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Startups make virtual pitches in Cal Poly SLO competition

By   /   Friday, July 10th, 2020  /   Comments Off on Startups make virtual pitches in Cal Poly SLO competition

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Startup Atlas Alpha is awarded $120,000 in angel investor funding at AngelCon 2020, which was hosted by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Atlas Alpha, a San Luis Obispo startup building a marketplace and forum for hobbyists, netted $120,000 in funding from angel investors at the third annual Central Coast angel conference.

AngelCon 2020 saw virtual pitches from six regional startups and attracted nearly 200 virtual attendees June 30, connecting early stage companies with critical capital and community support.

For startups, “getting the first $100,000-$150,000 is the hardest thing,” said Judy Mahan, economic development director for the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which hosted the event. “Once they hit that milestone, it’s so much easier for them to leverage that.”

Winner Atlas Alpha developed an online platform for novice hobbyists to connect with their communities and a marketplace where they can find, compare and discuss products. The site has racked up more than 125,000 active monthly users and around $200,000 in monthly sales by retailers.

“Winning AngelCon 2020 and the investment capital is going to be monumental for our company,” Atlas Alpha CEO Trent Ellingsen said in a news release. “We have proven our model in the board game industry and now can effectively scale into other industries. I am also looking forward to guidance from the investor team.”

The event isn’t just for the winners, Mahan said. Participants from previous years have gone on to raise some $2 million in follow-on funding, while the people’s choice winner, a Thousand Oaks-based baby formula technology company called Baby Barista, raised more than $1,700 on its GoFundMe page during the live-streamed presentation.

Other startups included online budgeting software maker Wizefi and mobile software development firm memwris, both based in San Luis Obispo.

Presentations were also made by Goleta-based Spero, which makes flavorings using excess products from bioenergy production, and Green Light Labs, an electric vehicle advising company launched out of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

In addition to providing startups with access to early capital, AngelCon aims to connect with new investors each year, who then go on to participate in or form their own angel investment groups, Mahan said.

Atlas Alpha’s proof-of-concept site and positive cash flow were significant factors in the decision to invest, entrepreneur-turned-angel-investor Chad Kihm said in a video conference hosted by the CIE July 8.

“There’s a huge market size for what he’s doing,” Kihm said. “There’s definitely low hanging fruit for converting old user platforms into something that is more accessible and easily monetizable.”

Prior winner Del Oro Devices and Erik Kostelnik, CEO of San Luis Obispo startup, delivered keynote addresses at the forum.

The competition was hosted by the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Small Business Development Center and sponsored by Pacific Premier Bank.

CIE and SBDC programming have continued despite coronavirus restrictions with a hybrid summer accelerator, accepting eight new startups into its 2020 cohort.

The program will offer virtual training and workshop sessions, in addition to physical workspaces.

It also plans to host an online panel titled “Reinventing Your Business Model to Conquer COVID-19,” including breakout sessions for the retail, restaurant, health and wellness industries.

— Contact Marissa Nall at

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