Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Announces Interim Director

Contact: Candice Conti

SAN LUIS OBISPO — John Townsend, a senior executive with over three decades of entrepreneurial technology and business leadership experience, has been named interim executive director of the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE).

Townsend will lead the center’s strategic direction, program development, fundraising and relations with relevant academic programs as well as its network of partners, donors and sponsors.

“The university is dedicated to empowering people on and off campus with the skills and networks necessary to drive innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Orfalea College of Business Dean Scott Dawson. “As a seasoned business executive, an entrepreneur who has launched and mentored multiple ventures, and an educator, John brings a wealth of experience.”

Townsend, who was named to the post May 31, has served as a global partner at Arthur Andersen Business Consulting, one of the world’s largest global strategy and information technology-consulting firms. He has worked with high-profile clients such as: Oakley Inc., General Motors, Northrop Grumman Corp., Mitsubishi Motors Corp., The Boeing Co., Toshiba Corp. and Southern California Edison.

He has served on senior management teams for public and private companies and started his own consulting practice, through which he advised tech-based and early-stage startup companies. Townsend also co-taught and mentored student-led startups as the Executive in Residence for the Rady School of Management’s MBA Lab to Market course at UC San Diego.

“I am thrilled to take on this role at the CIE,” Townsend said. “Having served as an instructor and mentor for a few years in Cal Poly’s entrepreneurship academies, I have seen firsthand how the CIE is connecting the university to our regional community in order to create opportunities so the Central Coast can be a hub for innovation and entrepreneurial activities as it becomes a premier spot for startups.”

Townsend is a faculty member in the college’s specialty of entrepreneurship curricula and part of its Executive Partner Program designed to mentor students as they navigate their way through school. For more than three years, he also served as a CIE lead mentor for startups participating in the center’s Hatchery and the HotHouse programs.

Townsend has a bachelor’s degree in business, management information systems from Cal Poly, and he holds a number of professional certifications from the Arthur Andersen Center for Professional Education.

Townsend succeeds Tod Nelson, who served as executive director from July 2015 until May.

A search committee comprising campus and key community members is conducting a national search for a permanent CIE executive director.

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. For more information, visit: