SLO HotHouse is a program within Cal Poly's Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE) and is managed by Orfalea College of Business. | Sophia Liu/Mustang News

Tram Nguyen
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Cal Poly is seeking a new home for its SLO HotHouse program, a location that would feature 6,000-10,000 square feet and residential space to house 40-80 upper-division students.

“The current HotHouse that we have downtown, we aren’t sure how long that location will be available,” said Doug Cerf, interim dean of Orfalea College of Business (OCOB). “We need long-term space for our HotHouse.”

SLO HotHouse is a program within Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE) and is managed by OCOB. To make room for San Luis Obispo’s Chinatown project, SLO HotHouse will have to end its current month-to-month sublease in approximately one year.

“At this point, we don’t know the specifics because we’re in the process of evaluating responses to our request of proposal,” Cerf said.

SLO HotHouse received responses from representatives of downtown property owners. The details are kept confidential during the evaluation process, according to Dru Zachmeyer, director of contract and procurement.

Ideally, the residential space for students will be in the same building as — or at least near — the SLO HotHouse offices to provide housing to entrepreneur-oriented students. However, all Cal Poly students are eligible to apply for housing in SLO HotHouse.

“The president is interested in seeing the HotHouse program grow, and knew that an important factor in achieving that goal would be to provide the students taking part in the program with a place to live adjacent to the program’s location,” university spokesperson Matt Lazier said.

Lazier said the HotHouse expansion draws support from the city and the community. It’s a collaboration between Cal Poly and other entities, he said.

“We want to see it flourish, as it links student success directly to the economic development of the region,” Lazier said. “That is an important model for the overall future success of Cal Poly.”

The current SLO HotHouse building at 955 Morro St. contains offices for startups founded by Cal Poly students and recent graduates.

Every summer, the program takes seven companies into its 12-week SLO HotHouse Summer Accelerator program in which student entrepreneurs receive intensive mentoring.

“They can apply to stay if they succeed,” said Jonathan York, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship and co-founder and director of CIE. “It’s free in the summer, but they rent space now and continue to build their businesses for a couple of years.”

SLO HotHouse does not take a share of the companies’ profits.

“Our goal is to create successful companies that will give back to Cal Poly when they’re successful, rather than take a share of their (profits),” York said.

He said the program is doing well, and there is a lot of diversity among the startups: They produce medical devices, materials and chemistry, food, apps and more.

Besides seeking a new HotHouse location downtown, Cal Poly will open a new CIE on campus in the fall for current students.

The on-campus center will be on the second floor of Cotchett Education (building 2) with a room for “hatchery.” Students who have applied can work on their businesses 24/7 in this room with the help from mentors and coaches, York said.

Another room in the center will be used for teaching, meetings and entrepreneurial innovation sessions.

“We have companies that are starting to really accelerate their growth and starting to get more customers,” York said. “And some of them are technology-oriented, so they’ve got to go through the process of product development and they’ve got to go through testing … but everybody’s making progress.”

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