renting surfboards, an idea which originated at Cal Poly Entrepreneurs Startup Marathon, a 54-hour long event at which student innovators work through the weekend to develop a startup idea. 

Following Startup Marathon, Khandhadia brought the idea to the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Hatchery, an on-campus program designed to help Cal Poly students develop their startup ideas. Khandhadia began to utilize the Hatchery’s resources to start building his business.

He also enrolled in Introduction to Entrepreneurship (BUS 310), a course taught by the CIE’s Direction of Student Innovation Programs Jose Huitron, which introduces students to the startup process. Khandhadia learned about customer development, product development and the processes behind Minimum Viable Product (MVP) testing.

Khandhadia continued to develop Venture Rent eventually pivoting to become a business-to-consumer platform — rather than act as a platform for people to rent out their own outdoor equipment, Venture Rent would connect people to “mom and pop rental shops.”

He also applied to the CIE’s Summer Accelerator, an intensive, 13-week program that provides Cal Poly students and recent graduates with the resources needed in order to turn their startup ideas into real, scalable businesses.

Khandhadia applied to the program hoping to “be able to get the practice and learn what it takes to be an entrepreneur from people who have done it and were successful,” he said.

Venture Rent was one of seven teams accepted to the program. Since the start of the summer, Khandhadia has been leveraging resources provided by the Accelerator, including $10,000 in funding, office space in downtown San Luis Obispo and opportunities to learn from experienced entrepreneurs.

“All the speakers that come through the program and the mentors who have experience building products, they give feedback and advice, and that’s all really beneficial,” Khandhadia said.

Venture Rent’s MVP is nearing completion, after which beta testing will begin.

There are currently six rental shops who have agreed to be featured on Venture Rent, five of which are located in Orange County and one of which is local to San Luis Obispo. Khandhadia said he hopes to expand to include more rental shops throughout the summer.

He also said he wants Venture Rent to eventually be “the all in one store for outdoor experiences.” 

“Whenever you’re planning a trip, wherever you’re going, we want to be the place that you go to when you’re looking to have an outdoor experience,” he said.

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Cal Poly engineer creates adaptive technology for people with disabilities

Evan Lalanne, founder of Adapted Mobility, poses in front of a green backdrop.

2022 Summer Accelerator Spotlight: X-Adapt

Evan Lalanne is working to increase accessibility for people with disabilities by adapting mobility devices. Lalanne, a manufacturing engineering fifth-year, developed a modification for an electric unicycle that allows for seated riding by adaptive users. It has greater mobility and capability than most wheelchairs, allowing riders to access environments with tougher terrain, like hiking trails.

Lalanne initially began modifying mobile devices for personal use. The first device he modified was a hoverboard, creating wooden blocks that allowed him to ride it with his wheelchair. The next iteration of that device was a modified electric skateboard. 

Lalanne said the skateboard was “a cool concept, but the practical applications for it were pretty minimal.”

“The next step was asking: How could I apply that same idea, but make it work so that it can benefit more people?” Lalanne said.

The answer came in the form of a modified electric unicycle, which Lalanne is now looking to bring to market. He is working with the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) to scale his business, X-Adapt, formerly Adapted Mobility.

Lalanne initially discovered the CIE through Introduction to Entrepreneurship (BUS 310), a course he took as an elective.

“I ended up loving the class,” Lalanne said. “My background is in engineering, so all the business stuff is a little bit of uncharted territory for me, but I’m throwing myself in and seeing what I can do.”

Introduction to Entrepreneurship led Lalanne to participate in the CIE’s Innovation Quest (iQ), a prototyping and business plan competition in which Cal Poly students pitch their innovative ideas to a panel of judges for the chance to win thousands of dollars in funding.

Lalanne pitched X-Adapt, presenting an early version of his business plan as well as a prototype of the modified electric unicycle. With that pitch, he won the first place prize of $15,000.

“Innovation Quest was kind of a scramble,” Lalanne said. “I started with an idea and had to kind of build a business model around it. Doing that was certainly something out of my area of expertise, but thanks to the resources of the CIE, I made it work.”

Lalanne is now participating in the CIE’s Summer Accelerator, a 13-week program that provides Cal Poly students with the resources needed to turn their startup ideas into real, scalable businesses.

Lalanne currently has a workable prototype of the modified electric unicycle, but throughout the summer, he will be developing a second prototype that is more consistent with the manufacturing techniques that will be used on production versions of the product. He also plans to start reaching out to potential partners.

