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Category: Incubator Company

Venturing beyond the stars: Little Place Labs utilizes collaboration with Cal Poly classrooms for entrepreneurial growth

While pursuing their MBAs at Oxford University, the brains behind Little Place Labs brewed up their startup idea over pints of Guinness. It all kicked off with one, then turned into five, and soon enough co-founders Bosco Lai, acting CEO, and Gaurav Bajaj, acting CTO, were deep into brainstorming. Fueled by laughter, camaraderie, and a dash of liquid courage, these co-founders turned pub banter into a startup known as Little Place Labs.

Little Place Labs, a space tech company, specializes in developing solutions for near real-time space insights. In a world heavily reliant on space data collected by satellites, their innovative approach involves implementing software that operates directly on satellites, enabling the transformation of space-collected data into actionable information delivered quickly to ground stakeholders. Their software is particularly crucial in situations where real-time decisions are imperative.

At the heart of Little Place Labs’ narrative is the profound significance of relationships and engaging with individuals.

“One of the key elements of why Little Place Lab exists is because I met my co-founder and some of the team members,” Lai said. “When you meet the right people, everything just kickstarts.”

The theme of relationships continued, as it was through a coincidental interaction that the Texas-based startup came to join the Cal Poly Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship  Incubator program. 

The CIE Incubator helps develop early-stage startups into financially secure and scalable enterprises. Entrepreneurs in the program are provided with mentorship, funding opportunities and other resources to develop their business. 

In 2022, while attending a space event in Los Angeles, Lai said he crossed paths with Judy Mahan, Cal Poly CIE Senior Economic Development Director. Their casual conversation delved into the essence of Little Place Labs and Mahan’s role within the organization.

Quickly captivated by the Incubator’s diverse support for various startups beyond space tech, Lai said he immediately recognized the unique prospect the program offered. More than just a chance to immerse Little Place Labs in California’s dynamic ecosystem, Lai saw it as a golden opportunity to foster profound connections with a program deeply connected to a university that encourages collaboration between startups, academia, students and professors.

Little Place Labs joined the Incubator in 2022 and participates in the program virtually from Texas.

Through the CIE Incubator, Little Place Labs was introduced to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly) professor Barry Lieberman, which they credit to be one of the best opportunities utilized from the program.

“Interaction with the personnel and people with Cal Poly really, really helped us,” Lai said. Working with the professors, students and directly with the university, helps us think through things not just from a commercial way, but also from a technical way.” 

Lieberman runs a commercialization of new technologies course at Cal Poly, structured around grouping his students to research for an emerging company in an under-researched market. Little Place Labs has collaborated with the students in this course the last two years.

Their participation in the course has proved to be a beneficial experience for both the students and Little Place Labs.

“We are able to really leverage the students during their time with Professor Liberman to do market research on Little Place Labs,” Lai said. “There’s a lot of excitement and a lot of work that we were able to leverage from the students during their time with us. We were very happy to use their work and merge it with our own.”

As the 2024 year begins, Lai said Little Place Labs is focusing on their business development. Specifically, working on partnerships, contacts, increasing exposure and planning seed ground fundraising events in the upcoming months. 

In line with their commitment to fostering relationships, they plan to continue working with Professor Lieberman and interacting with Cal Poly students.

“We really enjoy working with the professor and the students. We learned a lot, and I think that’s really valuable. Not all programs can provide us with that kind of exposure and interactions,” Lai said. “The Incubator is fantastic because it really provides you support in many different ways. The program is open to your imagination.”

 

 

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Tailored solutions: Intersect Executive Performance redefines peak health for corporate leaders

Logan Jennings’s routine in San Francisco was a balancing act between grueling hours at a hedge fund and workout sessions alongside his friend, and soon to be co-founder and chief results officer, Jacob Hubert. However, a sudden health scare ultimately rewrote his life’s trajectory. 

A blood clot in his shoulder threatened his life. It took a close friend’s plea to prompt Logan’s visit to the hospital –– an action that proved to be a critical, life-or-death decision. The forced pause from his usual workout grind and prospect of losing his active lifestyle triggered a profound realization: he didn’t want to keep working for others. The experience ignited a desire to create something more aligned with his passions of fitness and health.

