Meet a CIE Incubator | Board Game Atlas

Trent Ellingsen, the CEO and co-founder of Atlas Alpha Inc., has created Board Game Atlas, a website that gives people all of the information they could need about board gaming.

“There are 37,000 board games on the site,” Ellingsen said. “You can find out all the information about them, like how many players they allow, how long the game takes, the description, user reviews, videos and the best prices.”

To begin the process of growing his company, Ellingsen joined the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Incubator program in November of 2018. His site initially had about 80 users at the time of its beta launch; now, after over a year in the incubator program and with the acquisition of a competitor, Board Game Atlas has about 54,000 users. 

Although he is a Cal Poly alumni, Ellingsen didn’t join the incubator program until years after graduating. In fact, he found the CIE through the power of networking.

“I found the incubator program, not because I had known about the HotHouse when I went to Cal Poly, but because a member of the HotHouse contacted me about working for his company,” he said. “I wasn’t interested in his company, but about a year later when I started my own, I remembered that it existed, so I applied and got in.”

For Ellingsen, connections are what got him to the incubator, and connections are a big part of why he’s loved working in the HotHouse.

“I think the best part of the incubator program are just the interactions with everybody,” he explained. “There’s different companies working on different things and at different stages, so it’s motivating. [It] makes me feel like I’m not coming to work by myself and on my own thing, but that I’m part of a bigger community and that I can grow friendships and relationships with the people around me.”

Not only has Ellingsen been able to grow his network since starting his startup journey in the incubator program, but the company itself has grown in size and success. 

By buying out a competing board game-centered site, he was able to add in more content to Board Game Atlas, grow the site’s user base and increase revenue. After taking on his company alone for some time, his team now consists of a co-founder and two part-time contractors.

While Ellingsen puts in the hard work to run his business, he credits some success to the CIE’s mentorship and consulting, as well as to the support of the San Luis Obispo community.

“If there’s a startup that’s wanting to get involved in the CIE, whatever stage you’re at, I think it’s definitely worth doing,” he said. “I think it’s worth building something here with different people who are starting companies. The community and the HotHouse are really supportive and it is a great way to get consultants and other advice in how to grow a company.”

If you’re feeling like it’s time to take advantage of all of the business services that the CIE HotHouse Incubator offers, why wait to apply. Start the journey to launching your best business at