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Three Cal Poly Student Entrepreneur Teams Win Thousands For Their Innovative Startup Ideas at the CIE’s Annual Innovation Quest Competition

Cal Poly CIE's Innovation Quest 2024 competition participants

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Three student startup teams split $30,000 at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s (CIE) annual Innovation Quest (iQ), a high-stakes competition where Cal Poly students pitch their innovative business ideas to a panel of judges in the hopes of winning funding for their startups. The entire day of pitches took place on April 27 on Cal Poly’s campus, with awards presented later at a local venue. 

Taking home the first-place prize was ODIN, a portable headset with ocular tracking technology that rapidly and accurately diagnoses concussions. The winning team consists of industrial engineering senior Cory Garlinghouse of Scotts Mills, Oregon, biomedical engineering senior James Bell of San Diego, California, computer engineering senior Wilman Li of Tracy, California, economics senior Connor Heffler of San Diego, California, business administration junior Jeremy Tai of Los Angeles, California and business administration senior Jack Denger of Bellevue, Washington. 

“Winning iQ meant a lot to me and my team because we’ve been putting in the work since January. This $15,000 will go a long way,” said CEO and co-founder of ODIN, Jeremy Tai.

They intend to use the cash prize to further develop ODIN and “make this company a reality,” said Tai. 

The Rich & Jackie Boberg Innovation Award for second-place prize of $10,000 went to Gamrewired, a mobile app aimed at replacing a person’s gambling addiction with healthy habits, created by business administration seniors Austin Hatfield of San Clemente, California Camille Boiteux of San Francisco, California, as well as computer science and business administration senior Diana Koralski of Redmond, Washington. Gamrewired intends to participate in the Summer Accelerator program this year. 

“It feels pretty good winning second place in iQ, but I think what means the most about this is that my best friend has a gambling addiction, so it gets us further to being able to help who we want to help. That’s the most valuable part of this experience,” said Hatfield, co-founder of Gamrewired. 

 

Biomedical engineering seniors Rachel Rowe of Bellevue, Washington, Madeline Mumford of Snoqualmie, Washington, Jenna Eissmann of Reno, Nevada and Brittany Trinh of San Gabriel, California, received the third-place award of $5,000 for their startup The Infantry. The Infantry isa single-use device aimed to create a safer alternative for mothers and their infants during shoulder dystocia complications from vaginal births.

“I’m beyond thrilled to have this opportunity to develop my company. My team has already started talking about what we will do with the money and we are so excited to continue developing.” said co-founder Mumford. 

Thirteen finalists pitched their innovative ideas in Cal Poly’s Nash Family Entrepreneurship Lab. The event’s banquet and awards ceremony were held at Rod and Hammer Rock later that evening. 

Penny Lane Case, past iQ participant and CEO and co-founder of Nexstera Tech, spoke at the banquet about her experience in iQ, the Summer Accelerator program and her upcoming live pitch at AngelCon

Nexstera Tech aims to shape the future with AI-driven radar technology by pinpointing lithium-ion battery risks within waste streams. 

iQ was founded in 2004 by Cal Poly electrical engineering graduates and business leaders Carson Chen, Richard Boberg and Laura Pickering. Since its launch, iQ participants have received over $400,000 that has helped launch several successful businesses, such as iFixIt, Liftgator and Alydia Health. 

“I was really impressed by all the teams today. It’s the first year since I’ve been here that, at the end of the day, I had no idea who was going to win. It was a great competition, really competitive and they did a great job,” said Dr. Thomas Katona, CIE Academic Director. 

In addition to the three winners, 10 finalists were chosen from more than 50 applicants: 

Student-run hackathon builds interdisciplinary solutions to challenges facing San Luis Obispo community

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Camp PolyHacks, an interdisciplinary hackathon based on social entrepreneurship, was held on Jan. 20 and 21 at the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) HotHouse in downtown San Luis Obispo.

During the two-day hackathon, 57 California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly) students worked in groups to develop a solution to an issue impacting San Luis Obispo. Each of the 13 teams was assigned one of four issue categories, including civic engagement, artificial intelligence (AI), classroom project continuation and the Cal Poly Digital Transformation Hub (DxHub) powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS) projects

Teams could develop solutions in the form of a product, service, information or marketing campaign, policy proposal or a demonstration or prototype of a mobile application.

Camp PolyHacks was sponsored by the CIE, as well as the City of San Luis Obispo, Amazon Web Services, DxHub, Dignity Health, Cal Poly College of Engineering and Cal Poly College of Liberal Arts.

The event was organized by student volunteers and David Askay, a Cal Poly communications adjunct professor and CIE faculty innovation lead.

“I am so impressed with seeing the commitment and drive of so many talented students,” Askay said. “While we fueled participants with food and community coaches, it was their own passion and creativity that moved them forward.” 

Day one of Camp PolyHacks included a 90-minute team brainstorming session, followed by opportunities for students to attend workshops and receive coaching and mentorship from industry professionals and Cal Poly faculty members. On day two, teams were given just over two hours to fine-tune their projects before presenting their innovations to a panel of judges.