It was during regular hospital visits and recovery support that Hubert and Jennings came up with the idea for their startup, Intersect Executive Performance.

“I started visiting the hospital and thereafter he would come meet me for hours and we would talk and understand what the holes in the fitness industry were and where we could fit in,” Hubert said. 

The startup works to provide top leaders with a personalized, data-driven plan on how to best improve all aspects of their health without drastically changing executive’s already busy schedules. 

Intersect Executive Performance has a two-part process, which allows them to curate the optimal plan for their user. First, they collect the user’s parameters of work schedules, home life, stress levels, sleep quality, health history, gym accessibility and dietary restrictions. Then they analyze the results of the user’s blood biomarker and gut intelligence testing results.

Afterward, the team works with experts to create a personalized plan to enhance the team’s seven pillars of peak performance: energy, sleep, stress, daily habits, movement, nutrition and focus.

Like Jennings, Hubert was fully immersed in the corporate world after graduating, being employed at a consulting firm and sharing a passion for health and fitness. 

“[Fitness] was the only way I was able to stay sane with the amount of hours I was working,” Hubert said. “I was having success in my role, but I wanted that opportunity to grow. I knew that my potential wasn’t going to be as a cog in the machine. My potential was going to be in a place that required me to struggle and not have a safety net.”

Given their shared passion and solace in fitness, the two knew they wanted to do something in health and fitness performance, Hubert said. And their experience working in corporate America provided them insight into their target market of top leaders and executives. 

“We found there’s a hole in the assumption around these top leaders having everything figured out. But in reality, they need help balancing,” Hubert said. “When I was working in my consulting firm, a lot of my leaders seemed like they’re handling everything, but they’re struggling to balance it all. They might have been fulfilled from a work perspective, but they felt other aspects of their life slipping as a result of the burden that they take on by being a leader in their business and community.”

Their services are provided primarily virtually, with weekly touch points and opportunities for phone calls and direct messaging to allow executives to continue focusing on their responsibilities.

“Our goal is really not to take up time or add things to an already crowded plate but really be able to blend into their lives,” Hubert said.

With a clear goal in mind, the two California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo graduates turned to the Cal Poly Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship’s (CIE) Incubator program in the fall of 2022 to gain knowledge in entrepreneurship and startups.

The program helps develop early-stage startups into financially secure and scalable enterprises. Entrepreneurs in the Incubator program are provided with mentorship, funding opportunities and other resources to develop their business. 

“Although we both graduated from the school of business, we realized that we don’t know what we don’t know,” Hubert said. “There’s so many different stones that need to be turned, and every time you untorn a new stone, there are 1,000 more stones underneath that.” 

Beyond providing resources and knowledge, the Incubator has also provided the startup with a community. 

“The killer of startups is a lack of focus. There’s a lot of noise, and the CIE provides a community that has gone through and heard the noise before,” Hubert said. “Even though not every person in the Incubator is in the same industry or solving the same problem, [the Incubator] allows us to learn from each and grow alongside other people who are struggling and growing and learning.”

The team was also introduced to consultant Mitch Emerson, who is now a part of the team’s advisory board. 

“Mitch Emerson has had the biggest impact on our growth and success,” Hubert said. “Mitch has technical background, but his operation skills and understanding of what matters what and what doesn’t and how to shift your focus and how to prioritize has been instrumental to our ability to grow and succeed.” 

The Incubator program, Hubert said, perfectly embodies the saying, “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together,” Hubert said. “The CIE really provides that sense of togetherness.”

 

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Tractor Cloud: Powering Productivity with a High-Tech Twist for Farming Efficiency

CEO and founder of TractorCloud, Morgan Swanson, is plowing through conventional agricultural practices to cultivate a new era of efficiency with a tech savvy twist where crops meet code.

TractorCloud is developing a software, equipped with complementing hardware, which aims to provide farmers the ability to detect and predict maintenance needs to increase farming efficiency, Swanson said. The startup is creating a fitness app for tractors, allowing farmers to collect data on their tractors to ensure they are running effectively.

