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.


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