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A safer delivery: How Infantry Obstetrics is addressing shoulder dystocia

When recent California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) biomedical engineering graduate Jenna Eissmann first shared her startup with her friends, she had no idea how deeply it would resonate. 

She described her startup, Infantry Obstetrics, and their mission to prevent shoulder dystocia injuries. Shoulder dystocia is a condition where a baby’s shoulder gets stuck during childbirth, often resulting in serious injuries like clavicle fractures and brachial plexus injury. 

To Eissmann’s surprise, she discovered one of her good friends suffered from shoulder dystocia as a baby and subsequently had her collarbone broken by the doctor in order to be delivered. 

That moment made Eissmann’s work proudly personal. 

“Hearing about the struggles my friend went through to recover from her injury made me realize the real-world impact our innovation could have,” Eissmann said. “I see the effects of this condition today and can’t wait to see what our solution can do in the future.” 

Infantry Obstetrics, founded on the principle of transforming women’s health, is driven by stories like these. For Eissmann, her friend’s experience serves as a powerful reminder of why their work matters and fuels their dedication to creating a safer future for mothers and babies alike. 

Infantry Obstetrics is creating a new method to treat shoulder dystocia with their handheld device. Their device works with the mother’s anatomy to gently wrap around the infant’s upper body.

SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA: (From left to right: Jenna Eissmann, Rachel Rowe, Maddie Mumford) The Infantry during Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) CIE Summer Accelerator photo session on June 06, 2024 in San Luis Obispo, California. Photo by Ruby Wallau for CIE

“Maddie Mumford, Rachel Rowe and I were all in the same senior project group. After working together for two quarters, we realized we work really well together – and we like each other! We knew we had something here, so we wanted to continue developing this device,” said Eissmann. 

Biomedical engineering graduate and co-founder Rachel Rowe holds a part-time remote position as COO, supporting from a logistical standpoint and helping with research. 

Biomedical engineering graduate and co-founder Maddie Mumford works in a hybrid remote position full-time as CFO and focuses on research, financial projection forecasts and their regulatory strategy. Mumford will be pursuing her master’s in biomedical engineering at Cal Poly in the fall of 2024. 

Eissmann holds a full-time in-person position as CEO and is in charge of handling programming, running in-person testing with the device and catching Rowe and Mumford up to speed on the day-to-day happenings. Eissmann will be pursuing her master’s in engineering management at Cal Poly in fall 2024. 

The team joined the Center for Innovation and Entreprenuership’s (CIE) Summer Accelerator program because, as engineers, they felt confident in the design and technical aspects of building their startup, but needed support with the business-side, they said. 

The Accelerator is an intensive 12-week program that provides Cal Poly students and recent graduates with the resources necessary to turn their innovative ideas into full-fledged startups. 

Participants in the Accelerator receive $10,000 in seed funding, as well as access to expert mentorship, entrepreneurial workshops and a dedicated workspace in the HotHouse, the CIE’s office located in downtown San Luis Obispo. 

Currently, the only methods to address shoulder dystocia involve hand maneuvers, which have a 58% failure rate and lack a standardized approach, Eissmann explained. Infantry Obstetrics is working to change this with their device.

Infantry Obstetrics is currently in the product development phase and is consulting with obstetrics and gynecology (OBGYN) partners to gather feedback and refine their design. 

In the future, the team hopes to finalize their product design, test the device in real-world settings, apply for a patent, attract investors and form a corporation. 

“While the numbers don’t seem incredibly common, shoulder dystocia affects more people than you’d expect,” Eissmann explained. “It’s 2024. Women’s health really needs an intervention to help both mothers and babies. Our device is something that’s made for women by women, and I think that’s really powerful.” 

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From the sidelines to safety: ODIN’s mission to combat concussions

Concussions are far more widespread and severe than most realize. Shockingly, 50% of concussions go undetected, despite the fact that there are 3.8 million sport-related concussions annually in the United States alone, according to the University of Michigan

The same study also explains that globally, 12 concussions occur every second and $1,522 is spent on concussion care every second. 

While occasional incidents make headlines, countless athletes, from youth leagues to professional sports, endure the lasting effects of brain injuries. 

ODIN is dedicated to addressing this critical issue head-on by using innovative technology to revolutionize athlete safety. 

Founded during a California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) senior project class, ODIN aims to mitigate the compounding effects of brain injuries in athletes participating in impact sports. Their primary product is a sideline-ready headset that provides objective and transparent concussion assessments in minutes.

Their mission is deeply personal for Cal Poly economics and entrepreneurship graduate Connor Heffler, the CEO of ODIN and former football player, who has firsthand experience with the devastating impact of concussions on athletes.

“I’ve felt the effects of concussions and seen many of my teammates affected by them, so this is something very close to my heart,” Heffler shared. 

Under the encouragement of their senior project advisor and the CIE Academic Programs Director, Dr. Thomas Katona, ODIN applied to the CIE’s Innovation Quest, a high stakes competition where Cal Poly students pitch their innovative business ideas and prototypes to a panel of judges in hopes of winning thousands to fund their startup. 

ODIN received the first-place award of $15,000, and used this attention and funding to continue developing their startup through the CIE’s Summer Accelerator program, an intensive 12-week program that provides Cal Poly students and recent graduates with the resources necessary to turn their innovative ideas into full-fledged startups. 

Participants in the Accelerator receive $10,000 in seed funding, as well as access to expert mentorship, entrepreneurial workshops and a dedicated workspace in the HotHouse, the CIE’s office located in downtown San Luis Obispo.

SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA: ODIN during Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) CIE Summer Accelerator photo session on June 06, 2024 in San Luis Obispo, California. Photo by Ruby Wallau for CIE

The team behind ODIN is composed of several dedicated individuals, each bringing a unique skill set to the startup. “I knew I couldn’t develop ODIN on my own. I recruited engineers dedicated to making a real difference, not just building something cool,” Heffler explained. 

Josh Gottschalk, a fourth year biomedical engineer at Cal Poly, serves as ODIN’s COO and oversees regulatory work and competitor patent infringement. 

Noah Cain, recent Cal Poly graduate in computer science, acts as one of their Machine Learning and Software Engineers and ensures the headset is as accurate and precise as possible. 

Marina Zellers, a biomedical engineering master’s student at Cal Poly, acts as ODIN’s Biomedical Engineer and maintains accurate concussion diagnosis and compliance with FDA regulations. 

Seth Saxena, a third year engineer at Cal Poly, is ODIN’s Lead Electrical Engineer and focuses on redesigning the headset’s hardware setup and developing the computer vision code. 