“I’m the type of person that if I see something in the world that I don’t think is right, I’ll generally do something about it,” Swanson said. “When I heard that farmers were having difficulty accessing the computers on the tractors they had purchased, that didn’t feel right to me. So I started trying to get access to those computers on the tractors that were at Cal Poly while I was a student there [and continued my journey to improve agricultural technology since].”

To make his vision into a successful business, the startup is participating in the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s (CIE) Incubator program, and he has long been familiar with the CIE. TractorCloud has been involved with the CIE and Cal Poly CIE Small Business Development Center (SBDC) since 2021 when TractorCloud joined the CIE Summer Accelerator program and became an SBDC client. Swanson said joining the Incubator after completing the Summer Accelerator did not feel like a decision; instead it felt more like a natural sequence.

The Summer Accelerator acts as a prerequisite to the Incubator Program, Swanson explained. Specifically, Swanson said the Summer Accelerator provides entrepreneurs a strong foundation on how to start and grow a business, which translates into knowledge on how to use the plethora of resources provided to them in the Incubator Program.

“When you’re in the Summer Accelerator you’re like a little kid running around and you don’t really know what things are, but by the end of the Accelerator you start to understand the way this world works,” Swanson said. “In the Incubator program you’re not going to have people telling you what to do. You’re ready to use their [CIE’s] resources and figure out how that’s going to fit in your journey. [To do that] you have to be comfortable with your identity as a company, and the Accelerator can help you develop that.”

One of the beneficial resources provided to startups throughout the program are the weekly meetings with lead consultants, each with varying areas of expertises, assigned to every startup to help guide and resolve issues and needs they are facing that week, Swanson said.

“I was really grateful that they [the consultants] were there when I was stuck on something. Having that person checking in with you is like something to keep you on track every week,” Swanson said. “All the mentors I’ve talked to have their own perspective they can help you with. I had a mentor named Ulrika Lidstrom, and she was awesome. Then when I didn’t feel like that was what I needed, I was able to transition to a different lead mentor. The Incubator is like insurance – something you can fall back on when you get stuck.”

Beyond supplying resources to help kickstart and propel startups into the market with networking opportunities, consultants and a physical work space, the Incubator program provides a community among entrepreneurs, Swanson said.

“If you’re struggling with finding people that are gonna give you emotional support and engagement with your company,” Swanson said, “you will find that the Incubator is a place where just by you being an entrepreneur is enough for you to get care and respect from the people that are involved.”

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Incubator Spotlight: Zoetic Motion

Zoetic Motion is a startup focusing on providing mobility support to people in physical therapy. Using artificial intelligence (AI) powered assistance, they are building a platform that allows patients to guide themselves through home exercises. The platform provides real-time feedback to patients by detecting and correcting their form during movements.

Zoetic Motion is making the recovery process more accessible and convenient, ultimately creating a better experience for patients, said Zoetic Motion founder and CEO Zeeshan Khan.

Khan thought of the idea for the startup while taking an Interdisciplinary Senior Design Project I Course (ENGR 463) at Cal Poly. Through the class, Khan partnered with other Cal Poly students to create Muscle Ninja, an attachable sensor that informs users of muscle activation during exercise.

Khan and his team brought the idea to the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s (CIE) Summer Accelerator program in 2021. 

The Summer Accelerator is a three-month program that provides hands-on mentorship and resources needed to build a business. To help grow startups, Accelerator participants gain access to $10,000 in seed funding. Muscle Ninja, now known as Zoetic Motion, was one of the nine startups accepted into the program in 2021. 

Through the Summer Accelerator, Zoetic Motion pivoted from a wearable hardware prototype to a software solution. Khan said the Summer Accelerator helped organize his team’s thoughts, explore more ideas, and de-risk their business. 

After completing the Summer Accelerator, Zoetic Motion joined the CIE Incubator and has been working to build out Zoetic Motion’s mission since then. 

“Since joining the Incubator program, I don’t think I would have had access to the same resources that I did,” Khan said. 

The Incubator allowed Khan to connect with people genuinely interested in his product and with real experience in the entrepreneurship world, he said. 

“It is a great, safe environment where there is someone there to check on your work, check on your progress, and help you stay accountable for the milestones that you set,” Khan explained. 