“I think a big part of the business is going to be getting people past that initial barrier of entry, feeling like they can’t ride the device,” Lalanne said. “I think a great way to make it more accessible for people is going to be to partner with adaptive recreation programs.”

Lalanne hopes to create partnerships with programs that can provide the necessary training for potential consumers to grow comfortable with and confidently use his product prior to purchase.

Although the modified electric unicycle is currently Lalanne’s only product, he hopes to eventually expand X-Adapt to offer “a series of adaptations that can achieve a variety of different tasks, all centered around making the world more accessible for people with disabilities,” he said.

“That can be as simple as something like a hand-mount for a toothbrush — something incredibly simple that’s very different from our initial pathway, but still achieves that Northstar goal for the company,” Lalanne said.

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Cal Poly engineers reinvent the period care industry with leak-proof period-wear

Co-founders of Cheekies McCall Brinskele and Mariana Inofuentes in front of a green backdrop.

2022 Summer Accelerator Spotlight: Cheekies

Recent biomedical engineering graduate McCall Brinskele was taking Contemporary Issues in Biomedical Engineering (BMED 450), a course taught by lecturer Sara Della Ripa which explores appropriate solutions for maternal health, when she realized the potential for innovation within the period care industry.

Brinskele learned that not only are tampons and pads, the standard solutions for people on their periods, not the entirety of period-wear products available to menstruators, but certain health risks are associated with those solutions.

Brinskele took it upon herself to innovate a new and safer solution — period-wear that utilizes leak-proof technology to provide menstruators with greater comfort while sleeping on their periods.

Brinskele initially began developing the product as a senior project, working alongside Cal Poly business administration majors to found period-wear company Cheekies, formerly FemForward. Senior project advisors then encouraged Cheekies to apply for Innovation Quest (iQ), a prototyping and business plan competition hosted by the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) in which Cal Poly students pitch their innovative ideas to a panel of judges for the chance to win thousands of dollars in funding.

Cheekies was the runner-up at iQ 2022, winning the second-place prize of $10,000 — as well as an opportunity to interview for the CIE’s Summer Accelerator.

The Summer Accelerator is an intensive, 13-week program that provides Cal Poly students and recent graduates with the resources needed in order to turn their startup ideas into real, scalable businesses.

Brinskele and her co-founder Mariana Inofuentes, a recent industrial engineering graduate who Brinskele found through professor recommendations, were accepted into the 2022 Summer Accelerator.

“The mindset behind choosing to do the Summer Accelerator was that we both want to see this company succeed,” Brinskele said. “We’re very driven and we want to take it all the way because this is very important not only to us, but to all the women who are in our lives.”

Cheekies currently has a working prototype and is ready to start user testing. They are in the process of putting together focus groups and are actively looking for participants.

Cheekies is striving to perfect their prototype and begin manufacturing their product by the end of the summer. They hope to eventually expand to develop similar products, like swimwear and athletic apparel, that will allow menstruators more freedom while on their periods, Inofuentes said.

“We’re interested in seeing if we could expand, still with that same mission in mind,” Inofuentes said. “Allowing women to feel comfortable, secure and still sexy while they’re on their periods.”

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Cal Poly senior-project-turned-startup reimagines sustainable growing practices for strawberries

BetterBerry co-founders (left to right) Shalin Gogri, Corinne Cooper and Ahkar Kyaw holding strawberries in front of a green backdrop.

2022 Summer Accelerator Spotlight: BetterBerry

During the early weeks of a Cal Poly senior project course that allows entrepreneurship students and engineering students to work together to create a new solution to a real-world problem, recent business administration graduate Corinne Cooper and recent mechanical engineering graduates Ahkar Kyaw and Shalin Gogri found they all shared a passion for sustainability

As a project group, they began to research the agriculture industry with a goal of increasing farming sustainability through innovation. They soon narrowed their focus to the strawberry industry after learning that strawberries are an essential local agricultural product, with the majority of California’s fresh strawberries coming from the nearby town of Santa Maria, according to Cooper. 

Cal Poly also conducts ample research into sustainable growing practices for strawberries through the Cal Poly Strawberry Center, a research facility partnered with the California Strawberry Commission.

“There’s so many experts around us,” Cooper said. “[The strawberry industry] is such a resource-rich area for us to explore.”

Through their research, the project group found that an area’s ability to grow fresh produce is reliant on the local climate and environment. This discovery led them to develop hydroponic technology that would enable fresh produce to be grown locally, regardless of climate or season. 