Sarah Duncan, the newest member of the team, is a computer science master’s student at Cal Poly and acts as their Machine Learning and Software Engineer, working alongside Cain to create precise models for detecting concussions. 

As the CEO, Heffler oversees everything from customer development to pitching to investors. 

ODIN hopes to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of their device, eventually bringing it to the market to enhance the safety of athletes at all levels. 

“Our goal is to have this headset on every sideline, from youth sports to professional leagues, reaching millions of athletes and other individuals who suffer from concussions,” Heffler explained.

The team is already in talks with The National Football League (NFL) Head, Neck, and Spine Committee and NFL team physicians, targeting the broader sports community. 

Currently, the primary option for concussion assessment is the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT), a questionnaire filled out by players. However, players might lie to get back on the field, leading to long-term issues like traumatic brain injuries or memory loss. The team recognizes the preexisting solution’s limitations and the dire need for a more effective and user-friendly option, they said. 

“Unlike our competitors, it will be a non-invasive product that will be perfect for sideline use as it will be completely portable and ready to give concussion assessments in minutes,” said Gottschalk. 

ODIN’s mission to elevate athlete safety through innovation is more than just a business endeavor, but a pursuit of passion to protect the future of athletes.

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From friends to founders: SafePlate’s journey to revolutionize allergen testing

In the world of startups, it’s extra special to find a team that is not only a cohesive unit of innovators but also a close-knit group of friends. For the founders of SafePlate Technologies, this unique dynamic is their everyday reality. 

This startup aims to revolutionize the allergen testing industry by simplifying the process for food manufacturers. 

Not only are they a team of entrepreneurs, but they are best friends and roommates, each with a unique entrepreneurial spirit nurtured from a young age. 

Avery Taylor, the CTO of SafePlate and a recent California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) graduate in computer engineering now pursuing a master’s in electrical engineering, developed his entrepreneurial skills throughout his childhood. Growing up with a single mom who worked two jobs, he learned to be self-sufficient early on by selling various items at school. 

“It’s been instilled in me that you can’t just depend on someone else giving you money, you have to earn it,” Taylor shared. His journey has shown him his ultimate goal: to use his skills and expertise to improve people’s lives. 

Nahal Sadgehian, the CEO of SafePlate, has a similar story of entrepreneurial roots. A mechanical engineering graduate with a minor in entrepreneurship, Sadeghian had several mini businesses starting at the age of five, including a knitting shop in Iran before moving to America. 

Sadgehian’s family history is steeped in entrepreneurship, with both of her parents running their own businesses. 

Her immigrant experience fuels her drive for success. “After both of my parents moved here, they had to completely start from scratch. My mom built up her own business and it is super successful now, so for me to be here, I feel like I have to prove I am doing my parents justice by pursuing entrepreneurship,” Sadgehian said. 

Josh Chao, CFO of SafePlate and recent Cal Poly business administration graduate, comes from four generations of entrepreneurs: his great grandfather sold cattle in China, his grandfather owned a tire factory, and his father worked as an entrepreneur in America. Despite facing a significant barrier in his early years due to a stutter, Chao transformed this challenge into a source of inspiration. 

His journey from a child who could barely speak to now pitching in front of large audiences is a testament to his perseverance. “I’m showing the world that I can overcome challenges. I’ve always wanted to inspire people and show them they can do it as well,” Chao stated. 

Mitchell Dann, the COO of SafePlate and recent Cal Poly graduate in mechanical engineering, discovered his appreciation for business and entrepreneurship in high school where he had a custom T-shirt business that eventually turned into an LLC. 

“Ultimately, I couldn’t pursue it due to taking 4 AP classes, an engineering class, jazz band and marching band my senior year,” Dann said. However, this was not the end of Dann’s entrepreneurial endeavors, as he had a successful bicycle repair business in his dorm during his freshman year of college. 

After several internships and other various career opportunities, Dann found that the corporate cubicle life wasn’t for him and the startup world was the only place that allowed him to take an idea from scratch and turn it into something impactful. 

Co-founders of SafePlate Technologies (left to right): Avery Taylor, Mitchell Dann, Nahal Sadeghian and Josh Chao.

All four founders began working together during a senior project group led by Dr. Thomas Katona, the Cal Poly Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship’s (CIE) Academic Programs Director. They shared a common goal of improving the food industry in America and instantly clicked upon meeting. 

SafePlate’s innovative technology uses spectroscopy to scan for proteins within allergen structures, analyzing how light interacts with matter to understand a material’s properties. FTIR spectroscopy, a specific technique using mid-infrared light, identifies a material’s unique “fingerprint” based on its absorption pattern.

The personal connection to food safety hits close to home for Chao and Dann, whose parents have severe allergies that require extra attention when eating at home and at restaurants. This, along with speaking to other people with severe allergies, influenced the team to delve into the allergen spectrum of the food industry and develop a solution that ensures everyone can enjoy a safe meal. 

“It got to the point where we got frustrated because we can send rockets to the moon but we still don’t really know what’s in our food,” said Taylor. 

SafePlate participated in Cal Poly CIE’s Innovation Quest earlier this year, a high stakes competition where Cal Poly students pitch their innovative business ideas and prototypes to a panel of judges in hopes of winning thousands to fund their startup.

This experience led them to apply to the Cal Poly CIE Summer Accelerator, an intensive 12-week program that provides Cal Poly students and recent graduates with the resources necessary to turn their innovative ideas into full-fledged startups. Participants in the Accelerator receive $10,000 in seed funding, as well as access to expert mentorship, entrepreneurial workshops and a dedicated workspace in the HotHouse, the CIE’s office located in downtown San Luis Obispo.

“We saw a big gap in the market and saw how we could use this emerging technology of combining AI and spectroscopy. We also had to take advantage of this opportunity under the guidance offered in the Accelerator,” said Dann. 

Each founder brings unique skills to the startup. Dann focuses on mechanical design and research, Taylor specializes in AI and programming, Chao handles customer development and branding and Sadeghian’s dual expertise in entrepreneurship and mechanical engineering allows her to help in all areas of the company.

“She’s the glue that holds us all together. She has strengths in the marketing/business side and also the technical side – that’s why she is in the best position to be the CEO,” said Taylor. 

The startup is currently focused on solving the problem of gluten detection in flour with hopes of expanding and developing a machine that tests for all nine major allergens (milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, soybeans and sesame). They also anticipate their technology will bring allergy-free food prices down with fewer recalls and fewer allergic reactions. 