The Incubator has connected Zoetic Motion with various fundraising opportunities, including AngelCon, an annual pitch competition hosted by the Cal Poly CIE Small Business Development Center (SBDC) where six tech-driven startups compete to win more than $100,000 in equity-backed funding.

After leveraging resources from the Incubator, Khan said he felt more prepared to pitch in front of investors at the upcoming AngelCon event. 

Khan said he is excited to partner with various physical therapy clinics and clinicians. Zoetic Motion now has a business model that allows them to earn income through subscriptions while providing revenue back to the clinics. Khan said Zoetic Motion is now in the hands of users and is steadily gaining more traction.

Their team is giving back to their patients and clinics by making therapy more accessible and providing physical therapists with valuable insights into recovery outcomes.

In addition to providing Zoetic Motion a great setting to fail and receive feedback, the Incubator also allowed Khan to learn about his business and ultimately grow from it. 

“If you want to test yourself out or give yourself a challenge, entrepreneurship is the way to go, especially in the Incubator program,” he said. 

 

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Incubator Spotlight: Quantum Energy

Quantum Energy is a software service in the energy industry that is helping finance and organize the future of energy while optimizing economic, environmental and health outcomes.

Their platform is creating a more sustainable future and maximizing business’s financial outcomes by bringing new data-driven insights to energy decision-makers. 

The idea for the startup originated after co-founder Andrew DeMille, multi-exit Software as a Service (SaaS) startup founder, reconnected with his friend and co-founder Dr. Daniel Howard, who has a Ph.D. in Energy and Environmental Engineering. 

With DeMille’s and Dr. Howard’s combined passion for the environment, they recognized the importance of considering potential impacts on our health and planet when making energy decisions.

DeMille was involved with the Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Small Business Development Center (SBDC) through his previous software company, CoachNow. The SBDC introduced DeMille to the CIE Incubator program. 

The CIE’s two-year Incubator program helps develop early-stage startups into financially secure and scalable enterprises. Entrepreneurs in the Incubator program are provided with mentorship, funding opportunities and other resources to develop their business. 

Since joining the Incubator, DeMille has benefitted from advice given by mentors and peers to combat startup challenges. He described the Incubator process as “invaluable.” 

“Being able to come in and have access to a network of peers who are also building startups, also going through the trials and tribulations and sharing successes together. That has been super, super helpful,” DeMille said. 

In addition to helping Quantum Energy co-founders expand their network, the Incubator also connected them with fundraising opportunities.

Following the Incubator, Quantum Energy competed in, applied and was accepted as a top six finalist in the SBDC’s annual AngelCon pitch competition which hosts six tech-based startups in an annual pitch competition to win $100,000+ in equity-backed funding. 

Quantum Energy competed as a finalist in AngelCon 2023 and won the Audience Choice Award, receiving $1,300 in prize money from the crowdfunding campaign. 

“The Audience Choice Award means so much to us,” DeMille said. “It just felt like an acknowledgment of a solution whose time has come.” 

DeMille said the Incubator program helped him prepare to pitch at AngleCon. Receiving feedback from different angles and experts demystified the presentation of their startup, he explained. 

Quantum Energy is now working on an initiative to add a new purchaser-caused avoided emission impact label to the renewable energy credit market. This label will be applied to energy so that, for the first time, businesses can make healthy decisions for profit, people and the planet. 

DeMille thanks the Incubator program for helping Quantum Energy build momentum and encourages entrepreneurs to apply. 

“There is nowhere else that I can imagine where you can get this level of access to resources and support as a startup founder to move forward and to make your vision a reality,” DeMille said.

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Incubator Spotlight: Vetama

A photo of a van with the Vetama logo parked in front of a sunset.

Vetama is a mobile veterinary franchise that provides a convenient pet care option for both animals and their owners. The startup supports veterinarians’ and technicians’ personal success by allowing them to practice independently. 

 The idea for the business originated after co-founder and Cal Poly animal science graduate Jacob Wright shadowed two veterinarians, who soon became his business partners. They discussed the harsh future of the veterinarian industry due to poor quality of life and corporate constraints. Their goal was to find potential ways to help empower future veterinarians. 

