Cal Poly San Luis Obispo


Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is Headed to Paso Robles

Cal Poly CIE extends two of their flagship programs to North County

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation for Entrepreneurship (CIE) is expanding — bringing its Incubator program and Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to THE SANDBOX Paso Robles, a resource center for North County entrepreneurs.

The two programs have been at the forefront of technology, innovation and economic development in San Luis Obispo County. The CIE will host an open house for its new partnership with the facility at 1345 Park St. from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 1. RSVP on Eventbrite at

The SBDC, a top resource for business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs, offers no-cost, expert one-on-one business consulting, training and online courses in startup assistance, debt and equity funding, sales and marketing. The center has 35 consultants with a wide array of business and entrepreneurial backgrounds and expertise.

This SBDC outreach center — located in the heart of downtown Paso Robles — will provide programs and events to benefit the North County small business community. These include:

“While our SBDC services cover all of San Luis Obispo County, we are excited to offer new and existing clients a dedicated space for programming closer to their base of operations,” said Judy Mahan, the CIE SBDC economic development director. “THE SANDBOX Paso Robles space has provided a unique opportunity for us to focus on programming specific to the agricultural and hospitality industries that make up the core of their business community.”

The CIE Incubator is a two-year program that includes everything needed for early-stage companies to develop into financially stable, high-growth enterprises by providing the tools, training and infrastructure that help facilitate smarter and faster growth.

While technology and innovation are the focus, other businesses are accepted and encouraged to apply, including but not limited to: CleanTech, AgTech, MedTech and Aerospace. Applications are open year-round at

The new CIE location will house startups in the AgTech industry. Companies in the program will have dedicated office space at THE SANDBOX, a collaborative business center, coworking space, shared office and event space, and the CIE will provide access to resources such as membership mixers and an invaluable peer network.

THE SANDBOX Paso Robles, which opened in October of 2019, is a community of entrepreneurs, technology and creative professionals focusing on creating technology solutions, lifestyle brands and a lifestyle of their own that is uniquely Californian.

“We are excited to host the CIE Incubator and Small Business Development Center programs in our space and kick off a great partnership with the Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship,” said Kyle Ashby, SANDBOX founder. “Having a number of AgTech companies and mentors at THE SANDBOX in addition to the support of CIE and the SBDC is a great way to build on our mutual goals of supporting entrepreneurship and innovation, small businesses and new ventures in both Paso Robles and the Central Coast region.”

To learn more about these programs visit CIE.CALPOLY.EDU.

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Contact: Liz Fisher



Cal Poly Announces CIE HotHouse Summer Accelerator 2021 Cohort

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) accepted eight startup teams and an additional remote participant into this year’s HotHouse Summer Accelerator program.

The intensive 13-week program helps Cal Poly students and recent graduates develop their startup ideas and launch their companies. The selected teams are provided with $10,000 in seed funding, access to expert mentorship and tailored workshops and a dedicated office space in the SLO HotHouse

“The accelerator is our most comprehensive offering at the CIE, providing a true launchpad experience for student entrepreneurial teams through workshops, mentorship, community building, leadership development and access to capital,” CIE Director of Student Innovation Programs Jose Huitron said.

At the end of the program, teams will be given the opportunity to pitch their companies to investors and show what they accomplished during their time in the accelerator at Demo Day, to be held in September.

Applicants from across the Cal Poly campus competed for one of the eight available spots in this year’s HotHouse Summer Accelerator. A dozen finalists were considered from the initial 26 applicants before eight were chosen by a panel of judges earlier this month. 

This year’s cohort represents a variety of concepts, from childrens’ health and wellness with this year’s Innovation Quest winner FEARLESS Fitness Kids, to virtual reality innovation with Odin XR. 

“We have such a high-energy group and diverse set of entrepreneurs that I’m excited to work with over the course of the summer,” Huitron said. “I believe this is going to be one of our most dynamic cohorts yet and what is shaping up to be an eventful summer of learning and growth.”

This year’s cohort includes:

AG Sisters, a startup that helps children explore hands-on crafting through virtual and in-person camps, special events, subscription craft kits and more. AG Sisters was founded by second-year business administration majors Madeline Pollock and Gabrielle Pollock and first-year business administration major Kate Lally, all from Los Gatos, California.

FEARLESS Fitness Kids, a startup developing immersive video games with exercise as their core mechanic to keep children healthy, active and entertained. FEARLESS Fitness Kids was developed by fourth-year business administration majors Sara Glaser of Los Angeles, California and Madison Lewandowski of Santa Barbara, California, second-year biomedical engineering major Clayton Pelz of Portland, Oregon and fourth-year computer science major Emily O’Neal of Santa Cruz, California.

For Mom, a postpartum recovery platform that provides holistic support to ensure that mothers properly heal after birth, developed by blended bachelor’s and master’s biomedical engineering program students Camila Monchini of Santa Monic, California and Christina Grigorian of La Crescenta, California.