Hydroponics is a method of farming that allows plants to grow without soil — instead, it uses nutrient-rich water. Implementing hydroponic technology in greenhouses would allow fresh produce to grow in new climates.

What started as a senior project eventually turned into a startup, BetterBerry, when the project group applied for Innovation Quest (iQ), a prototyping and business plan hosted by the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE).

“Innovation Quest forced us to look at our project as a business for the first time,” Cooper said. “It confirmed that we were doing something that could actually make a difference.”

BetterBerry was one of twelve finalists to pitch their startup at iQ 2022. Although they did not win the competition, iQ was a valuable learning experience, Cooper said.

iQ also encouraged the BetterBerry co-founders to pursue their startup and apply to the Summer Accelerator, according to Kyaw. 

The Summer Accelerator is a 13-week program sponsored by the CIE that provides Cal Poly students and recent graduates with the resources needed to turn their startup ideas into real businesses.

“We felt like we had something that we could change, something that we could actually achieve,” he said. “We realized that the Accelerator could help us with that, so we decided to get on board with the program.”

BetterBerry is currently working on their initial prototype modeling, Cooper said. Throughout the summer, they hope to ensure the feasibility and financial viability of their project.

Cooper said that she hopes their work with the Summer Accelerator eventually leads to increased accessibility to local produce for communities everywhere.

“So many communities are out of touch with where their food comes from,” she said. “If there’s a way that we can change the system and make it so local communities can grow their own food and have it accessible to everybody — I would say that’s our overarching goal.”

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Let’s Ryde: Student startup helps local college students travel with ease

Ryde Carpool co-founders (left to right): Josh Wong, Emily Gavrilenko and Johnny Morris. Photo by Ruby Wallau.

2022 Summer Accelerator Spotlight: Ryde Carpool

Traveling home during her freshman year at Cal Poly was a difficult experience for Emily Gavrilenko.

Gavrilenko, like most Cal Poly freshmen, didn’t have access to a car, so she opted to take the train from Cal Poly to her hometown of Antioch, California.

She arrived at an on-campus bus stop at six in the morning and boarded a bus that drove a roundabout route to the train station — and then she still had to take the train ride itself. In the end, what would have taken Gavrilenko three hours by car took seven by bus and train.

Gavrilenko began searching for an alternative form of long-distance travel and discovered the Cal Poly Ride Share Facebook, a Facebook group for Cal Poly students traveling long distances. The group allows Cal Poly students to buy and sell seats in cars traveling to and from San Luis Obispo. 

“It makes travel super affordable and super convenient,” Gavrilenko said of rideshares.

Although rideshare groups are extremely common at colleges and universities, they are not without faults — so Gavrilenko set out to improve the process. 

“Being a computer science student, I knew I could easily write code that makes ridesharing so much better,” Gavrilenko said.

Little did Gavrilenko know that recent experience industry management graduate Johnny Morris had a similar experience with rideshares during his time at Cal Poly and, like Gavrilenko, wanted to improve the process.

“Imagine if when booking a flight, you were browsing through both the passengers’ and the captains’ needs; past flights and current flights; and flights going the opposite direction as you — that wouldn’t make any sense, but that’s ultimately how these Facebook groups operate,” Morris said.

Morris decided to set out to remedy this issue by creating an improved platform for ridesharing. He began to assemble a team of students through Reddit, where he found his co-founder Josh Wong, a computer science junior.

“I was really interested in the idea but wanted to understand more of the vision,” Wong said. “We ended up on a call that lasted like four hours, and that’s how I met Johnny.”

Morris also pursued more formal methods of recruitment, posting about the project in the Cal Poly Computer Science Department’s newsletter, which is how Gavrilenko found out about the project.

Gavrilenko said that when she first saw Morris’s post in the newsletter, “[her] initial thought was, ‘Wow, competition. I’ve got to beat him to market,” but she soon realized that she and Morris has “complementary skill sets.”

She reached out to Morris, and they came together with Wong to found Ryde Carpool.

Ryde Carpool is similar to Facebook rideshare groups, allowing college students to buy and sell empty seats in each other’s cars — but its user-friendly interface allows students to filter available rides by departure location, date and time; destination; and the number of seats available in the car. Ryde Carpool is also available to students at any college or university, allowing students from different campuses to ride together.

Ryde Carpool is currently functional, and several students have found rides through the platform. Their current priority is developing an iOS version of the website because 75% of Ryde Carpool users interact with the website on their phones, according to Morris.