 While working together in their mobile veterinary practice, the co-founders sparked the idea of using their mobile practice as a template and soon developed a franchise model. 

 A year later, after Wright received his Masters of Business Administration from Cal Poly, he and his co-founders, Dr. Raffy Dorian and Dr. Daniel Gutman, created Vetama. 

 Vetama provides consulting and coaching to help veterinarians run their own business when, how and where they want. 

 Shortly after founding Vetama, the co-founders joined the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Incubator, a two-year program that provides everything necessary for early-stage companies to develop into successful enterprises. The program connects entrepreneurs with resources including mentorship, networking events and funding opportunities.  

 Before joining the Incubator program, Wright said that Vetama had minimal sales, few leads and no exposure to veterinary conferences. The Incubator connected Wright to the proper resources and mentorship to develop their entity into a growing business.

 “The doors just kept opening, it’s almost overwhelming,” Wright said. “You get to talk to crazy smart people, and they offer their time essentially for free for you to pick their brain.” 

 Wright said participating in the Incubator created a sense of community, as well as several opportunities to receive advice from fellow entrepreneurs. 

 “You’re going through the same stress of fundraising, you’re going through the same stress of not knowing, literally not having any templates or anything created for your customers and being around other people in the same situation yields more creative ideas,” Wright explained. 

 Vetama is currently working on developing a new role for technicians to offer ambulatory services in their area. They’ve also recently launched their first location in Salem, Oregon and plan on debuting their second location by July.

Past Incubator participants advised Wright that the more he puts into the program, the more he will get out of it. 

“That could not be more true,” Wright said.

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Incubator Spotlight: ARTIFEX

Three people stand behind a table smiling. On the table are blueprint pages and a tablet with the name ARTIFEX displayed on it.

ARTIFEX is creating a data processing software that allows architects and designers to input data points and receive automated floor plans. Users can then export that data and use it to inform the next stage of the design process.

The idea for the tool stemmed from research that co-founder Elijah Williams conducted while pursuing a Master of Science in Architecture with Cal Poly. Williams’ original idea was for a hardware device that used a laser to collect measurement data. He brought that idea to the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) in 2021 and joined the CIE’s Hatchery, a startup incubator for Cal Poly students.

Around that same time, Anna Baytosh, a Cal Poly Masters in Business Administration student at the time, approached the CIE looking to get involved and learn more about the startup process. The CIE connected her with Williams, and she joined ARTIFEX just in time to apply for the CIE’s Summer Accelerator program.

The Summer Accelerator is a three-month program that provides Cal Poly students and recent graduates with the resources needed to build a business, including $10,000 in seed funding. ARTIFEX was one of the nine startups accepted into the program in 2021.

By the end of the Summer Accelerator, ARTIFEX had successfully raised a small round of pre-seed capital. Baytosh, who had originally planned to leave ARTIFEX after completing the program, joined Williams as an official co-founder and became the startup’s COO.

Following the Summer Accelerator, ARTIFEX joined the CIE’s two-year Incubator program, which is designed to help early-stage startups develop into financially stable and scalable businesses. It connects founders with resources that can help facilitate growth, such as mentorship, networking events and funding opportunities.

“The Incubator provides a wealth of resources, from accounting, legal, marketing, finance — anything you really need to get your startup off the ground,” Baytosh said. “For us, it was about the Incubator helping us build that structure around what we had already created in the Summer Accelerator.”

Since joining the Incubator, ARTIFEX has pivoted from their original hardware idea to a software solution. They’ve also begun fundraising.

The Incubator has connected ARTIFEX with several fundraising opportunities, including AngelCon, an annual pitch competition hosted by the Cal Poly CIE Small Business Development Center (SBDC), where tech-driven startups from California’s Central Coast compete to win equity-backed funding.

ARTIFEX participated in AngelCon in 2022, and although they did not raise funding from the competition, Baytosh said it was still “an awesome experience.”

She described the preparation for the competition as a “pitch bootcamp.”

“We were able to hone our pitch and our strategy,” she said. “And we were able to meet more people that we were able to raise funds from later.”

In addition to helping the ARTIFEX co-founders meet prospective investors, the Incubator also introduced them to a community of fellow entrepreneurs.