Intego Sports, a startup creating the most durable and sustainable footwear on the market through their patent-pending manufacturing process. The Intego Sports team includes second-year business administration students Alexandra Joelson of San Diego, California and Allison Wagner of San Jose, California and second-year environmental management and protection student Samuel Andrews of Boulder, Colorado.

Muscle Ninja, an attachable sensor that uses electromyography, or recordings of the electrical activity of muscle tissue, to better inform users of their muscle activation status during exercise to minimize the risk of injury. Muscle Ninja was created by mechanical engineering senior Ivet Avalos from Moorpark, California and computer science senior Zeeshan Khan from Los Gatos.

Odin XR, an extended reality (XR) company developing an educational virtual reality (VR) sandbox that can be used by science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students to conduct experiments. Odin XR was created by electrical engineering junior Tessa Luzuriaga of Temecula, California, computer engineering junior Ali Mohammad of San Diego, electrical engineering sophomore Michaela Whitcomb-Weston of Sacramento, California, art and design junior Ruben Curiel of Palmdale, California, electrical engineering sophomore Chrisian Bloemhof of Shafter, California, aerospace engineering junior Isaac Velasco of Atascadero, California, Channel Islands University software development sophomore Cole Moody of Ventura, California,computer engineering senior Luke Matusiak and Ralis Daum of Oceanside, California.

SLOLAR, a company looking to increase the residential solar panel owner’s power generation while increasing the overall grid power generation created by mechanical engineering senior Paul Romano of Los Olivos, California, electrical engineering senior Russell Caletena of Glendale, California and computer engineering seniors Fernando Estevez of Goleta, California and Yash Desai of Fremont, California.

Tractor Cloud, an end-to-end heavy machinery diagnostic, management and predictive maintenance cloud platform developed by liberal arts and engineering studies senior Takumi Arai of Torrance, California, industrial technology and packaging senior Harrison Whitaker of Carmel Valley, California, electrical engineering seniors Jin Huang of Buena Park, California and Kyle Kesler of Poway, California, computer science senior Roxanne Miller of San Ramon, California and computer science master’s student Morgan Swanson of Pleasanton, California.

Also joining the HotHouse Summer Accelerator as a remote participant is ARTIFEX, a startup leveraging Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) sensors and Machine Learning to create a drawing tool that will help architects and builders save time and money. The ARTIFEX team includes graduated architecture students Elijah Williams of Berkeley, California and Logan Kozlik of Hastland, Wisconsin and Harvey Mudd College graduate Nathaniel Diamant, also from Berkeley.

Cal Poly Student Startup Teams Win Big at Innovation Quest 2021

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Four student startup teams won from $35,000 in prize money 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 and prototypes to a panel of judges in hopes of winning thousands in funding for their startup.

Business administration seniors Sara Glaser of Calabasas, California and Madison Lewandowski of Santa Barbara, California, biomedical engineering sophomore Clayton Pelz of Portland, Oregon and computer science senior Emily O’Neal of Scotts Valley, California won the first place of $15,000 with FEARLESS Fitness Kids. FEARLESS is a startup developing immersive video games with exercise as its core mechanic, to keep children healthy, active and entertained. 

“Winning Innovation Quest truly felt like a dream,” Glaser said. “When we heard we won, we were literally screaming, jumping up and down and crying in excitement and happiness.”

Glaser and her team began working on FEARLESS about a year and a half ago. In that time, they have participated in other CIE programs, like the on-campus Hatchery, and competed in other CIE-sponsored competitions. Innovation Quest was their first win.

“We learned from our downfalls and have been working extremely hard this year,” Glaser said. “To hear we had won Innovation Quest proved to us that our hard work paid off and that people really believe in us. We are truly grateful for this experience and for the support from the CIE.”

Graduated architecture graduate students Elijah Williams from Berkeley, California and Logan Kozlik from Hastland, Wisconsin and recent Harvey Mudd College graduate Nathaniel Diamant of Berkeley won the second place prize of $10,000 with ARTIFEX

ARTIFEX is a startup leveraging developments in machine learning and Light Detection Ranging (LIDAR) sensors, a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure variable distances, to create clear and usable drawings of the build environment. The startup is focusing first on small-scale residential renovations with Project Geronimo, a handheld measuring device that automates outdated, as-built and drawing workflows.

Agriculture systems management graduate Garrett Forbes from Atascedero, California won the third place prize of $5,000 with the Large Round Bale Handler, an implementation device which loads large round hay bales onto a standard flatbed equipment trailer for transport.

A fourth team, PERCH Sensing, won the $5,000 Brett & Leslie Eldridge Environmental Impact Award, a new honor awarded to the top team with a focus in environmentalism and sustainability. 