Team Hopper won $500 for Top Project in Continuing a Class Project. They developed a personalized app and optimized dynamic bus routes to improve student transportation. The group consisted of business major Kennedy Urcelay; recreation parks and tourism administration major Kennedy Barlow; communication studies major Quoya Mann and international exchange student in computer science Othilia Norell.

Team TherapEase won $500 for Top Project in Artificial Intelligence. They developed a physical therapy app that tracks improvements in mobility and movement over time and encourages compliance with home exercises. The group consisted of computer science majors Isha Varrier, Pihu Jha, Dhanvi Ganti, Sunishka Sharma and Sammer Maheshwari; and graphic communication major Bella Santos. 

Team Kudos won $500 for Top Project in Civic Engagement. They developed an app to help empower rental tenants by finding rentals, reviewing landlords, tracking code violations and providing an AI chatbot to answer questions about renters’ rights. The group consisted of communication studies major Brenden Jacoby; computer science major Soren Fliegel; and city and regional planning majors Margo Ezcurra and Jodie Huang. 

Special awards for $200 were also given for achievements such as “Best Demo,” “Best Pitch” and “Best Design.” 

These award winners included:

— Best Demo: Team LocalLens, who created an AI chatbot trained on the City of San Luis Obispo council records to increase and facilitate access to the public. This team included computer science majors Jason Jelincic, Pallavi Das, Miguel Villa Floran, Nick Riley and Taran Singh; and electrical engineering major Roy Vicerra. 

— Best Pitch: Team Credito, who provided undocumented U.S. immigrants a way to access credit. The team included interdisciplinary studies major Jorge Sanches; liberal arts and engineering studies major Casey Hartley, electrical engineering major Soumil Joshi; economics major Sevasian Juarez; and business major Zitao Guan.

— Best Design: Team Moment, who created an app to predict and prevent burnout in healthcare workers. The team included computer science majors Sofija Dimitrijevic, Jonathan Hagendoorn, James Irwin and Ellie Pearson; and computer engineering major Nick Weiss.

Other teams included: 

— Team GeoGraph who used geographic information system (GIS) and lidar data to provide the City of San Luis Obispo Sustainability Manager Chris Read with the estimated square footage of non-residential buildings in San Luis Obispo to track carbon emissions and inform policy decisions. 

— Team Rewired who developed an app for pre-screening and tracking gambling addiction. 

— Team Humorfy who developed a health and fitness app to encourage meeting goals with humor and fun. 

— Team WellNex.AI who used AI to create a digital patient intake form to create pre-diagnoses and optimization of visits for free healthcare at the Noor Clinic. 

— Team Bike CV who created an app to track bike accidents.  

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About the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship:

The CIE opens a world of entrepreneurial opportunities to Cal Poly students, faculty and community members and promotes entrepreneurial activity and dialogue across the university and throughout San Luis Obispo County. For more information, visit https://cie.calpoly.edu/.

Six Startups Complete the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Incubator Program

Graduating teams at the CIE HotHouse December 5, 2023 (DEMO and Zoetic Motion not pictured). From left to right: Stan Kaplita, Founder and CEO of Zeste Farms; Morgan Swanson, Founder and CEO of TractorCloud; Judy Mahan, CIE Senior Economic Development Director; Adam Stager, Founder and CEO of TRIC Robotics; Donald Lee, Co-founder and CTO at Novocuff.

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Six startup companies have completed the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Incubator program

“CIE provides a structured, two-year program for early-stage startups that includes all the resources needed to facilitate smarter, faster growth,” CIE Senior Economic Development Director Judy Mahan said of the Incubator. “After working closely with these companies over the course of their development, we are excited to see where the future takes them as they continue to expand and grow.”

Since its inception in 2010, the CIE has promoted regional economic development. To date, these six companies have collectively created 28 jobs, benefitted from 1,364 hours of one-on-one consultation, received $1,700,000 in grants/awards and raised $7 million in venture capital.

The companies graduating from the CIE Incubator program include: 

Demo Studios is a blockchain marketplace for IP licensing, starting with music. They help music creators sell collaboration rights to their content. 

Novocuff is advancing the field of maternal health by developing a device to prevent preterm labor and improve outcomes for infants and families. 

TractorCloud is an end-to-end heavy machinery diagnostic, management and predictive maintenance cloud platform. 

TRIC Robotics is combining ultraviolet light with automation to provide farmers with an alternative for pesticides that is equally effective and chemical free. 

Zeste Farms is a grower and shipper of leafy greens and herbs employing their patented indoor vertical farming solution designed for sustainable, scalable and affordable produce production. 

Zoetic Motion is helping to improve patient adherence by gamifying the physical therapy process and equipping physical therapists with the ability to maximize patient progress. 

“Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely journey. Joining the Incubator gave me access to resources, mentors and classes that taught me how to take the next steps with my startup,” Adam Stager, founder and CEO of TRIC Robotics, said. “It’s also a great forum for communicating with other founders.” 

