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Recent mechanical engineering graduate Ivet Avalos and computer science master’s student Zeeshan Khan are helping runners move pain-free with their startup Zoetic Running.
“We’re trying to figure out how runners’ muscles are acting and reacting when they put pressure on their body [and] if there are any certain actions that cause pain or injury,” Khan explained. “Our solution will show [runners] how they can improve their form, improve their pain and run injury-free.”
The idea originated when Avalos and Khan took Experience Building a Startup, a Cal Poly senior project course in which business and engineering students spend three academic quarters building their own startup. Avalos and Khan, along with three other classmates, wanted to use the class as an opportunity to explore the pain points of runners.
“We interviewed a lot of runners and found how much of an issue injury was and how much [injured runners] hated being taken away from running,” Avalos said. “We started looking into the physiology and the causes of injury. We wanted to be able to provide people with a solution to minimize injuries.”
That solution came in the form of wearable injury-prevention technology.
The Zoetic Running team took their idea to the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) in April of 2021. They applied to Innovation Quest (iQ), an annual business plan and innovation competition hosted by the CIE, but were not accepted.
“After we got rejected from Innovation Quest, we were super disheartened, but we couldn’t give up,” Khan said. “We still had to finish our senior project. But as we started making progress, our passion for the project increased.”
Then, the Zoetic Running team learned of the CIE Summer Accelerator, an intensive, summer-long program that helps Cal Poly students and recent graduates turn their startup ideas into real, sustainable businesses.
“When we saw the application for the Accelerator program, it was just something that fit, and we were really excited,” Khan said.
He and Avalos applied to the program and were one of nine startup teams accepted.
The Summer Accelerator program connects participating startups with industry experts who provide mentorship and guidance. This mentorship is proving extremely valuable to the Zoetic Running team — as are the other teams involved in the program.
“Everything is a learning opportunity,” Khan said. “Sometimes you’re able to see how other people are working in their startups and learn what they’re doing right or what they’re doing wrong, then apply that same logic towards your startup.”
The Summer Accelerator also provides participating teams with a workspace in the CIE office known as the SLO HotHouse, located in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo. The HotHouse is filled with high energy throughout the summer, with startup teams using their provided office space to brainstorm, work and collaborate.
The HotHouse, according to Avalos, is filled with “people who are really passionate and excited, so it’s a fun environment to be in.”
Working out of the HotHouse also gives the Zoetic Running team easy access to CIE resources, which helps them grow their startup quickly and efficiently.
“We’re able to make mistakes in a confined space with the resources we need to move forward with our project,” Khan said.
Zoetic Running is still in its early stages, working on research and development and interviewing prospective customers. Avalos and Khan are looking forward to developing their startup idea into a full-fledged business. Both are eager to create a viable product for consumers and help runners move pain-free.
“I’m really excited to get people using our products,” Avalos said. “I’m excited to see if [consumers] actually like what we came up with and how they interact [with our product]. I’m really excited to get to that stage.”