PERCH Sensing provides real-time wildfire weather and detection alerts to power utilities and first responders in high-risk areas. It was developed by electrical engineering senior Emil Erickson from Yuba City, California, business administration seniors Caitlin Maltbie from Santa Maria, California and Brooke Randolph from Nipomo, California, computer science seniors John Waidhofer from Scotts Valley and Richa Gadgil from Cupertino, California, graphic design senior Arthur Waidhofer of Scotts Valley, computer engineering senior Reed Slobodin of Lake Oswego, Oregon and electrical engineering graduate student Dominic Gaiero of Pleasanton, California.

iQ was held online via Zoom on April 24. The event included pitches from the 12 finalists, updates from past iQ winners and contestants and the event’s awards announcement.

This was the first year that Innovation Quest was opened up for public viewing. 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 more than $400,000 in funding that helped them to launch successful businesses.

Hayley Pavone, founder and CEO of Pashion Footwear, created an adaptable shoe that can easily convert from a pump to a flat and pitched her idea at Innovation Quest in 2017. She was the top prize recipient that year.

Pavone founded the company as a junior business administration major at Cal Poly. In the years since, she has developed her product, assembled a team, secured patent-pending status in 30 countries and raised more than $3.5 million in seed funding. She formally launched Pashion Footwear online in June of 2019.

This year, Innovation Quests finalists introduced a plethora of new concepts. In addition to the five winners, the 2021 finalists included:

Ovubrush, a saliva-based ovulation predictor device in the form of a toothbrush. The device was developed by general engineering senior Janis Iourovitski of Palo Alto, California, biomedical engineering junior Tina Vo of Chula Vista, California, blended bachelor’s and master’s biomedical engineering program student Grant Coe and recent graduate of the same biomedical engineering program Grace Boyes of Ventura, California.

Business Outsider, an online source for satirical business and technology news created by Ross Levine, a manufacturing engineering senior from Redondo Beach, California, and Sean Riley, a recent aerospace engineering graduate from Sunnyvale, California. 

Intego Sports, an innovative sports shoe company that creates footwear expected to be three times more durable than any market competitors. The company was founded by business administration sophomore Alexandra Joelson of Carlsbad, California, environmental management and protection sophomore Samuel Andrews of Boulder, Colorado and aerospace engineering sophomore Jack Browers of Sammamish, Washington.

Framework, a dignified tiny home community equipped with facilities and services that invite the homeless to change their lives for the better, founded by Boulder’s Sarah Holland, a business administration senior, and mechanical engineering seniors Nash Elder of Salt Lake City, Utah and Bowen Schwoerer of San Luis Obispo.

SLOLAR, a robot that cleans solar panels and an accompanying app that provides data to help keep solar panels operating at maximum efficiency. The product was developed by seven Cal Poly seniors: mechanical engineering majors Paul Romano of Los Olivos, California and Chris Linthacum of San Jose, California, computer engineering majors Fernando Estevez of Goleta, California and Yash Desai from Fremont, California, electrical engineering major Russell Caletena of Glendale, California, manufacturing engineering major Alex Garcia Cruz of Goleta and business administration major Camila Fuenzalida of Gilroy, California.

Limbotics, one of the only prosthetic bionic arms with powerful microprocessors and a full sensor suite to improve grip functions. The device was developed by aerospace engineering junior Jared Bell of Royse City, Texas, electrical engineering sophomore Mark Wu from Ontario, Canada and UC Irvine student Heath Muskat and Cal State Sacramento graduate student Altia Picott, both from Vacaville, California.

Instamoov, a property technology company eliminating security deposits with small subscription payments, founded by computer science juniors Mukhammadorif Sultanov of San Francisco, California and Andrew Doud of Belmont, California and University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign graduate Oybek Olimjanov.

Mezzrow Energy, a solar cell composed of hemp waste fibers and other organic materials to generate affordable and environmentally friendly solar power, developed by Greenville, South Carolina’s Matthew Kilbride, a liberal arts and engineering student.

Cal Poly and Cuesta College Elevator Pitch Winners Cash in on Innovative Ideas

Student entrepreneurs earn $1,000 for 90-second product proposals at 11th annual  contest through Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Two students, one from Cal Poly and the other from Cuesta College, each won $1,000 at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s (CIE) 11th annual Elevator Pitch Competition Finals, a fast-paced contest for Cal Poly and Cuesta College entrepreneurs, recently held virtually.

A third student, also from Cal Poly, received the $500 “audience choice” award.

Ten students had just 90 seconds each to deliver their innovative business ideas at the Nov. 10 event. They were evaluated by a panel of judges on four criteria: how well the problem or opportunity was explained; whether the idea was innovative and creative; if the direction was clear; and whether the pitch was persuasive.

Cal Poly student Ross Levine’s winning pitch was for Business Outsider, an online source for satirical tech and business news.

“There are all these satirical sources for all these different markets, but there wasn’t one for tech and business,” said the Redondo Beach, California, resident.

Levine’s plans for Business Outsider include publishing what he describes as “a satire of a self-help book,” titled “Winning the Race to the Bottom.

With the e-book set to arrive in Amazon’s Kindle store Dec. 9, Levine plans to continue working with his team to publish online articles.

