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.


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

Contact: Stephanie Zombek