The team at Ryde Carpool is aiming to develop their iOS application by the end of the summer — a goal they believe to be feasible with the help of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Summer Accelerator.

The Summer Accelerator is an intensive, 13-week program that provides Cal Poly students and recent graduates with the resources needed in order to turn their startup ideas into real, scalable businesses.

“Going into the Summer Accelerator, we thought we had an idea of what we wanted to build and do, but having access to all these amazing programming resources and workshops has given us a lot to think about in terms of shifting this from a student project to a business,” Gavrilenko said.

Ryde Carpool hopes to leave the Summer Accelerator with both a completed product and a completed business plan so that they can begin helping Cal Poly students travel with more ease.

“We want to solve this problem not only for ourselves, but for the future generation of Cal Poly students, of California college students and eventually national college students,” Morris said.

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Damn that’s fast: Cal Poly juniors create a speedy delivery service tailored for college students

Quickie co-founders William Tregenza and Matthew Menno.

2022 Summer Accelerator Spotlight: Quickie

Business administration junior William Tregenza lived on the Cal Poly campus during his freshman year — and during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On-campus dining options were scarce during his first year due to staffing shortages and restricted hours induced by the pandemic. Tregenza, like most 2020-2021 freshmen, relied primarily on the Vista Grande dining complex for most meals, but the complex was limited in variety of products and hours of operation.

Tregenza did not have access to a car, so most off-campus stores were inaccessible. 

“The only options I had were what Cal Poly had to offer,” Tregenza said. 

The lack of variety in on-campus dining facilities, as well as their limited product selection made it difficult for Tregenza to access certain “college essentials.”

“If I needed solo cups for my dorm, I couldn’t get them unless I went [shopping off-campus] earlier that week,” he said. “If Friday night comes and I don’t have them, that’s a problem because there’s no way to get them on-campus.”

Tregenza raised the issue with Matthew Menno, also a business administration junior, and they began to devise a solution in the form of Quickie, a delivery service that would increase the variety and accessibility of essentials like snacks, energy drinks and frozen meals to college students.

Quickie currently offers around 300 “convenience store items,” according to Menno. Cal Poly students who live on-campus or within a two-mile radius of campus can order online through Quickie’s website, and their products will be delivered in 10 minutes via electric scooter or bicycle.

Quickie first soft-launched in November of 2021, operating four days per week for about a month. The soft-launch was successful, and the startup officially launched in January of 2022. With their launch, they increased their hours of operations from four to six days per week, 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Mondays through Thursdays and 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Quickie will be expanding their services to seven days per week when Cal Poly’s 2022-2023 school year begins in September. They also hope to expand their product selection to include healthier options, Menno said.

While they wait for classes to resume in the fall, the Quickie team will be participating in the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Summer Accelerator program.

The Summer Accelerator is an intensive, 13-week program that provides Cal Poly students and recent graduates with the resources needed to build a business — including mentorship, networking opportunities and $10,000 in funding. 

“Of course there’s the $10,000, which is going to help any business, but the leadership and the mentors that you can gain from the Accelerator are just invaluable,” Menno said.

Quickie’s involvement with the CIE began with the Hatchery, an on-campus CIE program that helps Cal Poly students build their own businesses. 

“We went to the Hatchery, and the Hatchery was closed,” Tregenza said. “I couldn’t get in, but on the door, it said ‘Jose Huitron. Schedule a meeting.’”

They reached out to Huitron, the Director of Student Innovation Programs, and began working with the Hatchery — and working on their application for the Summer Accelerator.

The 2022 Summer Accelerator began in June, and with its start, the Quickie team dove headfirst into building their business, leveraging the program’s resources along the way.

“We’re sophomore business majors, going into our third year now,” Tregenza said. “Our scope of the business world is pretty limited, but there’s a lot of people here who have years and years of experience. Bouncing ideas off those people, having them look over our budget — it’s super helpful because they have a perspective [shaped by] experience, whereas we’re still fresh and still learning.”

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The 2021 Summer Accelerator Cohort: Where are they now?

It’s been almost nine months since the 2021 Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Summer Accelerator came to an end. During the Accelerator, Cal Poly students and recent graduates spent three months immersed in the startup process, turning their startup ideas into real, scalable businesses.

The program culminated in Demo Day, where the teams showcased their hard work and pitched their companies.