“We’re working on growing the team’s knowledge,” said Levine, who is pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees in industrial engineering. “We have a team of nine writers, and we’re trying to get them to be as good as they can be.”

Cuesta College’s Elliot Thorogood won with his pitch for Vision: First Step Photography, an innovative photography company that will allow students greater creative freedom in their yearbook portraits, inspired by Thorogood’s own photography experience.

“We want to spice it up, allow for more creativity in the yearbook and give students a voice in their yearbook — because it’s really their yearbook and their pictures,” said the Nipomo resident who also attends the Central Coast New Tech High School.

Thorogood plans to invest his $1,000 prize into Vision: First Step Photography and is working with his team to develop a plan to overcome the obstacles posed by the pandemic.

“We don’t know if we can get it started this year — actually take the pictures — because of COVID-19,” he said. “We’re going to invest the money into the company and see where we go from there, and hopefully start (taking yearbook photos) at the end of this year, or next year at the latest.”

Cal Poly’s Julie Arnett, a business student from San Ramon, California, was the top pick of attendees. She pitched Celebrate, an online gift registry to allow users to create “interest boards” that friends and family can view when shopping for their birthday or holiday gifts.

“I think that if I wanted to win one of the two (awards), I would have wanted the crowd favorite just because you have that validation from everyone,” she said. “Feeling that support from the crowd was really awesome.”

Arnett and her team, who have worked on Celebrate for almost a year, are fully engaged in the CIE’s Hatchery program. They are currently in their product development phase, working with coders to develop their startup website and fine-tune its key features.

“We’re also starting to dive a little bit further into marketing,” Arnett said. “And then, the next competition we’re looking at is Innovation Quest.”

Cal Poly business sophomore Alexandra Joelson, the founder and CEO of Intego Sports, was the forum’s keynote speaker. She won the 2019 Elevator Pitch Competition as a freshman with a proposal for the Cleat Guard, a mold that fits to the bottom of any cleat to prevent the cleat’s bottom from wearing down. Since winning the competition, Joelson and her team have begun working with a design firm and manufacturing team, and are now creating their first manufactured prototype.

To watch the 2020 Elevator Pitch Competition video, visit

Click on the links for more information about CIE’s upcoming events, Innovation Quest and Camp PolyHacks.

About the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
The CIE enriches talent and enables the dreams of Cal Poly students, faculty and community businesses across campus and throughout San Luis Obispo County. For more information, go to

Contact: Candice Conti

December 4, 2020

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Cal Poly Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship Welcomes Five New Faculty Fellows

New cohort includes faculty from English, journalism, philosophy, psychology and experience industry management disciplines

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship has added five faculty to its interdisciplinary cohort of faculty fellows.

This newest group of CIE Faculty Fellows bolsters an interdisciplinary community that is committed to being a resource for the university as it evolves its role in innovation, entrepreneurship, technology commercialization and regional economic development. They join 24 previously appointed faculty fellows who connect students to Cal Poly’s highly regarded and nationally recognized entrepreneurship program.

“CIE Faculty Fellows have reimagined curricula, crossed disciplines, and pushed the boundaries of what interdisciplinary entrepreneurship education can be,” said Lynn Metcalf, director of the CIE Faculty Fellows program and a professor of entrepreneurship in Cal Poly’s Orfalea College of Business. “They are dedicated to creating a culture of proactive and innovative problem-solving students who will thrive in a rapidly changing world and are deeply committed to interdisciplinary collaboration and to strategic research initiatives that create positive economic and social impacts for the region.”

The CIE has fellows from throughout all of Cal Poly’s six colleges; this year’s additions come from the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences and the College of Liberal Arts. These educators incorporate innovation and entrepreneurship into coursework, serve as CIE ambassadors within their discipline and help guide motivated students through the different entrepreneurial career paths. This year’s fellows were selected from a pool of applicants based on specific plans to introduce innovative measures into the classroom.

“Entrepreneurship has never been more important to Cal Poly and our region,” said CIE Executive Director John Townsend. “Our students are taking on today’s challenges with the creativity and passion to make a real difference. Our faculty fellows provide the inspiration and insights to make that a reality, whether our students take that entrepreneurial mindset into the workplace or launch their own startup company.”

The latest CIE Faculty Fellows include:

— Deb Donig is an assistant professor of English literature in the College of Liberal Arts. Her research and teaching focuses on ethical technology: technological understanding and practice that is equitable in process and outcome and that strives to serve human values. As a CIE fellow, she will focus on increasing diversity in tech culture and participation in entrepreneurship.

— Kim Lisagor Bisheff, a multimedia journalism lecturer who has taught classes in the College of Liberal Arts since 2004, will tackle the struggle to provide creditable and comprehensive news through her Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship course. She will incorporate ideas from environmental science, political science, computer science and business to inspire products that appeal to a broad population while strengthening the pipeline to CIE’s Hatchery and Accelerator programs.