What sets them apart from their competitors is their commitment to creating a reusable and easy-to-use allergen testing solution. While other companies spend a significant amount of money and labor to complete testing, SafePlate wants to empower more manufacturers to scan for all the allergens in the most efficient way, they said. 

With their deep-rooted friendships and diverse entrepreneurial backgrounds, the founders of SafePlate Technologies are transforming the food industry one allergen at a time. 

SafePlate, along with the rest of the 2024 Summer Accelerator cohort, will pitch their startup and showcase their progress at Demo Day, on Sept. 6 at 4 p.m. at Rod & Hammer Rock. Tickets are available here.

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The 2023 Summer Accelerator Cohort: Where are They Now?

It’s been more than six months since the 2023 Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Summer Accelerator came to an end. During the Accelerator, Cal Poly students and recent graduates spent 12 weeks immersed in the startup process, turning their startup ideas into real, viable businesses. 

The program culminated at Demo Day, where the participating teams showcased the progress they made on their startups throughout the summer and pitched their companies. 

Since Demo Day, the 2023 Summer Accelerator cohort has embarked on new professional, educational and entrepreneurial endeavors. 

Here’s a team-by-team breakdown of what the cohort has been up to: 

Ecoternatives | ENTEIN | Horizen Technologies | Mí Tiara | Nexstera Tech | Social Spark | TensorMaker | Té Piña

 

Ecoternatives 

Aiden Riehl, founder and CEO of Ecoternatives.

Aiden Riehl, founder and CEO of Ecoternatives, joined the Summer Accelerator after working on his company from his room for the previous two-and-a-half years. 

“The Accelerator was the first time where I met other people my age doing the same thing as me and where I felt normal in terms of entrepreneurial desires,” Riehl explained. “Although it lasted a summer, I think it impacts you for the rest of your life.” 

Ecoternatives is an online marketplace that sells sustainable and plastic-free products at more affordable prices. 

Since the Summer Accelerator, Riehl traveled for five months spanning from Indonesia, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. 

Reflecting on his pre-Accelerator state, Riehl acknowledged feeling disorganized without procedures in place to improve his operations. During the Accelerator, he learned how to create these. 

“With the help of the Accelerator, I was able to streamline a lot of the tedious tasks by building systems into my company,” Riehl said. 

Amidst Riehl’s travels, he remained dedicated to advancing Ecoternatives. He introduced new processes for future employers, collaborated with content creators to bolster Ecoternatives and built out a marketing strategy. 

Riehl finally completed one of his biggest goals: automating tasks onto people he trusts, he said. With his new operations, he could finally hire two employees who in turn allowed for Riehl’s travel. 

In response to high customer demand, Riehl’s team is working on an Ecoternatives app for iPhones. Furthermore, Ecoternatives is creating a Build-a-Box subscription feature enabling customers to curate product bundles on a subscription basis. 

Lastly, Ecoternatives expanded to 15 more eco-friendly products. 

“With the Accelerator, I started thinking about my business long-term,” Riehl said. “ It made Ecoternatives into a real company with normal business practices and something I wouldn’t be embarrassed talking to investors and professionals about.” 

ENTEIN 

William Burns, founder of ENTEIN, and Cameron Yartz, former co-founder of ENTEIN (from left to right).

William Burns, a mechanical engineering major, began his CIE journey when he pitched his startup ENTEIN at Innovation Quest (iQ) 2023 and won the Environmental Impact Award. 

ENTEIN is utilizing food waste to grow insects as an affordable animal feed protein supplement. 

Feeling motivated by his success at iQ and eager to lift his startup off the ground, Burns joined the Summer Accelerator. For the summer, Cameron Yartz, a mechanical engineering major, also joined the project. 

“The Summer Accelerator allowed us to move forward in ways we would not have been able to alone,” Burns said. 

With the help of the Summer Accelerator, ENTEIN was able to monetize different aspects of their business, increasing investor interest, Burns explained. 

Burns attributed much of their success to the networking opportunities over the summer. 

“The connections I made through the Summer Accelerator were priceless. I could not have started a company if I didn’t have our lead mentor and the CIE staff helping with different aspects of Entein,” Burns said. “The people made it happen.”  

Thinking back to Burns’ first pitch versus pitch at Demo Day, he said he grew a lot. The Summer Accelerator helped him better communicate about ENTEIN and relate their startup to various types of audience members, especially those not familiar with agriculture, he said. 

Since completing the Accelerator, Yartz is now working on a different project with an interdisciplinary team to create a Prosthetic Aid for Lifting (PAL) so Madeline Everson, born with ulna and radius in her left hand, can continue lifting in the gym. 

“This project is definitely out of our comfort zone, but we are motivated to succeed,” Yartz said. 

Burns has continued to put full effort into ENTEIN while a full-time student. He is running testing on their product from multiple waste sources and has expanded in their greenhouse. 

ENTEIN also doubled in growth capacity and is sending more samples to third-party suppliers to build production in the Sacramento and Fresno areas.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have a full summer to follow my passion and work on ENTEIN,” Burns explained. “The Accelerator prepared me to run my business and gave me the tools and confidence I now use every single day.” 

Horizen Technologies

Owen Work and Camden Ford, co-founders of Horizen Technologies (from left to right).

Owen Works and Camden Ford, co-founders of Horizen Technologies (formerly known as Horizen Biotech and DrinkWise), went into the Summer Accelerator viewing their startup as a college assignment. However, during the summer, their perspective underwent a significant shift. 

“Throughout the Summer Accelerator, Horizen Technologies changed from being an academic project into becoming a real business,” Ford said.  

Horizen Technologies aims to create a drinking culture that prioritizes safety, health and well-being through their biosensor platform which monitors Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) levels.

Ford, a biomedical engineering graduate, initially hesitated to ask questions because of his limited entrepreneurial knowledge, he explained. However, he soon realized that everyone in the Accelerator was learning and he gradually became comfortable asking questions, failing, and ultimately gaining more, he said.

Following the Summer Accelerator, Horizen Technologies joined the CIE Incubator program. The Incubator is a two-year program providing early-stage companies the resources to develop into financially stable and high-growth companies. 

“Getting into the Incubator was a huge accomplishment,” Ford said. “It’s guiding us in the right direction of how to operate, helping us raise funds and explore the customer we want while giving us a place to headquarter at.” 

Since last summer, Works has been working on the company full-time while Ford is finishing his Master’s of Science (MS) in Biomedical Engineering at Cal Poly, dedicating his capstone project towards their product development. 