Since Demo Day, our teams have grown as entrepreneurs and industry professionals. Here’s a team-by-team breakdown of what our 2021 Summer Accelerator teams are up to now:


ARTIFEX    For Mom Care    HiLite    Intego Technology    kit & sis    OdinXR

S2 Monitoring Solutions    TractorCloud    Zoetic Motion


ARTIFEX

ARTIFEX co-founder Anna Baytosh (right) and team member Levi Schmitt at AngelCon. Photo by Ruby Wallau. Graphic by Emily Olstad.

ARTIFEX spent their summer creating a custom measuring tool to enable automation in the architecture industry.

Since the Summer Accelerator, ARTIFEX co-founders Elijah Williams and Anna Baytosh have expanded their team. They now have employees assisting with scientific research, technology development, customer development and market development.

According to Baytosh, the ARTIFEX team has been successful establishing their brand in the architecture industry. They are collecting feedback from architects who use their product and using that feedback to improve their innovation.

Baytosh said she also enjoyed “the opportunity to pitch [ARTIFEX’s] progress and talk to the community again” at the Cal Poly CIE Small Business Development Center’s (SBDC) AngelCon competition, held April 21 at SLO Brew Rock.

AngelCon is an annual competition for tech-driven startups on the Central Coast. ARTIFEX was one of the six startups competing for over $100,000 in funding in AngelCon 2022.

Weekly pitch workshops during the Accelerator prepared Baytosh to pitch in competitions like AngelCon, she said.

“The Accelerator helped get us moving and set a foundation for what a really good pitch looks like,” Baytosh said. “Now, being a few months out of the Accelerator and pitching to investors, we know what to say and what not to say.”

 

For Mom Care

For Mom co-founders Christina Grigorian (left) and Camila Monchini (right) at Demo Day. Photo by Joe Johnson. Graphic by Emily Olstad.

The Summer Accelerator helped For Mom Care begin building a postpartum recovery platform to provide mothers with holistic support and ensure they properly heal after birth.

Co-founders Camila Mochini and Christina Grigorian used the program as an opportunity to refine their original idea for For Mom Care, which Monchini described as “a one-stop-shop for postpartum care.”

At the start of the Accelerator, For Mom Care wanted to connect users with physical goods, community, education and a network of medical professionals.

“We had a lot of ambitions, but quickly realized it wasn’t possible to focus on so many aspects at once,” Monchini said.

Monchini and Grigorian, following the advice of their mentors, narrowed their focus to connecting new mothers with postpartum education and a network of postpartum experts.

Monchini said she was excited to showcase her startup’s growth at Demo Day. 

“Pitching at Demo Day was exhilarating and nerve-wracking all wrapped up in one,” Monchini said. “Our eight-minute pitch seemed so long during the practice runs, and yet I felt like our pitch at Demo Day was over in a heartbeat.”

Following Demo Day, For Mom Care was invited to join the CIE Incubator, a two-year program for early-stage companies to develop into financially stable, high-growth enterprises. They are working with the Incubator to refine their business model and create the beta version of the For Mom Care platform, Monchini said.

Monchini said she is applying the lessons she learned during the Accelerator to her current work with For Mom Care.

“I [learned] it is key to surround yourself with people that believe in your team, believe in your mission and will bring positive and constructive energy to the table,” she said.

 

HiLite, formerly PowerMove

HiLite co-founders Sara Glaser (left) and Madison Lewandoski (right) at one of their pop-up classes. Photo courtesy of Madison Lewandowski. Graphic by Emily Olstad.

HiLite entered the Summer Accelerator as FEARLESS Fitness Kids, a startup working to keep children active by creating immersive video games with exercise as their core mechanic.

Over the course of the Accelerator, FEARLESS Fitness Kids rebranded and became PowerMove — and the rebrand was not the startup’s only change. PowerMove began to look at elementary schools as a customer segment, whereas FEARLESS Fitness Kids focused primarily on parents of young children.

Although PowerMove received investor interest at Demo Day, co-founders Sara Glaser and Madison Lewandowski are no longer pursuing the idea. Instead, they are pursuing HiLite.

HiLite — which stands for high-intensity, low-impact training exercise — is a workout methodology that uses patent-pending aerial loops and mini trampolines. It takes inspiration from dance, gymnastics and circus, according to Lewandowski.

“Our whole mission, since the beginning, is trying to make exercise fun,” Lewandowski said. “HiLite is a lot more in line with that.”

The central focus of HiLite is also more in-line with the co-founders’ expertise. Both Glaser and Lewandowski have backgrounds in dance. Glaser is also a certified personal trainer and yoga instructor.

