Cal Poly San Luis Obispo


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.

Cal Poly CIE SBDC open to help small businesses prepare for impact of COVID-19

March 31, 2020

Contact: Liz Fisher

SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA- The Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Small Business Development Center (SBDC) remains open and available remotely to small business clients in order to assist with the impact of COVID-19. SBDC staff and consultants are standing by to help you navigate available resources, answer your business questions and be a trusted partner for your business.

The Cal Poly CIE SBDC can help guide businesses through resources, supply chain interruptions and other workforce concerns. Visit to register as a client at no cost.

Resources are available on a federal and state level. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will provide disaster assistance loans to small businesses impacted by COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided an interim guide for businesses and employees to prevent workplace exposure.

“There are invaluable resources available through the Cal Poly CIE SBDC and our numerous local business development agencies to support business owners in managing the economic crisis spurred by COVID-19, both financial aid and immediate consulting support,” said Judy Mahan, Cal Poly CIE SBDC economic development director.  “We would like to strongly encourage business owners to reach out; with our consultant team, we are here to help and guide them in any way we can.”

For more information or to learn more about how SBDC can help your business, visit


About the Cal Poly CIE Small Business Development Center

The Cal Poly CIE Small Business Development Center is funded in part through a subcontract between Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the city of San Luis Obispo and UC Merced, under the current cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBDC is a top resource for business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs, offering no-cost, expert one-on-one business consulting, training and online courses in startup assistance, debt and equity funding, sales and marketing, international trade and product commercialization. For more information or to register as a client visit



COVID-19 Message from the CIE Executive Director

Dear CIE Family and Friends,

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered uncertainty and complications in the entrepreneur community that you no-doubt have been grappling with over the past few weeks. We know it’s been hard. This medical crisis is unprecedented. But know that despite these stormy and uncharted waters, the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) is here to champion the entrepreneurial spirit.

While the SLO HotHouse and HotHouse Annex remain closed to protect our CIE community, we continue supporting our students, companies, alumni and coworkers. Instead of our typical in-person events or classes, this spring we plan to virtually host many of our events, programs and resources, and we invite you to join us for as many as possible. We will be sharing news and updates via our social media channels and email newsletters.

If you are a San Luis Obispo County business needing assistance because of unexpected revenue loss resulting from the COVID-19 virus, our Cal Poly CIE Small Business Development Center can help.

The CIE SBDC can assist in finding numerous funding sources to support your business and employees. The center’s task force is made up of expert business consultants who will guide you through the application process for the Small Business Administration’s disaster loan program, which is offering low-interest federal disaster aid to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

We are here to help!

For more details on how the SBDC can help your business, email If you have questions about a specific CIE event or program or if you need additional information, please email us. For ongoing updates related to coronavirus, COVID-19 and its impact on Cal Poly and our community of entrepreneurs, please visit

Remember, we are your community. Together, we will weather this global medical maelstrom and when the sun returns emerge stronger than ever.

With warm regards,

John Townsend, CIE executive director, and the CIE team

CIE Response to the COVID-19 Public Health Concern

Hello, SLO HotHouse and HotHouse Annex members,

Our first and most important priorities are the well-being and safety of our Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship SLO HotHouse and HotHouse Annex coworking members and incubator companies. We want to share facts, safety and health tips to help decrease any feelings of anxiety or panic that our members may be experiencing because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Although some of this information may already be known, we believe over communication at this time is probably not a bad thing.

While currently, there are no known cases in San Luis Obispo County, according to the County of San Luis Obispo Public Health Department, and the risk to residents in San Luis Obispo County remains low, we want to assure all of you that the CIE is planning and working closely with Cal Poly, the County of San Luis Obispo Public Health Department and state and federal health authorities because of the safety, health and wellbeing of all members and visitors is a primary commitment for us.

Symptoms of reported COVID-19 cases are similar to flu, including fever, coughing and shortness of breath, according to the CDC. The vast majority of cases have presented as mild illnesses. Symptoms may appear as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. At the same time, flu continues to circulate in our community.

Prevention is key. Whether it’s a coronavirus, flu, or a cold, handwashing with soap and water continues to be the best way to protect against the virus.


What is the CIE doing to prevent the spread of infection?

Since prevention and handwashing is key to prevent the spread of viruses including COVID-19, signage about proper hand-washing techniques are or are being posted in every restroom in the SLO HotHouse and inside the HotHouse Annex. Custodians have modified their work practices so the first thing they do when servicing a space or a restroom is to sanitize common-touch surfaces with higher strength cleaners: doorknobs, paper towel dispensers, toilet paper dispensers and faucets.

Our CIE team is working to acquire a more significant stock of hand sanitizer to have available to members. The team is also making sure we have adequate stock of custodial products to meet increased demand and will also replace all reusable utensils, plates and cups with one-time use products that can be thrown away.