— Laura Cacciamani, an assistant professor of psychology and child development in the College of Liberal Arts, plans to share how cognitive neuroscience provides insights into entrepreneurs, and how their brains are activated differently as well as their decision-making processes and creative approaches to problem solving. She plans to increase her own knowledge in this area and support psychology students with entrepreneurial interests.

— Andrew Lacanienta, an assistant professor in the Experience Industry Management Department of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, will spearhead the creation of a new Experience Journey program for the CIE portfolio. The program will prompt student innovators to think about live interactions, services, experiences in addition to products. He will also establish class content promoting participation in the CIE programs.

— Zachary Rentz, a lecturer in the College of Liberal Arts’ Philosophy Department, specializes in the ethics of emerging sciences and technologies. He will focus on how abstract and unrelated business concerns, such ethical issues, if undetected and unmitigated, can create significant legal, financial and public relations risks for new businesses.

The 2020-21 fellows join 24 colleagues: Hani Alzraiee, civil and environmental engineering; David Askay, communication studies; Philip Barlow, construction management; Lauren Cooper, mechanical engineering; Enrica Lovaglio Costello, art and design; Bob Crockett, biomedical engineering; Ahmed Deif, industrial technology and packaging; Dale Dolan, electrical engineering; Lorraine Donegan, graphic communication; Mary Glick, journalism; Brian Granger, physics; Christopher Heylman, biomedical engineering; David Janzen, computer science; Bo Liu, bioresource and agriculture; Lynn Metcalf, entrepreneurship; Stern Neill, marketing; Clare Olsen, architecture; Erik Sapper, Western Coating Technology Center, chemistry and biochemistry; Christiane Schroeter, agribusiness; Lynne Slivovsky, computer and electrical engineering; Taryn Stanko, management and human resources; Umut Toker, architecture; Javin Oza, chemistry and biochemistry; and Michael Whitt, biomedical engineering.

For more information on the CIE Faculty Fellows, visit

About the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
The CIE enriches talent and enables the dreams of Cal Poly students, faculty and community businesses across campus and throughout San Luis Obispo County. For more information, go to

Contact: Candice Conti

December 2, 2020

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Startup Companies Complete Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s Incubator Program at Cal Poly

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Three startup companies with more than a dozen employees and nearly $1.7 million in venture capital funding have completed the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s (CIE) HotHouse Incubator Program. All three companies plan to continue to grow their ventures in San Luis Obispo County.

“CIE provides a structured, two-year program for early-stage startups that includes all the resources needed to facilitate smarter, faster growth,” CIE 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 locally.”

The companies graduating from the CIE Incubator program include:

— NeoCharge is a sustainably driven company dedicated to enabling clean, easy and affordable home electrification. Their flagship product, The Smart Splitter, eliminates expensive electrical outlet installations for homeowners and renters when retrofitting homes with electric vehicle, or EV, charging and electric appliances that can cost several thousand dollars. The Smart Splitter includes an integrated software platform that synchronizes charging at times when energy is cleaner and less expensive. NeoCharge is currently working with EV charging companies, electric utilities and the automobile industry to reduce barriers to home electrification. (

— Roopairs’ easy-to-use software and cutting-edge technology streamlines communication and improves the relationship between small business owners and the service companies that repair and maintain their equipment and facilities. (

— De Oro Devices’ innovative technology aims to improve the quality of life for people afflicted with Parkinson’s disease. Their NexStride device utilizes audio and visual cues that are clinically proven to help individuals overcome the freezing of gait, one of the most common and debilitating symptoms of the brain disorder that leads to shaking, stiffness and difficulty with walking, balance and coordination. (

“The resources, mentorship, and peer support provided by the Cal Poly CIE incubator has been incredible for us as we started up here in SLO,” said Sidney Collin, CEO and co-founder of De Oro Devices, who graduated with a bachelor’s in biomedical engineering from Cal Poly in March. “I feel so lucky to have learned from and worked with such an incredible group of people. The networking opportunities opened up many doors for us and the consultants and mentors helped us solve problems.”

Since its inception in 2010, the CIE has promoted regional economic development. To date, these three companies have created 13 jobs, benefitted from 880 hours of one-on-one consultations and raised $1,695,000 in venture capital.

The CIE recently added five new startups to its 24-month Incubator Program. They join four other ventures that are in their second year and two other first-year firms, making a total of 11 startups now in the incubator program.

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.

“We are very proud of these three companies, graduating from our Incubator program this year. They are each solving real problems, and our world will be better for it,” said John Townsend, CIE executive director. “We have known these young entrepreneurs since their beginning.  And have been working with them along each step of their journey from the first spark to their first dollar. It’s what we do, and we couldn’t be prouder of their accomplishments to date, and more importantly, their prospects for a bright future.”

The CIE Incubator Program is open to the business community. Startups interested in applying for it, should visit

Contact: Candice Conti

October 15, 2020

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Cal Poly Senior Project and HotHouse Startup Leads to Device That Could Save Thousands of Mothers’ Lives

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Nine years after he started a senior project to treat post-partum hemorrhaging, Davis Carlin recently learned that his device had been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration, a crucial step that could save the lives of tens of thousands of women worldwide.

