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

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  

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