What is coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)? 

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Coronavirus is a type of virus that causes diseases ranging from the common cold to more serious respiratory disease. It was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. The CDC reports that patients with this novel coronavirus have mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. Severe illness is more common in people with underlying health conditions or weakened immune systems, as well as older adults.

How do I protect myself from coronavirus?
The best way to protect yourself against coronavirus is to wash your hands frequently especially before eating; cover your coughs and sneezes; and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. In addition:

Treat yourself well:

• Eat healthily.
• Maintain good sleep habits.
• Manage stress.
• Drink plenty of fluids.

Make it hard for viruses to spread:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash; or cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
• Influenza is still present in our community. Please check with your healthcare provider whether obtaining the influenza vaccine is advisable for you.

Think of yourself and others:

• Please contact your personal medical provider immediately if you are not feeling well
• Work from home and reduce contact with others until your symptoms subside.

Is there a vaccine for coronavirus? Does the flu shot help prevent it?

There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to take everyday preventive actions, like avoiding close contact with people who are sick and washing your hands often. (Source: )

Who is most at risk of getting sick?

People of all ages can be infected by the new coronavirus. Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, emphysema, diabetes, or heart disease among other conditions) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus. (Source:

Should I wear a mask?

A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms. This is to protect others from being exposed to the virus. CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. The use of facemasks is recommended for health workers and those caring for someone infected with COVID-19 in close settings, e.g., at home or in a health care facility. (Source:

Where can I get more information?
For more information on coronavirus, please visit the following websites:

Is there a CIE HotHouse ban on travel?
CIE and Cal Poly are following recommended guidelines from the County of San Luis Obispo Public Health Department to minimize our community’s exposure risk. The county has advised that travelers refrain from returning to the SLO HotHouse or the HotHouse Annex for 14 days after leaving the following affected countries: China, South Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran. In addition, we strongly advise against travel to these areas to minimize the risk of exposure.

What should CIE HotHouse members do if they return from an affected area?

CIE is asking our incubator companies and community members to delay their return to the SLO HotHouse and the HotHouse Annex for 14 days if they have traveled to the following countries: China, South Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran. In addition, we strongly advise against travel to these areas to minimize the risk of exposure and/or disruption of course work.

What should we do about attending events and large gatherings?

Governor Gavin Newsom announced last night that California public health officials have issued an updated policy on gatherings to protect public health and slow the spread of COVID-19. The state’s public health experts have determined that gatherings should be postponed or canceled across the state until at least the end of March. Non-essential gatherings must be limited to no more than 250 people, while smaller events can proceed only if the organizers can implement social distancing of 6 feet per person. Gatherings of individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should be limited to no more than 10 people, while also following social distancing guidelines.

We know this is a very challenging time for everyone, but we are committed to getting through this situation together. If you should have any additional questions regarding COVID-19, please contact Candice Conti, CIE Marketing and Communications Director, at

With warm regards,
The CIE Team

Cal Poly Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship Adds New Faculty Fellows to Inspire Startups and Innovation

New cohort includes three College of Engineering faculty members and one from the College of Science and Mathematics

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship has added four educators to its Faculty Fellows advisor program to inspire startups.

The latest fellows include College of Engineering faculty members Hani Alzraiee (civil engineering) Lauren Cooper (mechanical engineering), Chris Heylman (biomedical engineering) along with Javin Oza (chemistry and biochemistry) from the College of Science and Mathematics.

The CIE was formed in 2010 to provide students with the tools needed to develop the skills and cultivate the mindset of an entrepreneur. Since then, more than 100 startups have been created, along with over 1,000 jobs.

Cooper said that becoming a faculty fellow will provide her the skills to infuse more entrepreneurship and innovation into her classes.

“I became a faculty fellow because innovation excites me — I love coming up with crazy ideas!” Cooper said. “For me, the community of CIE faculty fellows and students feels like a ‘safe’ place to share my ideas and encourage the ideas of others.”

The CIE Faculty Fellow program began in 2012 to help build the university’s entrepreneurship culture. Many fellows bring their own startup and innovation experience to the assignment.

“Our technical expertise and frequent interaction with members of industry can help us to guide students to best identify needs in the market to pursue,” Heylman said. “Additionally, many of the CIE faculty fellows are former and/or current entrepreneurs themselves, who have walked the same path and can share their best practices and missteps with students.”

Teaching biomedical senior design and fostering the development of potential new products, Heylman has witnessed plenty of student potential — and is excited to nurture it even more.

“I’ve had the opportunity to see some of the technology and devices designed and manufactured in senior design continue their development as part of student-founded businesses,” he said.

While many students have excellent ideas that can lead to businesses, Alzraiee said, they often need help – something faculty fellows can provide.