“The whole experience, especially with the recent FDA clearance, has been surreal,” said Carlin, who earned his degree in biomedical engineering in 2012. “I didn’t originally come to Cal Poly thinking I would help start a company or that I would get to be a part of something with the potential to have this kind of impact.”

Postpartum hemorrhaging is excessive bleeding following the birth of a baby. Excessive and rapid blood loss can cause a severe drop in the mother’s blood pressure and may lead to shock and death if untreated, according to the Mayo Clinic., one of the top-ranked medical facilities in the U.S.

“It’s the leading direct cause of maternal death in the world,” said Sara Della Ripa, now a lecturer in the Cal Poly’s Biomedical Engineering Department, who began working with the device as a student intern in 2016.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of reported pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. in 2016 was 16.9 deaths per 100,000 live births —–up from 7.2 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1987. From 2011 to 2014, the pregnancy-related mortality ratios for Black women were more than three times higher than for white women.

“Worldwide, women experience PPH in 10.8% of all deliveries, causing 186,500 deaths per year,” said Colby Holtshouse, chief operating officer of Alydia Health, which now owns the device. “And here in the U.S., we have the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world.”

In 2011, Carlin and fellow senior Alex Norred began working on a senior project that would address the problem.

“We were working with Path, a nonprofit global health organization based in Seattle, to develop a low-cost option for treating postpartum hemorrhage,” Carlin said. “The concept for this device was one of multiple pitches to Path as part of our design team process, and Path ultimately asked us to go a different route. Alex and I felt like the idea still had a lot of potential, so we decided to pursue it separately, with Path’s permission.”

Norred developed the initial concept and design, and he and Carlin worked with OB-GYNs to refine it. The system is a thin silicone tube that is placed in the uterus that creates a gentle vacuum to induce the postpartum contraction that normally occurs after childbirth.

“What was so brilliant about Alex’s original concept was how both novel and counterintuitive it was,” Carlin said. “Using a suction to stop the bleeding. Yet, if you thought about it, in terms of what the uterus needs to do to stop the bleeding, it also made complete sense.”

At the time, postpartum hemorrhaging was often treated with a device called uterine balloon tamponade, which inflates within the uterus.

“In their research process, the engineers came to understand this balloon was working in opposition to the natural and needed contraction of the uterus that occurs after childbirth,” Holtshouse said. “They conceived of vacuum as a gentle and physiologic method to contract the uterus and control bleeding.”

So the concept and design created by Carlin and Norred helped the uterus perform its normal function, Della Ripa said.

“It works with the physiology instead of against it,” she said.

Eventually, Carlin sought help from then-business student Jessie Becker and Nathan Bair, a medical device engineer based in San Luis Obispo, to form a startup, which would initially be called InPress Technologies.

Their idea was presented at the 2011 Innovation Quest, supported by the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), an annual competition that encourages innovators to pursue their ideas and help with the funding needed to launch their business. The team finished second. They went on to fine-tune their idea and eventually worked out of the HotHouse, which works with Cal Poly students and members of the public who have ideas for startups.

“CIE helps startups like this first and foremost by providing support and mentorship to the students before there is even a startup formed,” said Tom Katona, assistant professor of innovation and entrepreneurship.

The CIE’s 13- week Summer Accelerator program helped with further mentoring, connections, financial support and training.

“The program prepares them to transition from an innovative student project to an actual business venture,” Katona said.

After Carlin and Norred graduated and began their careers, other students, including Della Ripa, continued to work on advancing the device so it could be used on a wider scale.

Della Ripa, who would later perform fieldwork in Uganda, knew the device could make a difference.

“Up to 94 percent of deaths from postpartum hemorrhaging could have been prevented,” she said.

Eventually, others took up the cause, and InPress changed its name to Alydia Health. The company, now based in Menlo Park, named the device Jada and secured funding from investors while seeking FDA approval.

“There was always the question of, ‘But will this actually work?’” Carlin said. “And, thankfully, the clinical trials of the last several years have borne that out.”

After successful initial testing in Indonesia, further clinical testing of Jada took place in the U.S.

“The study enrolled 107 women at 12 leading hospitals across the United States, and bleeding was controlled in 94 percent of the cases, with a median time to bleeding control being three minutes after initiation of vacuum,” Holtshouse said.

The results were published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

“I personally think this device is going to make such a big difference in the world,” said Della Ripa, who aims to work on her own invention, which detects symptoms for postpartum hemorrhaging.

Cal Poly CIE to Host Virtual Demo Day Entrepreneur Event on Sept. 18

SAN LUIS OBISPO — The Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) will host its annual Demo Day that will showcase eight startups in a virtual event Friday, Sept.18

Company representatives, who ordinarily would pitch their respective startups in front of a live audience, will shift their presentations to a YouTube live stream.

The event culminates the CIE’s 2020 HotHouse Summer Accelerator program — an intense, three-month program that helps students and recent graduates who have developed new products and ventures. Representatives of the eight participating companies will give demonstrations and pitches to answer questions about their entrepreneurial efforts.