“We’re now running a company where we are experts on the foundation of the company, whereas before, we had to hire other people to execute [our ideas],” Glaser said. “This is very much in our realm, and we feel confident in it.”

 

Intego Technology

Intego Technology co-founders Sam Andrews (left) and Alexandra Joelson (right) during the Summer Accelerator. Photo by Joe Johnson. Graphic by Emily Olstad.

Intego Technology entered the Summer Accelerator as Intego Sports, a startup striving to create the most durable and sustainable footwear on the market with their own patent-pending technology. 

Their mission remained the same throughout the course of the Accelerator, but they rebranded to Intego Technology after pivoting to sell their technology to manufacturers instead of selling directly to consumers.

Co-founders Alexandra Joelson and Samuel Andrews showcased their pivot at Demo Day. Joelson said she felt accomplished presenting her startup’s progress after months of hard work.

“The feeling on that stage was absolute shock that we’ve made it this far,” Joelson said. “The Accelerator supported us and pushed us to be the best entrepreneurs we could be.”

Since Demo Day, Intego Technology has continued to work with their team in Germany — a connection they established through the Accelerator — to manufacture their product and submit international patent filings.

“Our business became viable over the course of the Accelerator,” Andrews said. “We started the Accelerator with a company which wouldn’t have worked in real life. We still have room to grow, but now feel confident that our business can really work.”

 

kit & sis

kit & sis co-founders (from left to right) Madeline Pollock, Gabrielle Pollock and Kate Lally at their Dollie and Me Holiday Tea, held at the Westin St. Francis Hotel. Photo courtesy of Madeline Pollock. Graphic by Emily Olstad.

kit & sis, a subscription craft kit company helping children explore their creativity and imagination through hands-on crafting, used the Summer Accelerator to fully immerse themselves in the startup process.

The startup, known previously as AG Sisters, was founded by Cal Poly business administration majors Madeline and Gabrielle Pollock and their childhood friend Kate Lally.

It was beneficial to work in a “collaborative space” throughout the summer, alongside “other students who are just as passionate about entrepreneurship,” Madeline Pollock said.

Opportunities like Common Rock were also beneficial, Gabrielle Pollock said. Common Rock is a workshop held at the end of each week of the Accelerator where participants exchange advice and discuss what they learned through their own startup experiences.

Since the Summer Accelerator, kit & sis has begun to sell their craft kits through local retailers in San Francisco. They are also continuing to hold crafting events, both in-person and online. 

kit & sis partnered with the Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco to hold a “Dollie and Me Holiday Tea” in December of 2021. The event, which included a sit-down tea and crafting activities for children ages four and up, attracted over 200 attendees.

“Being able to work with the Westin and attract the crowd that we did, it was mind-blowing,” Madeline Pollock said. “It was truly fulfilling. We could see our childhood selves sitting out there in the audience.”

The Holiday Tea allowed the kit & sis co-founders an opportunity to see the real-world impact of their startup.

A mother accompanying three young girls to the event told Gabrielle Pollock that she often tells her daughter, “You could be like kit & sis one day. You can start a business with your best friends.”

“I’ve never seen myself as someone that other people look up to,” Gabrielle Pollock said. “Having that moment was really surreal and emotional and amazing.”

kit & sis intends to hold a similar event in December 2022, also at the Westin.

 

OdinXR

OdinXR founder Tessa Luzuriaga (right) during the Summer Accelerator. Photo by Joe Johnson. Graphic by Emily Olstad.

OdinXR entered the Summer Accelerator as a startup creating virtual reality landscapes for engineering students to conduct hands-on labs during online learning.

OdinXR founder and CEO Tessa Luzuriaga said the Accelerator was “a great place to be for engineers who really didn’t know how to build a business.”

Luzuriaga, a Cal Poly engineering student, learned how to turn her innovation into a viable product and successful company.

“It couldn’t have been a better program for us, being a team of only engineers,” she said.

Since the Summer Accelerator, OdinXR has narrowed its focus. The startup is now providing students with disabilities who cannot attend classes on a daily basis with access to engineering labs. Luzuriaga is working with the Cal Poly Disability Resource Center (DRC) to implement its technology in classrooms, running a pilot lab to determine whether it is beneficial to students.

“To be honest, when I first saw our demo, I cried,” Luzuriaga said. “It is a very, very rewarding experience to see something you’ve worked on for almost two years of your life, that just started as an idea — to finally see it happen.”

