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The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) is completing its fourth year at Cal Poly, but for the first time, it inducted a nonprofit into its 2014 SLO HotHouse Accelerator Program.
The non-profit, Swings for Dreams, builds safe play spaces for children in developing countries.
“Upon finishing our project, we truly realized the joy we could bring to a community simply by building a playground, and also the true enhancement of the quality of life that we brought to the entire community,” said landscape architecture senior Nicholas Tuttle, Swings for Dreams vice president and co-founder.
Swings for Dreams is one of eight student startups inducted into the CIE’s accelerator program at a forum called “The Startup Rollercoaster: Guts and Glory” on Monday night. Each startup had a different goal or service.
The accelerator program takes place for three months during the summer. Each student startup receives $7,500 in funding, works with mentors and participates in various actives meant to grow their businesses.
Home2o will help people configure their smarthouses to give them a more interactive experience. Tandemech Engineering built a wall-climbing robot named Otto, which started as a senior project for maintenance of Boeing 747s.
“Otto weights 30 pounds, can carry a full person while driving on the ceiling, and does so faster than you probably walked to lunch today,” founder and mechanical engineering graduate student Cameron Venancio said.
The idea for a content- and community-driven marketplace for climbing gear, MOJA Gear, owes its start to its co-founder’s trip to Vietnam. Business administration senior Sander DiAngelis went to Vietnam to work as a climbing guide and “sell experiences to people,” he said.
That idea translated to his startup.
He and co-founder Sara Roudebush, whom he met through the climbing community in San Luis Obispo, felt there was no real connection with online gear shops.
“Traditional retailers are carbon copies of each other,” Roudebush said.
They wanted to change that. The idea behind MOJA Gear is to take the personal experience one gets from local stores and apply it their online retail store that sells climbing apparel and gear.
“We wanted to bring that feeling, that vibe, online,” she said.
Another startup hopes to help people become more well-versed in wine culture. WineSav is a mobile application paired with a wine-tasting kit that aims to expand users’ home wine-tasting experience. WineSav uses an algorithm to identify the user’s tasting preferences, and then suggests wines for the user. The app makes it easy to purchase those wines from Albertson’s.
Lock N Load Liftgates is led by mechanical engineering senior Justin Russo, who developed a removable liftgate for pickup trucks that can lift approximately 1,000 pounds. They had one of their liftgates at the event.
Boost Acquisition aims to help car dealerships. A common job at dealerships is to look through online listings of people selling cars. Their job is to track the sellers down and try to buy the car. Boost Acquisition claims this is an ineffective process and hopes to automate the online search process by using search algorithms to find the best deal and present it to the sellers.
BeatStream, the winner of Startup Weekend in January, is essentially a Twitter or Instagram for music. The music-based social media website allows users to post their favorite songs and follow other users. The idea is to share music with their friends and stream music from the people they follow.
Co-founder of CIE and Cal Poly professor Jonathan York emceed the event, which took place at the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center Pavilion. He said CIE has had 24 startups complete its accelerator program in the past three years, and “15 or 16 of them are still pluggin’ away.”
Panelists at the event included John Greathouse, partner at Rincon Venture Partners; Lili Balfour, founder and CEO of Atelier Advisors; Jessie Becker, co-founder & CEO of InPress Technologies; and Kyle Wiens, co-founder and CEO of iFixit.
The CIE’s mission is to take students and turn them into “resourceful, entrepreneurial and innovative leaders” through hands-on and classroom experiences, according to its website.
Correction: This story originally misstated a quote by Cameron Venancio about the weight capacity of his robot design while traveling on the ceiling.