Both have led various undergraduate student teams within the Orfalea College of Business and College of Engineering. 

Recently, Horizen Technologies qualified as one of the top six finalists for AngelCon, an event where six qualified tech startups pitch their business for a chance to win $100,000+ in equity funding. 

As the co-founders prepare for AngelCon, they have been seeking fundraising options and have completed several grant programs.

Horizen Technologies was chosen for the VentureWell Spring 2024 E-Team program. Out of the twenty-five teams, they advanced with seven others to the second stage where they received a $20,000 grant to build their business further. 

The co-founders are grateful to the Accelerator for providing them with resources and connections who help mentor and teach them how to run their business, they said. 

“We are relatively young and we’ve never started a business before, so we rely on knowledge from mentors who have done this before,” Ford said. “The Accelerator gave us great connections with people who want to help us and has made us not afraid to do what it takes to accomplish our goals.” 

Buy your ticket for AngelCon and support Horizen Technologies on Thursday, May 2nd at 5:00 p.m. at Rod and Hammer Rock: https://angelcon2024.eventbrite.com/?aff=CIEwebsite

Mí Tiara

Luis Guzman, co-founder of Mí Tíara.

Computer science senior Luiz Guzman remembered the challenge of pitching his startup due to his “significant stage fright and public speaking issues,” he said. 

However, after advice from mentors, he realized how important it is to pitch his startup or else it would simply not exist. This mindset helped him push through his nerves and eventually, during Demo Day, Guzman found the experience “exhilarating.” 

Guzman and computer science senior Maricela Carillo co-founded Mí Tiara (formerly known as PlanForMí), a startup that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to simplify the event-planning process by easily connecting local vendors and customers. 

Looking back on Demo Day, Guzman felt a significant achievement and immense satisfaction from completing the program, he said. 

“Representing my Hispanic community and showcasing diversity in the program added to my sense of pride and accomplishment,” Guzman explained. “It reinforced the importance of diverse perspectives in entrepreneurial endeavors and highlighted the value of inclusion and representation in the startup ecosystem.” 

Following the Accelerator, Guzman and Carillo focused on the Accelerator’s feedback to refine their platform. This included enhancing their product features, expanding their vendor network and deepening their engagement with the Hispanic community, Guzman said. 

Looking forward, Mí Tiara plans for a successful launch in Fresno County and plans on expanding into other regions with significant Hispanic populations. 

As the co-founders continue running Mí Tiara, they credit the Accelerator for deeply ingraining the principles necessary to run a successful business, Guzman explained.  

“The Summer Accelerator was a catalyst for growth, pushing me out of my comfort zone and enabling me to lead with confidence,” Guzman said. “The experience of pitching, networking, and strategizing under the Accelerator’s guidance was invaluable, laying a solid foundation for Mi Tiara’s journey beyond the program.”

Nexstera Tech  

Penny Lane Case, co-founder and CEO of Nexstera Tech.

Penny Lane Case, co-founder and CEO of Nexstera Tech, remembers her excitement when pitching her startup on Demo Day. She felt pre-pitch nerves but was also confident in what her team accomplished over the summer, she said. 

Nexstera Tech is pushing the boundaries of material differentiation and detection through AI-enhanced radar technology and transforming waste management operations. Their initial focus is identifying lithium-ion batteries in curbside buns before collection, aiming to mitigate the billion-dollar risk of battery-induced fires in the waste stream. 

Case reflected on her experience: “My confidence, my technical knowledge and the way I was able to compose my thoughts definitely changed throughout the Accelerator and that translated to my more powerful presence on stage,” she said. 

Case and her co-founders Stefany James and Kylene Landenberger have accomplished some big milestones since the Accelerator. 

Nexstera Tech expanded its data collection operation by renting out a space to house their two labs and hiring three testing technicians. At these labs, they are collecting thousands of scans every week and sometimes over one thousand in one day, Case explained. 

Furthermore, Nexstera Tech retrofit their first prototype on a Waste Connections Recycling vehicle at their San Luis Obispo Facility in December of 2023. They placed it on the oldest truck with the most challenging route to ensure their hardware could withstand the harshest conditions. 

Alongside installing their product, Nexstera Tech joined the CIE Incubator and recently qualified as an AngelCon finalist with five other companies.

AngelCon is an event where six qualified tech startups pitch their business for a chance to win $100,000+ in equity funding. 

“Getting into AngelCon was very reassuring.” Case said. “I love talking about what we do because I have immense confidence in our team and solution coupled with a deep passion for addressing this problem.” 

Case attributes much of her success in learning how to run her company to the support from her advisors and the Summer Accelerator experience, she explained. 

“The Accelerator truly made it possible for us to launch our company. It’s an incredible program full of resources, including valuable workshops and mentorship opportunities, that accelerate personal, business, and technical growth. I am forever grateful for the opportunity I was given as a member of the 2023 cohort.” Case said.

Buy your ticket for AngelCon and support Nexstera Tech on Thursday, May 2nd at 5:00 p.m. at Rod and Hammer Rock: https://angelcon2024.eventbrite.com/?aff=CIEwebsite

Social Spark 

Samantha Moberly, founder and CEO of Social Spark.

Samantha Moberly, the founder and CEO of Social Spark, expressed gratitude towards the Summer Accelerator for its role in nurturing her startup. She credited the program for transforming her startup from a class project into the beginning of a real business, she said.

Social Spark is a social networking platform aimed to combat loneliness by helping recent graduates and early-in-career individuals create new friendships through in-person events and outings. 

“We started out thinking we already had the start of a business. But, the more we talked to advisors and learned the different components needed for a business, the more we were able to really build a foundation for something that could actually turn into a real company,” Moberly said. 

During the Accelerator, Moberly realized how important it is to work around people when taking on big endeavors like building a startup. One of her favorite parts of the program was working with mentors — who she still frequently speaks to — and other startups to help build ideas, she explained. 

“When you get to spend the whole summer talking to amazing people who have created fantastic businesses and they engage with you like a peer, it really grows your confidence knowing you can actually speak with people like that,” Moberly said.  

After Demo Day, Moberly felt more solidified in Social Spark and confident to answer any questions presented to her. 

Since the accelerator, Social Spark hosted more successful events in the Bay Area, trying out different kinds including single-evening events, single-day events, and day-and-a-half events. She also developed a Social Spark membership where their algorithm matches members based on similarities, forming smaller groups for casual outings. 

Social Spark has been receiving positive customer reviews and customers who return to multiple events. 

Moberly appreciated the Summer Accelerator for providing her tools to operate Social Spark. 