The CIE recently added seven new startups to the Incubator, making a total of 15 startups in the program. 

Castle Innovations is bringing firearm safety into the 21st century with their innovative firearm safety device integrated with high-speed biometric technology.

Horizen Biotech is creating a non-invasive, one-time-use smart patch that uses chemical sensing based on sweat to monitor users’ blood alcohol content (BAC) levels. 

Mense is a feminine hygiene product company with a mission to provide a more comfortable, safe solution for people with periods.

Next Best Home is quickly qualifying and helping people with placements in assisted living communities.

Nexstera Tech is pushing the boundaries of material differentiation and detection through radar and transforming the way waste management operates.

PureSite is dedicated to the design, production, installation, and upkeep of air purification systems.

Quickie Delivery Co is delivering convenience store essentials like snacks, beverages, ice cream and daily essentials to college students quickly, affordably, and sustainably.

The CIE offers faculty, students and the business community the tools to transform their innovative ideas into viable businesses. By providing quality coaching, professional consulting and connections with industry professionals, the CIE creates an environment in which new businesses can develop and thrive. 

The CIE incubator program is open to the business community, Cal Poly affiliation is not required. Open enrollment year-round. Startups interested in applying for the Incubator program should go to cie.calpoly.edu/launch/incubator.

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Contact: Judy Mahan
805-756-5180; jmahan@calpoly.edu

Cal Poly Students Win $1,500 in Cash Prizes for Their Innovative Ideas at 14th Annual Elevator Pitch Competition

SAN LUIS OBISPO — A Cal Poly freshman won the top prize at Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s (CIE) 14th annual Elevator Pitch Competition, a fast-paced, high-energy competition for student entrepreneurs, held Nov. 7 at the Performing Arts Center San Luis Obispo.

Ten finalists, selected from dozens of applicants, had 90 seconds each to pitch their innovative products, services and startup ideas. They were evaluated by a panel of judges on four criteria: how well was the problem or opportunity explained; was the idea innovative; was the direction clear; and was the pitch persuasive.

Material engineering freshman Erin Wang of Irvine, California, received the $1,000 first-place prize with her pitch for Intelladaptive Jacket, an active, self-regulating temperature jacket that uses sensors and a removable, rechargeable battery to adjust to the user’s temperature.

“I’m so grateful and super excited,” Wang said. “I’m just a freshman so I wasn’t expecting a ton out of it, but I’m so glad I was able to be here.”

Marley Timmerman of Huntington Beach, California, an electrical engineering senior with a minor in entrepreneurship, received the $500 audience choice award.

Her pitch for Bike Knight impressed the crowd. Bike Knight is a secondary electronic e-bike lock that pairs with your existing metal lock, combining electronics with physical strength, to create the maximum bike security system.

“I think it’s awesome that I won the Audience Choice Award,” Timmerman said. “This means that people in the audience had their bike stolen and really want something like this — there’s real interest.”

This year’s judges included: Cal Poly Associate Professor Erik Sapper, the faculty innovation lead for the Bailey College of Science and Mathematics; Lynn Metcalf, professor emeritus of entrepreneurship, who recently retired after 35 years at Cal Poly; and Penny Lane Case, co-founder and CEO of Nexstera Tech, and a Cal Poly alumna, who graduated this year with a bachelor’s degree in business administration degree and concentration in entrepreneurship.

Other Elevator Pitch Competition finalists included:

— Sun-Tractable Shield, a windshield sunshade that hooks onto the dashboard when in use and retracts into a case when not in use, pitched by theater arts freshman Laurel Desilets of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

— Fit Friends, a service that lets users connect with other members at their gym to find workout partners, pitched by computer science senior Joseph Hammana of Santa Cruz, California.

— Quick Shield, a bulk sunscreen dispenser service that provides athletes easy access to sunscreen to prevent sunburn and skin cancer, pitched by electrical engineering fifth-year Dan Murphy of Wayne, New Jersey.

— Virtuosos, a unique rhythm game that empowers music creators to collaborate, showcase their work and transform their compositions into immersive in-game experiences, pitched by computer science graduate student Lucas Li of Morgan Hill, California.

— Fermy Foods, a fermented baby foods company specifically targeted to kids, pitched by William Dietz, a business administration senior concentrating in real estate finance and minoring in real estate property development. Dietz is from Batavia, Illinois.

— Hobby Hub, a platform where you can choose from a wide variety of hobbies and join a hobby group where you can meet like-minded people starting this hobby as well, pitched by industrial technology and packaging senior Greta Peacock of Towson, Maryland.

— ClassMate AI, software that turns professor lectures into unique chatbots for every class, allowing students to easily ask questions and get answers, ensuring a personalized and accessible learning assistant is always available, pitched by computer science junior Raja Adil of Sacramento, California.

— Conspire Commerce, an innovative e-commerce group shopping solution that  provides chat, call and shared cart functionality, along with split-payment options, offering a convenient and collaborative way to shop together online, pitched by Richard Tanaka of San Marcos, California. Tanaka is a business administration senior concentrating in information systems.