“I would say, for a venture-backed startup, a network of advisors, investors and fellow founders is absolutely crucial because that’s what’s going to keep you going,” Baytosh said. “Those network connections are going to get you to the next step.”

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Incubator Spotlight: Tallyfor

Three people stand in front of a projector screen that reads "Tallyfor." The woman on the left-hand side has her arm around the man in the middle, who is holding a framed paper that reads "Certificate of Graduation." The man on the right-hand side also has his arm around the man in the middle.

Tallyfor is using online automation to ease the process of completing business taxes.

The idea for the startup originated while Peter Wen was working as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) at Xero, an online accounting company. Wen realized much of the work a CPA completed manually could be automated — so he set out to build a product to do just that.

Now, Wen is the co-founder of Tallyfor, a startup he described as “the tax calculation layer for the internet.”

Tallyfor improves online accounting software so that it is able to complete business taxes by moving data from source transactions to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) filing.

“Everyone has to do tax returns, right? And it’s actually quite an arduous job,” Wen said. “So what Tallyfor does is help automate (the process).”

Wen began developing Tallyfor in 2018. Three years later, he brought the startup to AngelCon, an annual competition hosted by the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in which tech-driven startups on California’s Central Coast compete to win funding for their businesses.

Tallyfor won the competition and was awarded the top prize of $145,000 in equity-backed funding.

“AngelCon was a lot of fun,” Wen said. “It was really a great way for us to kick off our business.”

Following AngelCon, Tallyfor joined the CIE Incubator, a two-year program designed to help early-stage startups develop into financially stable and scalable businesses. The program provides participating startups with resources that can help facilitate growth, such as mentorship, networking events and funding opportunities.

For Wen, the most valuable part of the Incubator is the community. Through the program, Wen has had the opportunity to connect with his fellow entrepreneurs.

“Being a startup founder, I always say, is a bit lonely,” he said. “It’s always challenging finding like-minded founders and people who support you. Joining the Incubator program was very helpful in finding people to support you in those early stages.”

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Local startup Novocuff is working with the CIE Incubator to save infant lives

Novocuff co-founders Donald Lee (left) and Amelia Defenkolb (right) stand behind a table with images of a fetus in danger of preterm birth with Novocuff's product versus without, as well as their company's logo.

In early April of 2019, Donald Lee accompanied his wife Christine to a routine ultrasound appointment.

The Lee’s were expecting twins — they were not expecting to spend the following weeks in the hospital.

During the ultrasound appointment, Christine was diagnosed with a short cervix, a condition that can increase the likelihood of preterm birth. She was immediately rushed to a hospital across the street. 

“We never went home after that,” Donald said. 

Christine laid in the hospital with her feet elevated higher than her head for three weeks in an attempt to prevent preterm birth. She eventually gave birth to twin daughters at 24 weeks — about four months earlier than typical.

Premature infants are often born with underdeveloped lungs and immune systems, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Most require medical support in order to survive for the first few weeks of their lives.

The Lee’s spent over 5 months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

“I asked a lot of physicians during that time, ‘What could we have done differently to prevent this?’” Donald said. “The answer across the board was the same: There was nothing we could have done.”

That answer wasn’t good enough for Donald. 

With a background in mechanical engineering, he set out to invent a medical device that would prevent preterm births. He began researching and prototyping and, eventually, developed a product that would become the foundation of Novocuff, a maternal healthcare startup working to reduce infant mortality caused by preterm birth.

Donald’s daughters are now three years old. They’re healthy. They go to preschool. They beat the odds.

But not all families are as lucky. Roughly 20 percent of infants born at 24 weeks do not survive, according to an American Medical Association journal.

Novocuff is working to change that.

There are a million deaths worldwide attributed to preterm birth, but 75 percent of those deaths could be prevented by delaying labor, Donald said.

Novocuff’s medical device can extend pregnancy for women at risk of delivering their children prematurely. The silicone device is vaginally inserted and supports the body’s natural anatomy, applying compression to the cervix. It’s also adjustable, so physicians can change the compression as the patient’s body changes throughout the course of the pregnancy.

After developing the device, Donald was unsure how to bring that solution to market — so he reached out to a former colleague, Amelia Degenkolb, who was on the founding team of Alydia Health.

