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Tag: Summer Accelerator Spotlight Series 2022

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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