To watch this year’s Elevator Pitch Competition pitches, visit the CIE YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLUZ0YMs8MZptzGdZBNE6aSY7wDdg1g5Ld.

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About the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship:

The CIE opens a world of entrepreneurial opportunities to Cal Poly students, faculty and community members and promotes entrepreneurial activity and dialogue across the university and throughout San Luis Obispo County. For more information, visit https://cie.calpoly.edu/.

 

Cal Poly CIE to Host Annual Demo Day Entrepreneur Showcase on Sept. 8 

09/08/23 - SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA: The CIE’s Summer Accelerator teams showcase their startups during Demo Day 2023 at SLO Brew Rock on September 08, 2023 in San Luis Obispo, California. Photo by Ruby Wallau for CIE

SAN LUIS OBISPO  — The Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) will showcase eight startups at its annual Demo Day in-person at SLO Brew Rock and online via YouTube Live on Friday, Sept. 8. 

The event, held from 4-6 p.m., culminates the CIE’s 2023 Summer Accelerator program, an intensive 12-week program that helps Cal Poly students and recent graduates develop their startup ideas into scalable businesses. Representatives from each startup will pitch their business ideas and present what they’ve accomplished over the summer with the help of dedicated CIE mentors and staff. 

“Developing a support structure when starting a business is extremely important and this group has actively built that support system to help them through this challenging program,” said Thomas Katona, the Summer Accelerator program director and an assistant professor of engineering. 

When asked why people should attend Demo Day, Katona encouraged the community to come and “hear from the next generation of bright young entrepreneurs who not only dream of a better world but are doing the hard work required to try to make a positive change in our community and beyond.”

The Summer Accelerator provides $10,000 in seed funding to grow each startup, as well as mentorship from industry experts and workshops that teach the various components of building a business. Demo Day will give these emerging entrepreneurs the opportunity to demonstrate how hard work and collaboration are helping propel their startups to the next level. 

These include people like Samantha Moberly, a mechanical engineering student with a minor in entrepreneurship who graduated in June. 

“Having such a strong community while working on a startup is so rare, I can’t explain how grateful I am for it,” said Moberly, a Windsor, California resident and the CEO of the startup Social Spark, who will be one of the Demo Day presenters. “There can be so much unknown, loneliness and discouragement in the startup world, and working in this environment has really cut through much of that and kept us all excited and hopeful.”

The cohort includes many recent Cal Poly graduates who represent a variety of industries and disciplines, from medical devices and environmental sustainability to healthy beverages. The startups include:

Ecoternatives is an online marketplace that sells sustainable and plastic-free products at more affordable prices. The startup was founded by economics graduate Aidan Riehl of Kailua, Hawaii, on the eastern shore of Oahu. 

— ENTEIN is reducing greenhouse gas emissions from landfills by utilizing food waste to grow insects as a sustainable and high-protein animal feed. The startup was created by two College of Engineering seniors, William Burns of The Dalles, Oregon, CEO, who is studying materials engineering and entrepreneurship, and material engineering student Cameron Yartz of Laguna Niguel, California. 

— Horizen Biotech is developing a non-invasive, single-use smart patch that measures body sweat to estimate Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) levels. When a person consumes alcohol, traces of it enter the bloodstream. BAC measures how much alcohol is present in the bloodstream. In California, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.08% or higher for drivers over 21 years old. The patch allows users to track their level of sobriety. The startup was founded by 2023 industrial engineering graduate Owen Works of Victoria, British Columbia, and Camden Ford of Camas, Washington, who is pursuing a master’s degree in biomedical engineering.  

Nexstera Tech is using radar to detect lithium-ion batteries in trash containers to prevent costly fires from erupting. Pyrottach uses frequency-modulated continuous waves of FMCW radar, and signal processing to detect batteries in waste bins before they are compacted and spark a blaze. Fires in the waste stream account for over $1.2 billion in annual damages in the U.S. and Canada alone, posing a significant threat to recycling facilities, communities and the environment. The startup was created by four students: mechanical engineering majors, Stefany James of Chula Vista near San Diego and Sydney Fairchild of Henderson, Nevada, who both graduated in June; and business administration majors, Penny Lane Case of Santa Rosa, California, a 2023 graduate, and senior Thaddeus Ziarkowski of Auburn, California, who, like Case, also has a focus on entrepreneurship. 

Plan For Mí is leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to simplify the event-planning process to connect local vendors and customers. The startup was founded by Moberly and software engineering graduate Parker Callison of Winchester, California.

Social Spark is a social networking platform aimed to combat loneliness by helping recent college graduates create genuine friendships in their new cities. The startup was founded by mechanical engineering graduate Moberly of Windsor, California and software engineering graduate Parker Callison of Winchester, California. 

TensorMaker makes building machine-learning applications fast, easy, and accessible to developers of every skill level. The startup was created by liberal arts and engineering student  Avi Peltz of Berkeley, California, who is also the CEO. 