“It took some adjustment ending the Summer Accelerator and no longer having a structured environment every day with check-ins each week. But that’s the important part of the process — moving forward and having the tools to run your startup without as much guidance,” she said. 

“I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have a full summer to follow my passion and work on ENTEIN,” Burns explained. “The Accelerator prepared me to run my business and gave me the tools and confidence I now use every single day.” 

TensorMaker 

Avi Peltz, former founder of TensorMaker.

Following the Summer Accelerator, Avi Peltz, former founder of TensorMaker, moved to the San Francisco Bay. 

TensorMaker was a platform that made building machine learning applications fast, easy and accessible to everyday developers.  

Since living in San Francisco, Peltz reconnected with co-founder of BioGlyph and first-place winner of Innovation Quest 2023, McClain Kressman. Avi Peltz is now working full-time as CTO at BioGlyph. 

BioGlyph streamlines the process of biologic, or medicine, development and iteration — as well as user modification tools — allowing researchers to easily shift between visual, markup and serial representations of medications developed from living organisms. 

Té Piña 

Benjamin Arts and Matt Reis, co-founders of Té Piña (from left to right).

Business administration seniors Mathew Reis and Benjamin Arts were excited to join the 2023 Summer Accelerator to leverage its resources and grow their startup Té Piña, a pineapple-based beverage that provides consumers with a healthier alternative to energy drinks. 

“During the Summer Accelerator, you’re able to get mentorship, money, support and connections to really accelerate your business,” Arts said. “You grind out the work and can see your business progress every single day,” Arts said.   

Arts and Reis attributed both their company growth and business understanding to the mentorship they received during the program.

“I went into my last quarter of school after the Summer Accelerator with more proficiency and efficiency in my classes,” Reis said. “I was able to be more responsible and business-oriented.” 

Following the Summer Accelerator, Arts and Reis have continued their work on Té Piña while delving deeper into the startup world. 

Since January, Reis has been working for Quickie Delivery Co, a startup delivering convenience store essentials to college students quickly, affordably and sustainably. 

“Because of the mentorship and expertise I gained in the Accelerator, Quickie Delivery Co, a past Summer Accelerator team, saw my potential and decided to bring me on to run their finances and do their books,” Reis explained. 

Similarly to Reis, Arts also became involved in another startup. He co-founded Mr. Turtle Laundry, a refillable laundry detergent machine placed in grocery stores and laundromats. 

With Mr. Turtle Laundry, he won first place at the Cal Poly Entrepreneurs Startup Marathon, a 54-hour-long event where innovators create interdisciplinary teams and develop a business over the weekend. 

“Without my experience around Té Piña, I would have been lost in this project,” Arts said. 

For Té Piña’s future plans, the co-founders intend to make the most of their current resources, putting aside further developments until they have the necessary funds. 

Reis and Arts believe Té Piña is a promising venture, enjoy running the company, and are eager to dedicate more time on it in the future, they said. 

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Empowering everyday developers: Cal Poly graduate revolutionizes machine learning accessibility

From a young age, liberal arts and engineering graduate Avi Peltz has been intrigued by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). AI involves computer systems attempting to model and apply human-like intelligence, while ML, a branch of AI, focuses on using data and algorithms to replicate human learning.

“Machine learning was this shiny, cool new thing that seemed really powerful,” Peltz said. “I have always been curious about it.” 

Growing up in tech-savvy Berkeley, Peltz watched many demonstrations of computer vision models that could identify objects and images. He described it as “astounding.” He saw developers bringing “incredible” creations to life and aspired to be a part of that. 

Peltz has always been technically minded, he said. Throughout high school, he built different websites and computer games. He also worked on various robotic and ML projects. This quickly taught him how ineffective pre-existing tools were that are intended to help perform basic tasks. 

After growing irritated with the complexity of ML tools, he sought to create a solution. That is when he began building his startup, TensorMaker.

TensorMaker is a platform that makes building ML applications fast, easy and accessible to everyday developers.

“A lot of the impetus of wanting to build TensorMaker was my own frustrating process during ML projects and not having very helpful tools,” Peltz said. “I wanted to create a better user experience.” 

TensorMaker aims to streamline the ML pipeline — a series of steps including the development, deployment and monitoring of an ML model. TensorMaker guides users through this pipeline without needing any prior ML experience.

“Most people trying to build these types of tools are focusing on enterprise ML teams and making them more productive,” Peltz explained. “We’re focusing on everyday developers.” 

By making his technology accessible, Peltz is enabling technology companies in domains ranging from agriculture, manufacturing and life sciences to take advantage of the power of ML while still maintaining their focus on the core competency of their business.

After working on TensorMaker throughout college, he decided to compete in the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Innovation Quest (iQ)

Innovation Quest is a competition that encourages student entrepreneurs to pursue their innovative ideas and help with the funding and resources needed to launch their ventures. 

TensorMaker was one of 14 finalists to pitch their startup at iQ 2023. Although he did not win the competition, iQ allowed him to develop more answers about his business, talk to potential users and do customer research, Peltz said. 

Following Innovation Quest, Peltz applied for the CIE Summer Accelerator. The Summer Accelerator is a program for Cal Poly students and recent alumni that provides them with mentorship, weekly workshops and $10,000 in seed funding. 

TensorMaker was one of the eight teams accepted to the program. 

“We received our first customer through the CIE community and without being here, we probably would not have had that relationship,” Peltz explained.

The CIE provided Peltz with not only the business language that he wasn’t initially confident in but also mentors who continue to lead him in the right direction, he said.

“Being in a space with people who are motivated to work on exciting projects motivates you to work even more,” Peltz said.

Over the course of the Summer Accelerator, TensorMaker worked on releasing its initial prototype. Peltz is eager to make his technology accessible to everyday developers and to explore the potential impacts of TensorMaker on a broader scale. 

“Whether it’s making agriculture more efficient and measured or being able to identify tumors in radiology scans, there are so many applications that can use these ML techniques and improve human well-being on the planet,” Peltz said.

TensorMaker, along with the rest of the 2023 Summer Accelerator cohort, will pitch their startup and showcase their progress at Demo Day on Sept. 8 at 4 p.m. at SLO Brew Rock. Tickets are available here.

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Cal Poly graduate from Hawaii combats plastic pollution with an affordable zero-waste marketplace

Within the four walls of his childhood home in Hawaii, economics graduate Aidan Riehl embarked on an entrepreneurial journey, which is contributing to an environmental shift towards sustainability.

