Engineering Student Teams Win VentureWell Startup Grants
December 09, 2015
Two student startups recently became Cal Poly’s first teams to receive $5,000 grants from VentureWell, a nonprofit that supports invention, innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education, government and philanthropy.
VentureWell defines an E-Team (entrepreneurship team) as a multidisciplinary group of students, faculty and industry mentors collaborating to bring a new product to market.
The winning Cal Poly teams, Higea Technologies and Mantis Composites, have been active participants in Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), which offers a wide range of programs to foster new student ventures. Both companies recently completed the CIE SLO HotHouse Summer Accelerator program, an intense 13-week program aimed at helping new ventures succeed.
Higea Tech, which uses magnetic nanotechnology to clean up oceanic oil spills in a faster, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly way, was launched last spring at CIE’s Innovation Quest competition, where the team won the $10,000 Parsons Innovation Award. Last month, it took the top prize at the 5th annual TechPitch, another program sponsored by CIE. The team was recently also accepted into the CIE SLO HotHouse Incubator program, a two-year program devoted to transforming businesses from start to sustainable
Higea Tech team members include Tanner Cook, chief executive officer, a mechanical engineering senior; Wyatt Nelson, product development director, an aerospace engineering senior; Morgan Gramling, director of fundraising, a recent environmental management and protection graduate; and Parker Sommerville, director of chemical development, a biochemistry junior. A new member of the team, Zoheb Mohammed, an industrial engineering graduate student, serves as the company’s business development director.
Mantis Composites aims to take rapid prototyping in new directions by using 3D printing technology to construct and print carbon fiber materials. They are also continuing to work with CIE through the Hatchery program, an on-campus program that fosters entrepreneurship initiatives among the student body.
“Our goal is to create functional components — such as lightweight brackets — not just prototypes,” said Michael Chapiro, the company’s chief technical officer and a materials engineering senior.
In addition to Chapiro, the Mantis Composites team members include aerospace students Ryan Dunn and David Zilar, the chief executive officer and chief operations officer, respectively; Michael DeLay, an electrical engineering major; and Ning Jeng, a bioresources and agricultural engineering major.
“These two teams’ selection for the E-Team Program is all the more impressive because most of the award recipients are from larger, major research universities, said Tom Katona, assistant professor of innovation and entrepreneurship and E-Team advisor. “What’s more, Cal Poly was the only school with two teams chosen to participate in the program.”
The E-Team Program includes funding, training and coaching. Participating teams will be eligible for an additional $20,000 grant for further development of their business models. In the final stages of the program, a small number of qualifying teams will have the opportunity to receive matching investment funding from VentureWell.
About the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
CIE opens a world of entrepreneurial opportunity to Cal Poly students and faculty members and promotes entrepreneurial activity, scholarship and dialogue across the university and throughout San Luis Obispo County.