Té Piña is creating a pineapple beverage, packed with vitamins, minerals and anti-inflammatory agents intended to help people prevent and recover from respiratory illnesses. The startup was founded by business administration seniors Mathew Reis of Turlock, California, with a concentration in financial management, and Benjamin Arts of San Jose, California, whose studies also focus on marketing management.

Demo Day general admission tickets to SLO Brew Rock, 855 Aerovista Place, San Luis Obispo,  are $10. In-person seating is limited. The event will be live-streamed to those who register for virtual tickets. Register for tickets at https://demoday23.eventbrite.com/?aff=PressRelease

Demo Day is sponsored by Palo Alto, California-based Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati, the premier legal advisor to technology, life sciences, and other worldwide growth enterprises and represents companies at every stage of development, and Bridge Bank, founded in 2001 in Silicon Valley, a steady and reliable resource for the diverse commercial enterprises that count on them in the innovative economy. 

About the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship:

The CIE opens a world of entrepreneurial opportunity to Cal Poly students, faculty and community members and promotes entrepreneurial activity and dialogue across the university and throughout San Luis Obispo County. For more information, visit cie.calpoly.edu.  

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Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Announces 2023 Summer Accelerator Cohort at Annual May Entrepreneurship Forum

Summer Accelerator teams participate in the 2023 May Entrepreneurship Forum | Photo by Ruby Wallau

SAN LUIS OBISPO — The Cal Poly Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE) accepted eight startup teams into their Summer Accelerator, an intensive 12-week program that provides Cal Poly students and recent graduates with the resources needed to turn their innovative ideas into full-fledged startups. 

Participants 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 in downtown San Luis Obispo.

“The Summer Accelerator program is unique because it marks the point where students apply all of the foundational learning that takes place on campus and dedicate their time over a 12-week period to working towards launching a business,” said Tom Katona, the CIE’s interim co-executive director. “Cal Poly alumni, the local community and the CIE all come together to support and challenge these students in pursuit of their entrepreneurial endeavor.”

The eight teams were officially announced at the CIE’s May Entrepreneurship Forum on Tuesday, May 16 at 4:30 p.m. in the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center (PAC).

The forum also featured a fireside chat with guest speaker Kate Somerville, the founder of a world-renowned luxury skincare brand. After years of struggling with eczema, Somerville pursued a degree in esthetics. After completing her schooling, she opened her own clinic in a San Luis Obispo cosmetic surgeon’s office. Now, her paramedical esthetics clinic in Los Angeles is bringing advanced medical technology into a more comfortable environment.

At May Forum, Somerville shared the story behind her startup, from a childhood that propelled her towards entrepreneurship, to personal care product company Unilever’s acquisition of the Kate Somerville brand in 2015.

“This is the best part — because I was one of them, and I still am. Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur,” Somerville said. “This is such a great program. I’m so glad I was able to be a part of it.”

Somerville’s interview was conducted by Haley Pavone, a CIE alumnus and the founder and CEO of Pashion Footwear, a footwear company whose patented shoes can easily convert from a pump to a flat. Pavone founded Pashion Footwear as a Cal Poly business administration junior. 

The 2023 Summer Accelerator teams represent a variety of different concepts, from machine learning with Tensormaker, to social connectivity with Social Spark.

“I’m really looking forward to working with this diverse group of entrepreneurs,” Katona said.

This year’s cohort includes:

Drinkwise, a startup developing a noninvasive SmartPatch that indicates the user’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level, created by industrial engineering senior Owen Works, biomedical engineering senior Camden Ford and psychology senior Aynsley Ramsaur.

Ecoternatives, an e-commerce store that sells sustainable and plastic-free home essential products at more affordable prices, founded by economics senior Aidan Riehl.

Entein Feeds, a startup utilizing food waste to grow insects as an animal feed protein supplement, founded by materials engineering sophomore William Burns and mechanical engineering sophomore Cameron Yartz.

Nexsterra Tech, a startup developing technology that can detect batteries in waste bins before they’re compacted in order to prevent costly fires, created by business administration seniors Penny Lane Case and Thaddeus Ziarkowski and mechanical engineering seniors Stefany James and Sydney Fairchild.

Plan A Lot, an event planning platform that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to simplify the planning process, founded by computer science junior Luis Guzman and mechanical engineering junior Marciela Carrillo.

Social Spark, a startup organizing and facilitating social activities for recently relocated college graduates, founded by mechanical engineering senior Samantha Moberly and software engineering senior Parker Callison.

Tensormaker, a startup enabling all web developers to build their own machine learning software, founded by liberal arts and engineering senior Avi Peltz.

Té Piña, a startup producing a caffeinated, pineapple-based beverage that provides consumers with a healthier alternative to existing energy drinks, created by business administration seniors Matthew Reis and Benjamin Arts.

View the cohort’s pitches here.

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About the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE):

The CIE opens a world of entrepreneurial opportunities to Cal Poly students, faculty and community members and promotes entrepreneurial activity and dialogue across the university and throughout San Luis Obispo. For more information, visit https://cie.calpoly.edu/.

