Cal Poly students' startup Grappple is purchased by Los Altos company

jhickey@thetribunenews.comMay 22, 2013 

Grappple Inc., a hatchling of Cal Poly’s SLO Hothouse startup incubator, has been purchased by Los Altos-based tech company Whodini Inc. for an undisclosed sum.

The student-led tech company Grappple Inc. was created to allow users to share their goals and aspirations online with friends.

“Anything from trying a tri-tip sandwich at Firestone to climbing Mount Whitney was added to the platform when it was live,” said Kristin Kenney, media coordinator at the Cal Poly Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, which launched the Hothouse, in a recent email to The Tribune.

The Grappple, Inc. team is comprised of current Cal Poly student Ross McKelvie and four recent graduates: Garrett Lauringson, Alyssa Pelletier, Will Hitchcock and Nathan Mock.

Whodini, which provides online tools for individuals and groups within organizations to increase their productivity, acquired Grappple Inc.’s technology to incorporate into a new app called Goalchi, which is scheduled for release later this year, according to a recent news release. Goalchi will help users to benchmark and measure their work and life goals.

“The combination of Grappple’s technology with ours will enable us to offer our customers a richer, more intuitive application,” Whodini CEO Jim Chappell said in the release.

A call to co-founder Lauringson for comment was not immediately returned.

Cal Poly's Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship does not take a cut or equity in any student companies, so the student founders will receive all proceeds of the sale, Kenney said.

Grappple germinated from Startup Weekend SLO in early 2012, and it received funding and support as part of CalPoly’s HotHouse last summer.

HotHouse funding comes from the center's Founders’ Circle, composed of local business owners and Cal Poly alumni, and is typically $7,500, according to previous Tribune reports.

The support of Startup Weekend SLO and CalPoly’s HotHouse incubator program were key in positioning Grappple for the acquisition, Lauringson said in the news release.

“It’s really quite gratifying for all of us at Grappple to realize the fruits of our labor, and to know that the technology we developed as students will be instrumental in the future of what we believe will be a very successful new product offering with the introduction of the Goalchi app,” he said.

Grappple is not the first student-led technology company to be sold.

In 2011, Google purchased Punchd — a customer loyalty app developed by computer science students Reed Morse and Grantland Chew — for an undisclosed sum to incorporate into its Google Wallet system.

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