Sophomore year of college, Riehl wanted to create a business with a positive impact on the environment and society. However, he did not know what to address first. 

One day, as Riehl walked along the beaches of his hometown, he realized the problem was right in front of his face. The issue he dealt with daily was the alarming amount of plastic pollution around him. 

Growing up in Oahu, Hawaii, Riehl said he witnessed the effects of plastic pollution his whole life. Determined to make a difference, Riehl set his sights on tackling this issue and promoting a zero-waste lifestyle.

Riehl’s epiphany led him to ask the question, why don’t people shop sustainably or plastic-free? The answer became clear to him — the prices are too expensive. 

That is when the idea for Riehl’s startup, Ecoternatives, formed. 

Ecoternatives is an online marketplace that sells sustainable and plastic-free products at more affordable prices. 

As a one-man team, Riehl took time off from school, stayed in Hawaii and operated his business from his room. He bought $3,000 worth of products and shipped packages by himself. 

“I bought dressers from Craigslist and shoved soaps and lip balms in them,” Riehl said. “My mom would walk into my room and smell all the flora and sweet scents and think ‘This is not what a teenage boy’s room should smell like.’” 

Ecoternatives started growing through word-of-mouth recommendations, Riehl said. Then, he started sharing his website through social media channels and reached out to zero-waste nonprofits to help promote his business.

Over time, Ecoternatives evolved into not only a basic e-commerce store but also a community, Riehl said. 

“I’ve created such a cohort of people who are so passionate about this problem, who are very like-minded and who believe sustainability is too expensive,” Riehl explained. 

Riehl said Ecoternatives is different from other zero-waste stores because of his commitment to sourcing products. Unlike other zero-waste stores, Riehl does not settle for pre-vetted options. 

To find products for Ecoternatives, Riehl said he takes days researching the most affordable and sustainable options. He ensures that the product and its company follow strict social and environmental guidelines; for instance, energy-efficient sourcing, supply chain transparency and ethical labor practices. Finally, he tests the different products to see how they compare.

After working on Ecoternatives for two-and-a-half years, Riehl applied for the Cal Poly Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CIE) Summer Accelerator. The Summer Accelerator is a program for Cal Poly students that provides them with mentorship, $10,000 in funding and other resources to help build their business. 

Ecoternatives was one of the eight teams accepted to the program. 

Riehl described the Summer Accelerator as an “amazing opportunity.” He appreciates the ability to speak with experts in different industries who help him better understand the parts of his business, he said. 

“The CIE has helped me grow Ecoternatives by connecting me with the right people at the right moments,” Riehl said. 

Ecoternatives is currently running a fulfillment center in Texas that ships orders to the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. He has made $110,000 in sales with nine months of active business. Ecoternatives is also donating a portion of its profits to other zero-waste nonprofits with each order. 

Looking forward, Riehl wants to create his own sustainable products to sell on Ecoternatives for an even lower cost. 

Riehl aims to extend Ecoternatives beyond commerce. He wants to organize beach cleanups and educational workshops for kids on how the consumption of goods can affect the environment. 

“Working on Ecoternatives made me more optimistic about sustainability because I’ve learned all the positive things my business can do,” Riehl said. “I’m very excited to expand our overall environmental and societal impact and show people that we can make sustainability more affordable.”

Ecoternatives, along with the rest of the 2023 Summer Accelerator cohort, will pitch their startup and showcase their progress at Demo Day on Sept. 8 at 4 p.m. at SLO Brew Rock. Tickets are available here.

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Turning waste into sustainable solutions: Cal Poly seniors repurpose food scraps into protein-rich chicken feed

As material engineering senior William Burns was passing time watching Youtube videos, he stumbled across one in particular that caught his attention. Burns watched as the man in the video threw his kitchen scraps into a bucket, and out crawled protein-rich bugs that he used to feed his chickens.  

“I thought that it was the coolest idea – waste in and food out,” Burns said. “How can I make this into something larger?”

About one third of all food is thrown away, where it rots in landfills and produces methane which is very harmful to the environment, according to Burns. 

The YouTube video he watched inspired him to solve that problem. 

That is how his startup ENTEIN came to life. ENTEIN is utilizing food waste to grow insects as an affordable animal feed protein supplement. 

At ENTEIN, Burns and his co-founder Cameron Yartz, a mechanical engineering senior, are repurposing wasted food through insects. Over 15 days, larvae eat the wasted food. Then, Burns and Yartz harvest the larvae and turn them into highly nutritious and protein-rich animal feed, they explained. 

Burns met Yartz through their Introduction to Entrepreneurship (BUS 310) class and Customer Development (BUS 313) class. Although separate classes, their courses were conducted together. Over the course, they developed ENTEIN. 

Burns and Yartz are both passionate about keeping the environment healthy and sustainable. 

“Environmental damage is a problem that everyone will have to deal with at some point,” Yartz said. “It is not going to be one solution that solves this problem once and for all for everybody. It’s about making environmental choices in every area.” 

Burns grew up in Northern Oregon where there has been a lot of clear-cutting, deforestation and pollution in the waterways, he said. 

“I think moving forward, for our country and the world, we need to focus on sustainability or there won’t be anything left for our future generations,” Burns said. 

The co-founders want to become more environmentally friendly by producing a product that reduces the amount of waste stream in landfills which harms the environment. 

Feeling confident in ENTEIN, Burns pitched their idea at the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s (CIE) Innovation Quest (iQ)

iQ is a competition that helps entrepreneurs develop their ideas into scalable companies by providing them with the necessary resources and funding. 

ENTEIN competed and won the Environmental Impact Award, receiving $5,000 in prize money. The Environmental Impact Award is awarded to the team whose innovation focuses on environmentalism and sustainability. 

Winning the environmental award validated the fact that their product is truly helpful for the environment, Burns explained. 

iQ propelled Burns and Yartz to apply for the CIE Summer Accelerator, a 13-week program that provides entrepreneurs with $10,000 in funding, mentorship and other resources to launch a company. 

ENTEIN was one of the eight teams accepted into the program. 

As a mechanical engineering major, Yartz said he felt intimidated to join the Summer Accelerator because he thought he would not have business skills to offer his team. However, he soon realized that many people in the program are not business majors. Yartz’s advisors also quickly helped him understand the business world and language, he said. 

“It’s been a joy to get involved in something outside of my comfort zone,” Yartz explained. “I feel like every time I sit down for a presentation or a lecture, I come away with immense knowledge.” 

Burns said he appreciates the CIE for providing them with resources and mentors that are willing to help with different aspects of their business including finances and marketing. 