Cal Poly Student Founders Sweep Sunstone CSU Startup Launch Competition

SAN JOSE — Two recent Cal Poly graduates won the top prizes at the Sunstone Startup Launch Competition, a California State University (CSU) pitch competition with a total of $200,000 in prize money at stake, held at San Jose State University (SJSU) Friday, May 5. Competing teams are divided into three categories, including product, service and social enterprise.

Recent Cal Poly computer science graduate Emily Gavrilenko won the service track’s first-place prize of $25,000 with her startup Ryde, a travel marketplace for college students connecting drivers and riders for long-distance travel.

“When I was pitching, I felt really confident because we’ve come so far in the past year. I was pitching a business, not just an idea,” Gavrilenko said. “I was more nervous for the awards ceremony than the actual pitch because I didn’t want to let my co-founders down. I really wanted to call them and tell them we won — so it was really exciting to hear the good news.”

Gavrilenko plans to use the prize money to fund Ryde’s upcoming expansion to a new college campus.

Manufacturing engineering graduate Evan Lalanne won the product track’s second-place prize of $10,000 for X-Adapt, a startup building a compact, capable and intuitive mobility device by modifying commercially available electric unicycles for adaptive riders. 

Lalanne is planning on introducing the product to early adopters later this year.

Both winners participated in the 2022 Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Summer Accelerator, a three-month program that provides Cal Poly students and recent graduates with the resources needed to turn their startup ideas into real, scalable businesses.

“The Summer Accelerator made a world of difference,” Gavrilenko said. “It really helped me on my pitch. I became confident up on stage and also had quality content to put in my pitch. The Accelerator really taught me how to talk about my business.”

Two pre-qualified students or recent graduates from each CSU campus presented an eight-minute pitch to a panel of judges. The pitch was followed by a five-minute question and answer session. Judges evaluated the pitches based on desirability, feasibility and viability. 

The Sunstone Startup Launch competition was held for the first time in 2021 at Cal State Long Beach (CSULB), and only five of the 23 CSU campuses participated. Eighteen campuses participated this year, including Dominguez Hills, East Bay, Fresno, Fullerton, Humboldt, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Monterey Bay, Northridge, Pomona, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, San Luis Obispo, San Marcos and Sonoma.

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About the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship:

The CIE opens a world of entrepreneurial opportunity to Cal Poly students, faculty and community members and promotes entrepreneurial activity and dialogue throughout San Luis Obispo County. For more information, visit cie.calpoly.edu

Contact: Stephanie Zombek
805-225-4738; szombek@calpoly.edu

Four Cal Poly Student Entrepreneur Teams Win $35,000 for Their Innovative Startup Ideas at CIE’s Annual Innovation Quest Competition

A group of students smiling and holding giant checks

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Four student startup teams  split $35,000 at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s (CIE) annual Innovation Quest (iQ), a high-stakes competition where Cal Poly students pitch their innovative business ideas to a panel of judges in the hopes of winning funding for their startups

Biology senior McClain Kressman and Nico Galin, a computer science student at UC Berkeley, received the first-place prize of $15,000 for their startup BioGlyph at the event, held April 29 on campus, with awards presented later at a local venue.  

“It (winning) was surprising — and it was fun,” said Kressman of Santa Cruz, California. “I couldn’t have done it without Nico, and we’re excited to see what’s ahead of us.” 

They intend to use the cash prize to further develop BioGlyph. The software streamlines the process of biologic, or medicine, development and iteration — as well as user modification tools — by allowing researchers to easily shift between visual, markup and serial representations of medications developed from living organisms, Kressman said. 

The second-place prize of $10,000 went to Instaboard, a digital whiteboard that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to allow users to illustrate their ideas and collaborate with others, created by computer science senior David Chen, an international student from China, recent art and design graduate Alina Chiu of Mandeville, Louisiana, and Andy Zhou, a University of Rochester finance and applied mathematics student.  

“It felt kind of unreal — like what? ‘Did that just happen?’” Chen said. “I was just very glad because for the past few months, I’ve been feeling discouraged … This is a backbone, and I’m going to be building on this confidence. I’m really thankful.” 

Logan Hughes of Brookline, Massachusetts, and Jensen Jalufka, both business administration seniors with a focus on entrepreneurship, and engineering seniors Elisa Horta (mechanical engineering)and Justice Radler (industrial engineering) received the third place award of $5,000 for Spikeless, a wristband to test whether a drink has been drugged. 

“It felt so great to win,” said Jalufka, an Austin, Texas, resident. “We put in a lot of hard work, so it’s really awesome to be rewarded. It’s really a humbling experience to be able to put this money towards our company.” 

Entein Feeds took home the $5,000 Brett and Leslie Eldridge Environmental Impact Award, presented to the top team whose innovation focuses on environmentalism and sustainability. The startup, founded by William Burns, a materials engineering senior minoring in entrepreneurship, grows black soldier fly larvae off of food waste, then sells the larvae as a protein supplement in animal feed. 

