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Is San Luis Obispo the Next Silicon Valley?

Donica Forensich
February 9th, 2016

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Entrepreneurs in the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) are giving Silicon Valley entrepreneurs a run for their money in turning out smart, experienced, knowledgeable and energetic entrepreneurs through a number of programs, including its SLO HotHouse Incubator Program. Paradigm Counsel has enjoyed working with these entrepreneurs.  Paradigm Counsel currently represents at least 8 of the 15 companies now in the Cal Poly CIE SLO HotHouse Incubator Program.  Through a variety of hands-on, innovative programs, the CIE provides students and members of the San Luis Obispo (SLO) community with the opportunity to acquire tools and develop skills to support their entrepreneurial spirit. When we have visited the Cal Poly CIE, we can feel the energy radiating throughout the office from the young entrepreneurs buzzing about the incubator in downtown SLO.

Paradigm Counsel works with these young entrepreneurs who are looking to find legal advisors to educate and partner with them as they launch their businesses. We have worked with a number of the companies in the CIE’s SLO HotHouse Accelerator and SLO HotHouse Incubator programs to provide legal services ranging from formation to funding, as well as advising on privacy policies, terms of use, commercial contracts and other corporate matters. It is refreshing to see the energy, passion and drive in these entrepreneurial-minded young founders as they absorb legalese and learn all they can in order to properly run and operate their businesses.

One Paradigm Counsel client in the SLO HotHouse Incubator program is App Scrolls, which builds and maintains online communities for mobile gaming developers. Chad Kihm, co-founder and CEO of App Scrolls, had this to say about his experience working with Paradigm Counsel: “Just like many new startups, we were not well versed in legal procedures in starting and maintaining a business. Paradigm Counsel was patient and effective in getting our business started off on the right foot legally. If we had used another firm, we may have ran into some expensive snafus like other startups in our accelerator program did.”

In order to prepare students like Chad Kihm and his colleagues to join the likes of the Mark Zuckerberg’s of the world, the CIE offers programs that help students explore and cultivate their ideas. Savvy investors will certainly benefit from the knowledge and skills these young entrepreneurs gain through the CIE programs where students enjoy the opportunity to learn what it takes to be an entrepreneur by accompanying in-class instruction with various hands-on learning project-based activities. Such programs include Innovation Sandbox, which equips students with the state-of-the-art technological and prototyping tools necessary to further explore and flesh out their ideas, and the Elevator Pitch Competition, where students compete for cash prizes by giving a 90-second pitch to a panel of entrepreneurs.

Once students are ready to launch their ideas into the business world, they have the opportunity to apply to the SLO HotHouse Accelerator program, which provides mentoring, funding and other resources to kick start their business during a 13-week program. After participating in the SLO HotHouse Accelerator, student-led businesses may apply to participate in the SLO Hot House Incubator, which is a two-year program that provides these entrepreneurs with the opportunity to continue to build and develop their businesses.

Chad Kihm had this to say about his experience with the Cal Poly CIE programs, “I’ve participated in the Elevator Pitch Competition, Innovation Quest, the SLO Hothouse Accelerator program, and the SLO Hothouse Incubator program. The Elevator Pitch Competition and Innovation Quest were the perfect opportunities for me to test out my entrepreneurship skills and passion to see if I was cut out for it. After placing in both competitions, I was motivated to pursue my idea full time, and apply to the Accelerator Program. Through professional seminars and hands on advisors, the Accelerator program taught us how to get our business up and running quickly.”

The SLO HotHouse programs not only provide office space in their new 15,000 square foot office, but no-strings attached start-up capital, as well as access to mentors and consultants to assist the participants in growing their businesses.  As a legal advisor to many of the companies in the SLO HotHouse programs, Paradigm Counsel makes a big impact by educating and assisting these entrepreneurs as they navigate the formation and fundraising processes. Investors will undoubtedly find value in the skills, tools and experience gained by these entrepreneurs through the CIE programs, including the top-notch legal advice a number of the SLO HotHouse companies received from Paradigm Counsel from formation.

Currently, the companies in the CIE SLO HotHouse Incubator program offer products and services in the software, medical device, mobile gaming, smart home, recyclable and eco-friendly solutions, and wine and spirit industries. Paradigm Counsel is pleased to include the following SLO HotHouse companies in its client roster: App Scrolls, Bishop Peak Technologies, Boost Acquisition, Bottlefly, Higea, Reduce. Reuse. Grow., The Cardboard Guys, Upward Automation and Wild Coast Spirits.

The CIE SLO HotHouse recently graduated the first few companies from its Incubator program.  Of the first few graduates, several have received, or are in the process of receiving, funding from venture capital firms and angel investors.  Silicon Valley firms are well poised to investigate and explore the startups being incubated in the Cal Poly CIE programs.  Based on Paradigm Counsel’s experience with these companies, we have no doubt that investors may just find the “it company” coming out of the CIE programs.  For more information about Paradigm Counsel, please visit us at:, and for the CIE, please visit its website at:

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