Business Matters

2018 Angel Conference

Two Cal Poly students recently won $100,000 to help get their startup off the ground. 

The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in association with the Cal Poly Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CIE) held the Central Coast’s first Angle Conference at the Alex Madonna Expo located 100 Madonna Rd, San Luis Obispo on March 29. The gathering was sponsored by Pacific Premier Bank.

John MacFarlane gave the keynote address. MacFarlane recently stepped down as chief executive from the wireless speaker giant Sonos. The Santa Barbara based company, founded by MacFarlane, reportedly did a billion dollars in revenue in 2017.

The event featured several companies representing regions from the Bay Area all the way down to Santa Barbara and gave them the chance to pitch their ideas to over 200 attendees and offered them a chance to win $100,000 in angel-backed investments. These types of funds differ from venture capital in that they seek a return of shares of companies opposed to a hard cash return.

Each investor contributed $6,000 to a fund set-up as a limited liability company (LLC). About 60 percent of investors are local to San Luis Obispo County, 30 percent are from Santa Barbara County and 10 percent are from Fresno County.

Six selected finalists delivered their ideas to the crowd in hopes not only to win the grand prize, but also to present their business models to a room packed with potential investors.

Among the startups was, a company that helps gearheads plan, build and share their automotive projects. The innovative company gathers shops, parts and like-minded users into one place to help them achieve their mechanical dreams. Alex Littlewood, founder, CEO and automotive enthusiast, sold his house to fund the early days of the company. 

“The automotive industry – something I’m really passionate about – was desperate for something like this,” said Littlewood, “so I started poking around and looking around and, literally, no one was really doing it.” 

The winner of the $100,000 was Ulzi (pronounced ool-zee). Created by Maxwell Fong and Elan Timmons originally as an online platform where people can share their stories of sexual assault. As a result to the overwhelming response the website received, the company has set a goal to create an app that helps people stay safe.

Currently in development, the application promises to alert the police or other uses nearby if an assault is taking place. The company says that the product will turn on video and listening functions on a handheld device as well as inform local law enforcement of the user’s GPS coordinates.

The company also says that the application will send out a “yellow alert” to users in the vicinity to help the sender escape an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation. This gives a person another option instead of calling 911, especially if they situation does not demand an emergency response. For example, a college student feels intimidated by someone and just needs a “friend” to come along and help them out of the situation while avoiding escalating the confrontation.

By Mark A. Diaz

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