“I am so impressed with the inspiration and resilience of our student entrepreneurs throughout this 12-week program,” said Jose Huitron, CIE’s director of student innovation programs. “Their adaptability and resilience were in abundance this year in these unprecedented times, and Demo Day is an incredible opportunity to showcase how much these startups have progressed over the summer.”

The highly competitive summer CIE program provides $10,000 in seed money to each company, hands-on strategic business guidance from expert advisors and mentors, as well as weekly workshops with accomplished startup founders who guide the teams through a wide range of topics from design thinking to fundraising. The budding entrepreneurs also receive training, introductions to investors and resources to help their startups move forward.

The members of the 2020 cohort of CIE Accelerators, whose work with advisors to help to fine-tune the progress of their startups over the course of the program, will show how their hard work has paid off.

“The accelerator program has given us the guardrails we need to pivot, learn, and grow faster than we ever could on our own,” said Vince DeSantis, founder of startup Fruji. “Access to mentors and weekly workshops has been invaluable for our company development and ensures our questions never go unanswered.”

This year’s accelerator cohort includes a variety of industries and disciplines:

— Blueline Robotics is building the next generation of tactical robots for first responders. Their mission is to enable police and fire departments access to new life-saving technology.

— Bridge is increasing access to mental health services for those seeking care by connecting verified mental health professionals across all license types on a secure referral and messaging platform.

— CADU+ provides information to help navigate the accessory dwelling unit (ADU) process and connects homeowners with service professionals according to their preferences. Their mission is to provide the best experience for homeowners and builders, connecting them and service professionals with the best tools, resources and vendors.

— Fruji makes it easier for people to snack healthier. The company is re-defining the gelatin snack category by making the first of its kind all-natural, functional and convenient gelatin treats.

— Imperium believes the way that people work, learn and play is rapidly evolving. They support and encourage this evolution by demonstrating that the workable environment shouldn’t be limited by outdated reliance on Wi-Fi and power. They will do this with MO, Imperium’s Mobile Office that keeps all your devices charged and connected with an all-in-one portable charger and hotspot.

— Nova connects friends and family from throughout the world. Using blockchain technology, Nova provides a seamless, mobile, international payment platform.

— Perch protects lives and property by detecting wildfires in vulnerable and remote areas. They do this by distributing a network of sensors across the power grid to monitor the surrounding environment. The sensors are built for reliability and long-term wildfire protection applications. Perch detects and predicts wildfire progress in an effort to protect that which people hold dear: community.

— SNACK WITH SOPH is a healthy customizable snack subscription box delivered to your door. The boxes not only contain snacks derived from whole food ingredients but also create a place for members to gather and freely express themselves. Together, they are able to support clients’ successes and setbacks as well as highlight topics in the mental health space, eating disorder recovery and female empowerment.

Demo Day is sponsored by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Professional Corp., a law firm specializing in business, securities and intellectual property law, and Harvest Management Partners LLC, a global investment banking firm providing unique mergers and acquisitions services for technology companies. The event is free and open to the public; advance registration is required for the virtual event. For more information and to register, visit

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, go to

Contact: Candice Conti

September 9, 2020

Cal Poly Announces Virtual Summer Accelerator Programs for 2020 Cohort

SAN LUIS OBISPO — As California universities take their classes, incubator programs and even graduation ceremonies virtual, Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) is also taking its signature 12-week summer HotHouse Accelerator program virtually with eight new startups.

“Every summer, the CIE brings together a talented and motivated cohort of Cal Poly student entrepreneurs to help them launch their startup companies,” said CIE Executive Director John Townsend. “This summer is no exception. We are entrepreneurially minded and are built to thrive in uncertain times. We have prepared a great virtual program that will propel these young entrepreneurs’ businesses forward.”
The program provides selected teams with $10,000 in capital, and throughout the 12-weeks, the startups will work with their advisors, learn from expert speakers, engage with their cohort, and participate in skill-building workshops, office hours and much more.

The CIE Accelerator program will begin June 22. At its conclusion, participants will have the opportunity to debut their startups to the community during Demo Day, to be held Sept. 11.
The startups represent a variety of concepts, including tactical robotics for emergency responders, leveraging technology to connect health professionals, increasing productivity in co-working spaces, and providing access to healthy snacks on the go.

“We have an outstanding group of high-growth startups participating in this year’s accelerator,” said Jose Huitron, director of student innovation programs, who oversees the program. “We are excited to match these companies with mentors in their industries and make them part of the San Luis Obispo entrepreneurial ecosystem so they can grow and make a lasting impact locally and throughout the world.”

This year’s ventures include:
– Blueline Robotics provides emergency response teams with cost-effective tactical robotic solutions. It was developed by Geoffrey Smith, aerospace engineering, and Ryan Pfarr, a Cuesta College student.