“It felt awesome to get appreciation for how hard I worked, especially on an environmentally friendly project,” Burns said. 

Fourteen finalists pitched their innovative ideas in Cal Poly’s Nash Family Entrepreneurship Lab. The event’s banquet and awards ceremony was held at SLO Brew Rock later that night. 

Past iQ participant and Pashion Footwear founder and CEO Haley Pavone spoke at the banquet. Pavone won iQ in 2017 with her pitch for a shoe that easily converts from a pump to a flat. 

iQ was founded in 2004 by Cal Poly electrical engineering graduates and business leaders Carson Chen, Richard Boberg and Laura Pickering. Since its launch, iQ participants have received over $400,000 that has helped launch several successful businesses, such as iFixIt, Liftgator and Alydia Health. 

“iQ motivates students across campus who would otherwise not think about taking the skills that they have and applying them in an entrepreneurial way,” said Tom Katona, CIE interim co-executive director.  

In addition to the four winners, 10 finalists were chosen from more than 50 applicants: 

— Pyrottack, a battery detection system that prevents costly battery fires in the waste stream by detecting batteries in waste bins before they are compacted., created by business administration seniors Penny Lane Case and Thaddeus Ziarkowski and mechanical engineering seniors Stefany James, Cole Miller and Sydney Fairchild. 

— RISE, an innovation helping Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) patients take control of their symptoms and prevent debilitating episodes, developed by Alex Rosenbaum, a mechanical engineering junior and Aidan Rosenbaum, a mechanical engineering junior at Case Western Reserve University. 

— Munchie Automation, a hot food vending machine developer providing quality, affordable and safe food, founded by business administration senior Colin Brown, mechanical engineering junior Tony Aviña and electrical engineering freshman Ian McKernan. 

— PeggyAI, a software company helping agriculture businesses automate their time keeping, equipment tracking and safety processes, developed by recent business administration graduate Ethan Beck, business administration junior Isabella Beck and earth and science soil junior Thomas Telles. 

— Vlab Education, a startup providing virtual reality (VR) science experiments for students, founded by polymers and coatings graduate student Adam Langevin and recent computer science graduates Kaili Shan and Jarrod Tart. 

— Groundwater Pricing Calculator, a tool that can help farmers and county governments determine the cost of accessing groundwater, developed by psychology and ethnic studies senior Cade Creason and computer engineering senior Lucas Abdo. 

— Ourcelium, a startup reducing microplastic pollution by using a decomposing fungus to turn plastic waste into mycelium, which can then be used to create sustainable packaging alternatives, developed by business administration seniors Penny Lane Case and Thaddeus Ziarkowski, mechanical engineering sophomore Amelia Cameron and mechanical engineering seniors Stefany James, Cole Miller and Sydney Fairchild. 

— Tensormaker, a tool that makes building machine learning applications quick, easy and accessible, created by liberal arts and engineering studies senior Avi Peltz and recent computer engineering graduate Samuel Cole. 

— DrinkWise, a smart tattoo that monitors the wearer’s Blood Alcohol Level (BAC), developed by industrial engineering senior Owen Works, biomedical engineering senior Camden Ford, biomedical engineering junior Aditi Sriram, mechanical engineering senior Nicolas Rojas and business administration junior Michael Hennessy. 

— Zoetic Motion, a digital health platform streamlining the physical therapy process in order to improve patient outcomes, founded by computer science graduate student Zeeshan Khan. 

About the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship: 

The CIE opens a world of entrepreneurial opportunity to Cal Poly students, faculty and community members and promotes entrepreneurial activity and dialogue throughout San Luis Obispo County. For more information, visit cie.calpoly.edu.  

Cal Poly’s Student-Run Hackathon Builds Interdisciplinary Solutions to Local Challenges

A group of students brainstorm in the CIE HotHouse. One is standing and talking to three other students, seated at a rectangular table with laptops in front of them.
Camp PolyHacks was hosted at the Cal Poly Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship HotHouse in downtown San Luis Obispo.

SAN LUIS OBISPO –A team of Cal Poly interdisciplinary students recently won the top prize at Camp PolyHacks for their anonymous blog space, dubbed Lumi, designed to help marginalized groups build community.

During the two-day hackathon Jan. 22-23, 70 Cal Poly students worked in groups to develop a solution to an issue impacting San Luis Obispo. Each of the 13 teams was assigned one of four categories, including inclusive digital spaces, transportation innovation, small business success and groundwater sustainability. Teams could develop solutions in the form of a product, service, information or marketing campaign, policy proposal or a demonstration or prototype of a mobile application.

The Stardust Team won $1,000 for Best Overall Solution. The team also won in the Most Impactful Solution for Inclusive Digital Spaces and Best Logo categories.

They developed and coded Lumi for Cal Poly students who belong to marginalized communities to post, seek advice and find companionship. Team members included computer science majors Sage Meadows, Hahns Pena and Bora Joo; liberal arts and engineering major Leticia Mezzetti; and computer engineering major Arjun Chopra.