 

S2 Monitoring Solutions

S2 Monitoring Solutions co-founders Paul Romano, Russell Calentena and Fernando Estevez during the Summer Accelerator. Photo by Joe Johnson. Graphic by Emily Olstad.

S2 Monitoring Solutions spent their time in the Summer Accelerator developing technology to provide residential solar panel owners with analytics on their panels’ performance in order to maximize efficiency.

The startup was founded by a team of recent Cal Poly engineering graduates, Russell Calentena, Paul Romano and Fernando Estevez.

S2 Monitoring Solutions was “constantly changing” throughout the course of the Accelerator, according to Estevez. They entered the Accelerator with the intention of building a robot, but their mentors suggested they focus on software rather than hardware. 

Calentena and Romano began full-time engineering jobs in the weeks leading up to Demo Day, which also led to changes within their startup. 

S2 Monitoring Solutions originally intended for Calentena to present at Demo Day, but due to a scheduling conflict with his full-time position, they made a last-minute decision for Estevez to present instead.

“It was nerve-wracking, but it was a learning experience for me — no matter what, be prepared,” Estevez said. “And I did feel nervous, but I knew the pitch and I didn’t choke.”

While they are no longer working on S2 Monitoring Solutions, each co-founder said they left the Accelerator having learned several valuable lessons.

“My biggest takeaway was this idea of customer obsession,” said Calentena, who now works as a hardware development engineer at Amazon. “Whether it be with S2 Monitoring Solutions or with our respective jobs, it always starts with why we’re doing it.”

 

TractorCloud

TractorCloud co-founders Roxanne Miller (left) and Morgan Swanson (right) during the Summer Accelerator. Photo by Joe Johnson. Graphic by Emily Olstad.

TractorCloud entered the Summer Accelerator on a mission to help farmers maintain their equipment by developing a hardware-software device intended to monitor the predictive maintenance of farm equipment. 

The Summer Accelerator showed TractorCloud co-founder and Cal Poly engineering student Morgan Swanson that an innovative product is not the only aspect of a successful business.

“I’m an engineer, so at the beginning of the Accelerator, I had one engineering problem,” Swanson said. “At the end of the Accelerator, I had 50 business problems.”

Since the Accelerator, Swanson has been working to solve these problems — and he’s been relatively successful.

“Those 50 problems are now down to, like, 12,” he joked.

TractorCloud is currently waiting to receive their hardware prototypes, which are in the process of being shipped to the United States. Once the prototypes arrive, they will be deployed on select farms.

“It’s been over two years since we started the first prototype, so it’s really exciting to finally have something that can be considered a shippable product,” Swanson said.

TractorCloud plans to continue working on the software components of their product, as well as continue to raise funding for the startup.

 

Zoetic Motion

Zoetic Motion team (from left to right) Ivet Avalos, Austin Ma and Zeeshan Khan during the Summer Accelerator. Photo by Joe Johnson. Graphic by Emily Olstad.

Zoetic Motion started the Summer Accelerator as Muscle Ninja, a startup developing wearable injury-prevention technology.

About one month before Demo Day, the startup underwent a massive pivot and began developing a comprehensive physical therapy support platform intended to keep patients engaged and on-track in their recovery.

The Accelerator helped Zoetic Motion navigate this pivot, co-founder Ivet Avalos said.

“Sometimes you need an outside perspective to make sure you’re going down the right path,” Avalos said. “That’s how that transition happened.”

Mentors suggested the Zoetic Motion co-founders improve their original revenue model, which prompted the pivot. The pivot also provided an opportunity for the founders to create a startup that “better aligned with [their] passions and personal interests,” Avalos said.

Zoetic Motion is now continuing to build their startup, working with the CIE Incubator to fast-track their progress. Their current priorities are customer development and product development, according to Avalos.

Avalos works primarily on Zoetic Motion’s business development — a role she would not have predicted for herself when she graduated from Cal Poly in 2021 with a mechanical engineering degree.

“I knew I wanted to do business someday, but I’m an engineer, so I didn’t even know where to start,” Avalos said. “The Accelerator was more than just a start. Now I’m 10 steps ahead and can hit the floor running.”

 


 

It’s now been almost nine months since these nine teams have completed the Summer Accelerator program — but in less than two months, a new cohort will set out on their own startup ventures.

Meet the 2022 Summer Accelerator teams at this year’s May Entrepreneurship Forum, May 16 at 4:30 p.m. in the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center. Tickets are now available.