– Bridge is a web-based collaborative networking service connecting licensed mental health professionals and providing them with an online directory, a referral management tool and a secure messaging platform. The platform was created by Nathan Brickman, agricultural communications; Ryan Murtaugh, biological sciences; Sam Rogers, art and design; and Fletcher Easton, Maxwell Taylor and Tim Newman, software engineering majors.

–  C[A]DU provides online service for homeowners, realtors and developers to add an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) to their properties and transform their underutilized garages and backyards into income. This service was conceived by Amirsalar Pardakhti and Nooshin Shafiee, both pursuing a master’s in architecture degree.

– Fruji is a lifestyle brand that seeks to reinvent the gelatin snack category by making it easier for people to choose nutritious, delicious organic snacks made with real ingredients that have functional benefits. It was created by Vince DeSantis, business administration, and Morgan McKean, graphic communication.

– Imperium strives to maximize the usability and productivity in coworking spaces by providing their customers with limitless access to power for their devices through a streamlined charging system. The team includes Jamie Jenkins, and Sierra Swanson, mechanical engineering; Dan Seplovich, industrial technology and packaging; Braden Coates and Patrick Schneider, aerospace engineering; Danielle Petrocelli, business administration; and Bradley Odell, electrical engineering.

– Perch is an intelligent sensing platform that leverages existing power grid infrastructures to accurately and efficiently measure local environmental conditions, supporting an abundance of potential applications, including early wildfire detection, smart governance and urban resilience. The platform is the brainchild of Emil Erickson and Michael Tuttle, electrical engineering; Reed Slobodin, computer engineering; and Virginia Yan, electrical engineering.

– Remit is a blockchain payment system that allows users to transfer money regardless of currency type through text messaging. The system was conceived by Kenny Lau and Eddie Aung, computer science, and Dandy Vo, computer engineering.
– Snack with Soph is a healthy snack subscription box delivered straight to your door. This service was crafted by Sophia Shapiro, business administration, and Matthew Allen, mechanical engineering.

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, go to
About the SLO HotHouse
The HotHouse is a community space for Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) off-campus programs. It was created through the efforts of Cal Poly, the city and county of San Luis Obispo, the business community and the CIE. The goal of the HotHouse is to support students and community members as they work to create new innovations and start business ventures. For more information, visit
Contact: Candice Conti
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HotHouse and HotHouse Annex Reopening Plan

Dear Members,

We miss you! We look forward to having everyone back when it is safe and appropriate to do so.

Your health and safety, as well as our employees, is our top priority. In anticipation of our reopening of the HotHouse and HotHouse Annex, we want to share with you the steps we are taking in preparation and to help set expectations for what you will experience upon return.

Keep in mind that we will reopen once the current shelter order is lifted and in compliance with the START Guidelines issued by the County (

In summary, we will be reopening and operating within restrictions that provide for social distancing, sanitation and personal hygiene.

General Restrictions
• Upon your first return to the HotHouse or HotHouse Annex, you will check-in at the front desk to sign an agreement stating that you have read and will abide by the guidelines.
• All visitors will need to check-in upon arrival, sign the agreement, and then be escorted by you to a reserved conference room.

Social Distancing
• All Members and their visitors must make every effort to remain 6 feet apart and wear a personal face mask when unable to do so.
• Assigned and Unassigned desks have been temporarily repositioned to allow for adequate social distancing. Do not move furniture without requesting assistance from a staff member.
• All unassigned desk Members must reserve a workspace prior to arrival.
• Conference room capacity has been temporarily reduced to allow for distancing (see signage posted on each conference room). Conference rooms will continue to be available by reservation.
• The Phone Booth and Wells Fargo Bank Phone office are available for use by reservation.
Bathroom capacity has temporarily been reduced to single-use. An interior lock has been installed to impose this restriction.
• The kitchen is only available to obtain water. Personal water bottles or single-use cups only. All non-disposable items have been temporarily removed.
• Private office capacity will be set at a level to meet distancing requirements. Accommodations will be provided to Members unable to work within their private office.
• Circulation arrows have been applied to hallway floors to mitigate clustering and maintain social distancing.

• Cleaning services have been increased in frequency and are utilizing increased strength supplies.
• Sanitation stations have been positioned immediately inside the Higuera Street entrance, at the top of the stairwell, in the kitchen, and inside each conference room.
• All Members are encouraged to use these stations upon arrival and throughout their day, as necessary.
• Wipe down surfaces and utilized items after the use of any common area.
• Staff will be sanitizing high touch surfaces throughout the day at 2-hour intervals or immediately upon vacating conference rooms.

• Do not come to the HotHouse or HotHouse Annex if you feel sick, exhibiting symptoms, or suspect you have been recently exposed to the virus.
• Non-essential travel is being discouraged. We appreciate it if you check back in with Staff upon return from any out of town travel.
• The staff has the right to prohibit access should any Member or Visitor exhibit symptoms or refuse to acknowledge and adhere to the guidelines.
• A face mask should be worn any time you are circulating through the office or occupying any of the common areas.

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