“Any part of our business that we are having a little bit of trouble with, there is always someone to ask,” Burns said.  

By the end of the Summer Accelerator, Burns and Yartz hope to sell their product at local stores so that it can get into the hands of people who want to contribute to a more sustainable future. 

“The animal feed industry is one area that could use some change, and we believe that our solution is going to help improve environmental choices and make them accessible to all sorts of people,” Yartz said. 

ENTEIN, along with the rest of the 2023 Summer Accelerator cohort, will pitch their startup and showcase their progress at Demo Day, on Sept. 8 at 4 p.m. at SLO Brew Rock. Tickets are available here.

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Cal Poly startup streamlines the event-planning process for the vendor and the customer

At 15 years old, computer science senior Luis Guzman was offered a unique opportunity to work in a party rental company for his uncle. From there, he used the money he earned to create his own mechanical bull rental business. 

Although hard work, Guzman enjoyed running his own company. He was so passionate about it that he encouraged his friend and now co-founder, Maricela Carrillo, to start her own business as well.

Carrillo, a mechanical engineering senior, took Guzman’s advice and created a photo booth rental company. After three months, her business took off. 

“As I started to take on more clients, I saw first-hand how messy communication with them could get,” Carrillo said. “Being a small business vendor, there was no way for me to upscale.”

Coincidentally, Guzman approached Carrillo with the same issues. Their businesses were spreading solely through word of mouth, it was hard to establish a customer base and the resources needed to grow their business were expensive. This made expanding very difficult, they said. 

Despite desperate attempts to find a solution to their rental business problems, they came out empty-handed. So, Guzman and Carrillo created their own answer, PlanForMí

PlanForMí is a startup that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to simplify the event-planning process by easily connecting local vendors and customers. 

Their startup is tackling two big issues in the event-planning world: small vendors’ inability to grow because of limited ways to promote their company and customers struggling to find reliable vendors while staying within their budget.

Guzman and Carrillo have spoken to various planners, directors, and coordinators of events to gain insights into their event-planning process. They all mentioned how difficult it is to find vendors because there is no singular platform that compiles various vendors together.

PlanForMí streamlines the search for vendors, allowing customers to easily read reviews and compare options that are in their price range. It also provides a platform for vendors to scale their business by putting them in touch with new clients. 

What makes Guzman and Carrillo uniquely able to run their startup is their own experience in the event planning industry, they explained. 

“We’re not coming from a business background, we’re coming from our own personal vendor experience,” Carrillo said. 

Guzman started developing the idea for their startup in his Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurial Senior Design Project course (ENGR 465) class. He then joined the Cal Poly Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE) Hatchery, an incubator program that gives students hands-on experience launching a company and mentorship to develop their entrepreneurial skills. 

Guzman said the Hatchery provided him with many resources as well as introduced him to the CIE Innovation Quest (iQ). iQ encourages entrepreneurs to pursue their innovative ideas and helps with the funding needed to launch their business.  

Guzman and Carrillo participated in iQ 2023. Although they did not win, Guzman described it as a “great experience.” 

“It was the first time we were getting feedback on our business model and on our target audience. It really helped us grow this idea,” Guzman said. 

Determined to apply their feedback and continue developing their idea, Guzman and Carrillo applied to the CIE Summer Accelerator, a 13-week program that gives entrepreneurs $10,000 in funding and other resources to help build their business. 

PlanForMí was one of the eight teams accepted to the program.

“The CIE has really helped solidify what direction our business model needs to take in order to thrive,” Guzman said. 

As an engineering major, Carrillo said that the CIE has helped her gain a better understanding of the business world. Just six weeks into the program, she said she has already grown “exponentially fast.” 

Through the Summer Accelerator, Guzman and Carrillo want to continue their customer development and eventually expand across California. 

The co-founders are excited to build a community between customers and vendors and make planning events just as enjoyable as the events themselves. 

“It’s more than just an event planning industry. It is a community where event planners and vendors can depend on each other and at the very end, we’re helping each other’s businesses grow,” Guzman said. 

PlanForMí, along with the rest of the 2023 Summer Accelerator cohort, will pitch their startup and showcase their progress at Demo Day, on Sept. 8 at 4 p.m. at SLO Brew Rock. Tickets are available here.

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Cal Poly startup aims to promote a safer drinking culture

With a unique motivation to enable a safer and healthier drinking culture, industrial engineering graduate Owen Works, biomedical engineering graduate who is now pursuing his Master’s of Science (MS) in Biomedical Engineering Camden Ford and psychology senior Aynsley Ramsaur are joining forces to address irresponsible binge drinking. 

Their startup, DrinkWise, is developing a non-invasive, one-time-use SmartPatch that uses chemical sensing based on sweat to measure and estimate Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) levels. Their SmartPatch continuously monitors BAC over time which allows users to simply look at their arm and track their level of intoxication. 

Works first had the idea for DrinkWise while taking Innovation and Entrepreneurship Through Disruptive Technologies (BUS 408), where he learned about Smart Tattoos. 

Smart Tattoos are sensing interfaces that users place on their skin to help monitor different health metrics. 

Works was preparing to attend an upcoming music festival at the time which is considered a high-risk setting for high levels of alcohol consumption, according to the National Library of Medicine

“I had this idea: What if my friends and I had something we could put on our arm that monitored our alcohol levels?” he said. “It would help keep us safer.” 

Works decided to pitch his idea at the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Elevator Pitch Competition (EPC). EPC is a competition where students pitch startup ideas for a chance to win cash prizes. 

Works’ pitch for DrinkWise won the competition’s top prize of $1,000. That moment felt like validation for his idea and pushed him to pursue it more seriously, Works said. 

Not only did the EPC fuel Works’s desire to pursue DrinkWise, his understanding of alcohol abuse did too. While Works was in high school, his father suffered from alcoholism.  

“Having grown up around that, I was always a lot more conscientious of my own alcohol intake and habits,” Works said.

Fortunately, Works’s father is in recovery, but alcohol abuse is still a prevalent issue in the United States. Over 29 million people ages 12 and older had Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in the past year, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Works believes a product like DrinkWise can enable people to track their alcohol use and help them make better decisions. 

Ford got involved with DrinkWise after it was promoted in his Biomedical Engineering Design (BMED 455) class, where he instantly became intrigued. 

“I’m a college student — we are all college students, and we definitely have seen what alcohol can do to people,” Ford said.

He thought the idea was relevant and wanted to help bring it to life. 