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Hatchery Spotlight: Nritya

Anvita Vyas has spent most of her life dancing. She found her passion for dance at an early age. Her mother tells her that the “first thing [she] learned to do as a baby” was “moving [her] arms and legs and finding the best way to express [herself],” Vyas said.

Now a business administration sophomore at Cal Poly, Vyas is experienced in several styles of dance, including classical Indian dance, modern dance, hip hop and jazz.

Although Vyas has enjoyed her time as a dancer, her experience has also revealed a disconnect within the industry. Dancers, Vyas said, often struggle to find and connect with choreographers.

“Collaborating and being able to connect with others is not as easy as it seems,” Vyas said. “Having to commute to dance studios or workshops, it’s just not a convenient or feasible option for everyone.”

Vyas hopes to create a new — and easily accessible — place for dancers and choreographers to connect and collaborate with her startup Nritya.

Nritya is a digital platform working to bring together dancers and choreographers and catalyze growth within the dance industry. Vyas said while most dance-based applications are focused on improving skill or recording dances, Nritya is centralized on building community.

Vyas is building Nritya with the help of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Hatchery, an on-campus resource designed to help Cal Poly students develop their startup ideas.

The Hatchery fosters a “very warm and welcoming community” and is able to connect students with entrepreneurs who can provide mentorship and offer advice on the startup process, Vyas said.

Vyas was familiar with Hatchery resources before she began working on Nritya — she also works for the CIE as a student innovation outreach coordinator. Vyas assists with the coordination and communication of student-oriented programs and events at the CIE.

Nritya was inspired in part by the innovation Vyas witnessed during the CIE Summer Accelerator, an intensive, summer-long program where Cal Poly students and recent graduates are given the resources needed to turn their startup ideas into real, scalable businesses.

“I was meeting nine startup teams who were receiving that guidance and going through that development, and that’s really when my eyes were opened,” Vyas said. “I realized I needed to act on my idea, to do what I can to make a difference.”

Vyas is currently working on customer development. She is reaching out to several dance organizations and using social media to connect with dancers who may be interested in Nritya.

She is also working to grow the Nritya startup team and find potential programmers as she graduates from the customer development stage to the prototyping stage.

Vyas said she hopes Nritya will one day become a valuable asset to the dance community.

“Right now, I’m really focusing on making sure [Nritya] can be something meaningful,” she said.

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Hatchery Spotlight: Clear Bin

Thomas Soares was “talking trash” when inspiration struck. 

Soares wasn’t “talking trash” in the traditional sense. He was discussing the recycling industry and learning which materials are and are not recyclable. That is when he had the idea for Clear Bin.

Clear Bin is a mobile application working to reduce contamination rates for curbside recycling across the United States.

Curbside recycling is considered contaminated when a recycling collection contains materials “not accepted into residents’ curbside program” or acceptable materials with “unacceptable amounts of residue,” according to the Recycling Partnership’s 2020 State of Curbside Recycling Report. More than 30 percent of residential recycling is considered contaminated, according to the same report.

One contributing factor to this high contamination rate is residents not knowing which materials are and are not recyclable, Soares said. Clear Bin is attempting to resolve that issue. 

Clear Bin users can take a picture of an item, and the app will inform them whether the material is recyclable or not. It also informs users whether the item is of acceptable quality, and if it needs to be cleaned, dried or otherwise altered before it can be recycled.

Soares, an architectural engineering senior, is working with computer science seniors Ruhi Prasad and Jack Fales, to build the Clear Bin app.

Soares is also working with the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Hatchery, an on-campus resource designed to help Cal Poly students develop their startup ideas. The Hatchery connected Soares to the resources needed for both Clear Bin’s development and his own professional development.

“The Hatchery has definitely given me a lot of confidence to be able to put myself out there,” he said. 

Students do not need any prior business or entrepreneurship experience before joining the Hatchery. The program provides plenty of opportunities for students like Soares, who started Clear Bin with no formal business education or experience, to learn about entrepreneurship in ways that appeal to them.

“The Hatchery has done a great job of making this more about problem solving,” Soares said. “From an engineering perspective, I love the rational, practical thought, and the Hatchery has been able to break down entrepreneurship like this, in a way that I enjoy.”

The Clear Bin team is currently focusing on app development and working towards launching a program. Soares hopes to eventually help communities throughout the United States reduce their waste.

“There is a big divide with the understanding of what is and is not recyclable,” Soares said. “If we’re able to communicate and work with people and haulers and recycling companies across the United States, that’s when I’ll be able to sleep at night.”

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