“Many students are not aware of the available resources at Cal Poly in the area of innovation and entrepreneurship,” he said. “As a CIE faculty fellow, I am looking to direct our students to these opportunities and help them break the silo so they can build stronger and more collaborative relationships with students and faculty from other departments.”

The CIE also encourages faculty fellows to work with each other. Cooper, for example, is already working with fellows from architecture and agribusiness on a project designing spaces that will encourage mental wellness.

While that is a specific idea, Cooper said, students don’t need to come to CIE with a solid plan.

“Students can join the community without needing to have some ‘big idea,’” Cooper said. “They can come with just a curious spirit and a desire to learn about innovation, entrepreneurship — and to find new friends.”

The real-world experience students get at the CIE helps instill an entrepreneurial mindset that will be helpful even if they don’t launch startups, said John Townsend, CIE’s executive director.

“That mindset makes them more resourceful, collaborative and emotionally ready to be a highly valued member at their employer of choice,” Townsend said.

At the same time, several businesses have sprung from the CIE that could have a wide impact. Those include Flume, which has created a device to help customers measure water usage; NeoCharge, which offers a way to share power between an electric car and a clothes dryer; and De Oro Devices’ product that helps patients with Parkinson’s disease overcome a condition, known as “freezing of gait,” that impacts their ability to walk.

While CIE works with students from all colleges, engineering students are most represented, he said.

“Engineering students work with their peers from each of the other colleges to solve real problems,” he said. “It’s a powerful combination of talent with no bounds to success.”

Engineering is also well represented among faculty fellows with Bob Crocket (associate dean for innovation infrastructure, 2012-13), Dale Dolan (electrical, 2014-15), David Janzen (computer science, 2015-16), Lynne Slivovsky (computer engineering, 2016-17), and Michael Whitt (biomedical, 2018-19).

Photo information: The newest faculty fellows at Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship include four faculty members from the Cal Poly’s College of Engineering, from left, Chris Heylman (biomedical engineering), Lauren Cooper (mechanical engineering), Javin Oza (chemistry and biochemistry) and Hani Alzraiee (civil engineering).

Contact: Candice Conti

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

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Nine startup companies with more than three dozen employees raised over $4.1 million in capital and successfully completed the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Incubator program. Seven of the companies plan to continue to grow their ventures in San Luis Obispo County.

“The CIE Incubator program was essential in helping us raise $1.25 million and in pairing us with consultants who provided invaluable knowledge on web development, marketing and financial matters,” said Haley Pavone, founder and CEO of Pashion Footwear. “Being part of the incubator allowed us to launch this company remarkably fast and on a remarkably tight budget.”

The CIE Incubator is a two-year program designed to help startup companies get off the ground and become financially stable, high-growth enterprises. The program is open to students and community members. It provides expert counseling, mentorship, workshops, monthly peer-to-peer roundtable discussions, an advisory board for each startup, participation in pitch events, and seed-funding resources.

“Startups play a critical role in the growth of our economy,” said CIE Economic Development Director Judy Mahan. “We are proud to drive entrepreneurship forward, and we are committed to building an environment that will help nurture innovative ideas and facilitate success. After working closely with these companies over the course of their development, we are excited to see where the future takes them.”

The companies graduating from the CIE Incubator program include:

— Arkitu, a software for farmers markets. (
— DTE Materials, which manufactures hemp-based, high-performance, nontoxic and sustainable building insulation material. (
— Inspired Flight Technologies, a U.S.-based manufacturer of commercial unmanned aerial systems for industrial drone applications. (
— Motoroso, a market network website to help automotive enthusiasts plan, build and share their dream vehicle projects. Motoroso helps enthusiasts find inspiration through content and purchase parts through the first dedicated marketplace for the $80 billion auto enthusiast segment. (
— Pashion Footwear, an innovative fashion-tech company that has created the world’s first fully convertible high heels. (
— PolyRents, which bolts on to landlords’ existing tenant acquisition process, giving landlords the data they need to find the best tenants and avoid costly property damage and evictions.
— Savvy Leadership Academy, an educational and retail company with a mission to empower today’s youth with the tools they need to become tomorrow’s leaders. Fun and engaging products help children develop social and emotional learning, build confidence, and reinforce life skills through peer interaction and mentorship.
— The Lens, which democratizes the news but tells global stories from local perspectives. (
— Wildnote, a platform that replaces manual processes with automation to better manage environmental compliance. (

Startups participating in the incubator program are able to utilize all CIE resources available in the SLO HotHouse and HotHouse Annex, such as office space, conference rooms, an invaluable peer network, and the Cal Poly Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which in 2018 helped companies raise $21 million in capital.

“The CIE gave us a place to work, along with crucial advice on how to go from an idea to an actual company, and helped us stay focused,” said Marc Stollmeyer, CEO and co-founder of Inspired Flight Technologies.

Startups interested in applying for the incubator program, should go to

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

Contact: Candice Conti

December 10, 2019

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:


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