Alydia Health, formerly InPress Technologies, was a startup working to prevent postpartum hemorrhage, or excessive bleeding after giving birth, with their device, the Jada System. Degenkolb was one of the engineers who developed the Jada System.

Alydia Health was acquired by American pharmaceutical company Organon & Co. in 2021 for $240 million.

“It was all over the local news that Alydia was acquired by Organon for $240 million, and I assumed (Degenkolb) would be free,” Donald said. “And so I called her and I asked if she could meet for coffee.”

Donald arrived at Skippers Coffee with a presentation and pitch to convince Degenkolb to help bring Novocuff to market, but Degenkolb only needed to look at one page of Donald’s work before agreeing to join.

She became the CEO of Novocuff, handling the startup’s business relations, fundraising and FDA approval process. Donald became the startup’s official CTO, handling the development of their product.

Degenkolb said she was excited to start fresh with Novocuff and felt like she was “going in eyes wide open” after seven years with Alydia Health. “I  know about a lot of the potential pitfalls and detours that we can now avoid, and I have the right contacts and support to help us succeed in a much quicker way,” she said.

The Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) was a key resource in the success of Alydia Health — so Degenkolb brought Novocuff to the Cal Poly CIE.

“It was a natural fit for us,” Degenkolb said. “I had already been through this process once with (Alydia Health), and so we did it again.”

Novocuff joined the CIE Incubator, a two-year program that provides startups with the resources needed for smarter, faster growth. It connects participants with mentors, consultants and potential investors. Alydia Health participated in the same program in its early stages and graduated in 2012.

The Incubator also provides opportunities to earn funding through pitch competitions, like the CIE Small Business Development Center (SBDC) AngelCon. AngelCon is an annual event where tech-driven startups on the Central Coast compete to win equity-backed funding. Novocuff participated in AngelCon in 2022 and won $70,000 in equity investment.

With that funding, Novocuff is one step closer to accomplishing their goal of saving babies’ lives.

Donald said he hopes to eventually take Novocuff global. The device’s design is purposefully simple so that lower-income nations can utilize the device, even in the absence of a highly trained physician. 

“Globally, there’s about 15 million preterm labor cases,” Donald said. “Our aim is (for) our device to be straightforward enough and simple enough to use globally (so that) we can bring down that millions of deaths significantly.”

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Incubator Spotlight: AcreCloud

AcreCloud is a startup maximizing efficiency on farms by providing farm management software tools to farmers and farm laborers.

The idea for the startup originated when co-founder Elias Cabrera took over his family’s 800-acre pistachio farm and realized the farm was not running as efficiently as it could be. There were no data-tracking systems in place, which made it difficult to make informed decisions about which crops to plant or harvest — so Cabrera, who had a background in mechanical engineering, began to develop a platform to organize work orders.

Cabrera eventually presented the idea to Jim Cogan, who had previously worked in economic development, and together, they set out to build AcreCloud.

AcreCloud technology currently allows users to track work orders and expenses, but will soon expand to include purchasing and payroll, according to Cogan, the startup’s COO.

Shortly after the startup was founded, AcreCloud participated in AngelCon, an annual competition hosted by the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Small Business Development Center (SBDC) where tech-driven startups on the Central Coast compete to win equity- backed funding.

AcreCloud won the competition and was awarded $135,000 in equity investment.

Following their win at AngelCon, AcreCloud joined the CIE Incubator, a two-year program designed to help early-stage startups develop into financially stable and scalable businesses. The program provides participating startups with resources that can help facilitate growth, such as mentorship and networking opportunities.

“AngelCon was our first introduction to the Incubator, and we made such great connections with mentors and impressive, high-level folks in software and innovation,” Cogan said. “It was a no-brainer to join the Incubator and get to spend time with those folks.”

Incubator programming also includes monthly peer-to-peer roundtable discussions, which allows entrepreneurs to learn from one another and build community.

“Misery loves company, but so does success,” Cogan said. “You wind up celebrating with (other entrepreneurs) and leveraging each other’s networks. On our in-person days, I spend a lot of time talking with my fellow entrepreneurs.”

 

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