During Ford’s time in college and involvement in Greek Life, he said he has witnessed irresponsible use of alcohol.

This problem isn’t exclusive to Cal Poly. About 1 in 4 college students report academic consequences from drinking, including missing and falling behind in class, doing poorly on exams or papers and receiving lower grades overall, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

College students’ alcohol use can lead to detrimental effects. In fact, 1,519 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries each year, also according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Ford said he wants to “inspire” college students to better manage their alcohol consumption and reduce heavy drinking. 

Ramsaur became interested in DrinkWise after watching Works’ pitch at EPC. Ramsaur and Works later met in their Customer Development (BUS 313) class. She realized the potential of DrinkWise and joined the team as a co-founder. 

Ramsaur recognized the safety concerns that DrinkWise addresses, especially as a young woman. 

“If you’re walking home or getting in an Uber, knowing that you are drunker than you feel is really important,” Ramsaur said. “It’s important to be conscious of your body and how your body reacts to certain things.”

Women are at a greater health and safety risk when consuming alcohol than men, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

The same study suggests that women are more likely than men to experience hangovers and alcohol-induced blackouts.

Ramsaur quickly saw how DrinkWise could help herself and other women become safer and healthier. 

In April of 2023, DrinkWise participated in Innovation Quest (iQ), a competition hosted by the CIE that encourages entrepreneurs to pursue their innovative ideas and a chance to win up to $30,000 in cash prizes. 

DrinkWise was one of 14 finalists to pitch their startup at iQ 2023. Although they did not win the competition, iQ allowed the co-founders to look at all the different aspects of their business and create an initial framework, Works said. 

Following iQ, the DrinkWise co-founders decided to apply to the CIE Summer Accelerator, a 13-week program that provides entrepreneurs with the resources to launch a real, scalable company. They were one of eight teams accepted to the program. 

“We’re all committed for a summer, get funding and we get all these crazy good mentors,” Works said. “There wasn’t anything I could think of that I would rather have done this summer.” 

Ramsaur and Ford expressed their gratitude towards the Summer Accelerator’s various resources and the opportunity to receive guidance from knowledgeable mentors.

“It has been the most amazing program I’ve ever been a part of,” Ramsaur said. 

By the end of the Summer Accelerator, the co-founders hope to finalize an accurate, usable and testable prototype. They are excited to save lives by promoting healthier drinking, they said. 

“We want to foster a culture where people have healthier habits and still have fun, but responsibly,” Works said.

DrinkWise, along with the rest of the 2023 Summer Accelerator cohort, will pitch their startup and showcase their progress at Demo Day, on Sept. 8 at 4 p.m. at SLO Brew Rock. Tickets are available here.

 

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Cal Poly seniors combat illness with a healthy beverage

Getting sick in college can seem inevitable. When students are living in close-quarters, sharing classroom spaces and constantly socializing with new people, germs are bound to spread. 

Eighty-one percent of Cal Poly students will experience sickness at least once in a three-month span, according to business administration senior Matthew Reis. In fact, catching a sickness is so common at Cal Poly that students coined a term for the epidemic: the Poly Plague. 

As a student and fraternity member at Cal Poly, Reis was in the midst of the college social scene. He experienced the anguish of the Poly Plague time and time again. 

“I was very sick all the time just from normal college activities,” he said. “I was getting tonsillitis and a lot of inflammation. My second year, I contracted mono.” 

Reis felt extremely frustrated with his persistent sickness and his inability to find a reliable cure. As a result, he took matters into his own hands and sought a solution. 

Through some research, Reis came across a recipe for a pineapple tea that worked as a natural remedy for a cough and cold. After making the drink for himself, he noticed his respiratory symptoms decreasing quickly. He compared his results to over-the-counter (OTC) medicine, for instance, NyQuil, and realized how much more rejuvenated he felt. 

Reis learned that OTC medicine simply suppresses one’s symptoms so people can sleep better, but does not truly contribute to a speedy recovery. Fortunately, because pineapples are packed with vitamins and minerals, they significantly support immunity. 

Soon enough, Reis’s friends noticed the pineapple tea fighting his stubborn sickness and winning. They urged him to make the beverage for themselves so that they could also avoid dreadful college sicknesses. 

“Eventually, I was thinking, it would be nice if I could make this something that I do, and other people benefited from,” Reis said. 

That is when he came up with the idea for his startup Té Piña, a company creating a pineapple-based beverage with vitamins, minerals and anti-inflammatory agents intended to help people recover from and prevent respiratory illnesses. 

Reis took his idea and pitched it at the 54-hour-long Cal Poly Entrepreneurs (CPE) event where developers, designers and innovators can meet for the first time and develop a business together. At the event, business administration senior Benjamin Arts watched Reis pitch and loved the idea. 

Arts felt that Té Piña was a “product with meaning that could actually change someone’s life and make them feel better.” 

After recognizing each other’s strong interest in Té Piña, they decided to become co-founders. 

Reis and Arts aim to create the perfect combination of ingredients that will make Té Piña a better option than alternatives like ginger shots, tea refreshers and caffeinated drinks. 

“Options such as Yerba Mate exist that provide customers with the facade of a healthy drink when in reality, it is just another energy drink. On the other side of the scale are health shots, where customers sacrifice taste for the benefits,” Reis explained. “Té Piña can fix customer’s pain by providing a beverage that is both healthy and delicious.”

Té Piña will be a beverage that is both mild in sugar content and adequate with the amount of caffeine, Reis said. 

So, how does Té Piña do it? Pineapple skins. Pineapple skins are what they use as their primary immune booster as they are packed with nutrients and vitamin C, Reis said. 

Feeling confident in their idea, the co-founders applied to the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CIE) Summer Accelerator, a 13-week extensive program that provides participants with mentorship, networking opportunities and $10,000 in seed funding to help grow their business. Té Piña was one of eight teams accepted into the program.

Reis explained that the CIE has been beneficial in helping him get in touch with the right people to get his idea off the ground.

 “The CIE will support you and has the resources to bring you up and help you pivot and adapt. That’s how they develop you as an entrepreneur,” Reis said. 

During the Summer Accelerator, the co-founders aim to finalize their recipe, establish a nutrition label and certify their product so they can sell Té Piña locally. 

“I hope that we can make Té Piña accessible, available and affordable for all students to solve their Poly Plague problems,” Reis said. 

Té Piña, along with the rest of the 2023 Summer Accelerator cohort, will pitch their startup and showcase their progress at Demo Day, on Sept. 8 at 4 p.m. at SLO Brew Rock. Tickets are available here.

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