Two Cal Poly students took home cash prizes in this year’s Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) 12th annual Elevator Pitch Competition. 

Cal Poly’s industrial engineering senior Surya Venugopal and business administration junior Sara Dada won $1,000 and $500, respectively.

This year’s competition was held at the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center on Nov. 2 with nearly two dozen applicants from Cal Poly, Cuesta College and Allan Hancock College. The final round included nine student entrepreneurs.

Students were given 90 seconds to pitch their startups to a panel of judges based on the following criteria: how well the problem or opportunity was explained; innovation and creativity; clarity and direction; and whether the pitch was persuasive.

Dada received the $500 Audience Choice Award after pitching her app “Beacon.” The app is a proactive safety tool designed to help prevent violence before it occurs on college campuses. 

Dada said that she entered the competition just hours before the deadline, and was pleasantly surprised with a win. 

“I was so excited,” Dada said. “I had friends in the audience cheering me on, and I was grinning ear to ear.”

Dada said her and her team have been working with CIE’s Hatchery Startup Program during the fall quarter and have used the prize money for developments on the app. 

Venugopal won for his XCredit startup idea, a peer-to-peer platform that allows users to build an entirely new credit score by fulfilling payment requests.

“A lot of students are struggling to build credit, especially low-income students, and so we saw an opportunity to create strong social change,” Venugopal said. 

Venugopal said that his team has put the $1,000 directly back into the application, as the team continues to build the app in preparation to get XCredit on the market

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