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Business and Economy

Startup Companies Complete Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Incubator Program

Students work on computers at a table.
Written By Candice Conti

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 (pictured above).
  • 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.