The event was organized by student volunteers and Cal Poly communications professor and Cal Poly Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE) Faculty Fellow David Askay.

“I feel lucky to be at Cal Poly alongside such wonderful students from across campus — from liberal arts to engineering — who join together their skills and creativity at this event,” Askay said.

The first day of Camp PolyHacks included a 90-minute team brainstorming session followed by opportunities for students to attend workshops and receive coaching and mentorship from industry professionals and Cal Poly faculty members. On the second day, teams were given just over two hours to fine-tune their projects before presenting their innovations to a panel of judges.

Awards were given to the teams who developed the most impactful solutions for each issue category. Special awards were also given for achievements such as Best Pitch or Most Sustainable.

Other awards included:

— Most Impactful Solution for Small Business Success: Team Shop SLOcal, which created an app that helps small businesses in downtown San Luis Obispo increase sales by implementing a customer-rewards system. The team included journalism major Madison Vernon, software engineering major Aaron Bettencourt, computer science major Kannan Jain and communication studies major Kat MacPherson.

— Most Impactful Solution for Transportation Innovations: Team cYc presented its idea for a bike rental service that allows students to rent out their personal bikes to other students, as well as a “smart lock” that tracks the bike. The team included computer science majors Krishnanshu Gupta, Ishaan Sathaye and Nakul Nayak, and computer engineering major Ashwin Rajesh.

— Most Impactful Solution for Groundwater Sustainability: Team Permeable SLO, which proposed that San Luis Obispo use new building materials, such as permeable pavement, to assist with replenishing groundwater. The team included landscape architecture major Hannah Huntley, computer science major Grant Holland, history major Katarina Di Paola and computer engineering major Rockwood Frank.

— Best Demonstration of Teamwork: Team Shop SLOcal.

— Most Sustainable: Team Permeable SLO.

— Best Pitch: Team Fair Start developed an AI (artificial intelligence) algorithm that screens applications for employers in order to reduce biases associated with resumes and decrease the time it takes employers to read through job applications. The team included computer science majors Shehbaj Singh Dhillon and Anisha Raju, and industrial engineering major Michael Cassetti.

— Best User Experience: Team Fair Start.

— Best Prototype: Team WORK created a website for small businesses that finds job candidates that fit the qualifications that a business is seeking. The team included computer science majors Nathan Kang and Matthew Chak, business administration majors Wesley Lin and Zitao Guan, and graphic communications major Aidan Nesbitt.

The Cal Poly CIE HotHouse in downtown San Luis Obispo hosted Camp PolyHacks, which was cosponsored by Cal Poly’s colleges of Liberal Arts and Engineering, the city of San Luis Obispo, the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments, DRC Design and Red Bull.

Three new faculty fellows join Cal Poly CIE from across campus

Three headshots of Cal Poly CIE faculty fellows.
Cal Poly CIE's newest faculty fellows (from left to right) Paul Anderson, Jean Davidson and Katya Vasilaky.

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Three new faculty fellows join a cohort of 22 Cal Poly faculty members who incorporate entrepreneurship into their coursework, act as ambassadors for the CIE and help students navigate entrepreneurial endeavors. 

“CIE Faculty Fellows form the backbone of support for the CIE on-campus,” said Lynn Metcalf, director of the Faculty Fellows program and a professor of entrepreneurship at Cal Poly. “Together, they are promoting a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.”

This year’s additions, who come from the College of Engineering (CENG), the College of Science and Math (CSM) and the Orfalea College of Business (OCOB) respectively, will increase interdisciplinary collaboration within the Faculty Fellows program.

This year’s newest faculty fellows all have backgrounds in data science and share a desire to engage students in innovation and entrepreneurship through data science.

“I’m excited by their excitement in being faculty fellows and their interest in collaborating across disciplines,” Metcalf said. “All three have a track record of accomplishment in their own fields and experience with and interest in startups.”

This year’s faculty fellows include:

— Paul Anderson, an associate professor of computer science and software engineering and the director of Cal Poly’s Data Science Research Group, which specializes in developing and applying data mining, machine learning and artificial intelligence in the biomedical field.

Anderson said he looks forward to imparting his students with an entrepreneurial skill set that will help them navigate rapidly evolving technology institutions.

— Jean Davidson, an assistant professor of biological sciences and the co-director of both the Computational Molecular Sciences Center and the Bioinformatics Research Group, a cloud-based computational research laboratory with bioinformatics and data science pipelines.

Davidson said she is excited to expand her interdisciplinary collaboration through her role as a faculty fellow and looks forward to introducing her students to entrepreneurship.

— Katya Vasilaky, an assistant professor of economics and an applied microeconomist whose interest in entrepreneurship began when she was living in Uganda, working for the World Bank and the Clinton Health Access Initiative.

Vasilaky said she hopes to use her role as a faculty fellow to address global economic inequities through interdisciplinary innovation. She believes global issues can be solved when motivated and clever minds leverage expertise from multiple disciplines.

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