Business

SLO HotHouse to get $200,000 a year in county funds

Max Mero and Garrett Milster work on their start-up RapairTech while Tyler Wirght Chase-Nason, from Autonomous Surveyor, occupies the cubicle next to them at SLO Hothouse in 2012. The SLO Hothouse is an incubator for start-up companies launched by Cal Poly students and alumni.
Max Mero and Garrett Milster work on their start-up RapairTech while Tyler Wirght Chase-Nason, from Autonomous Surveyor, occupies the cubicle next to them at SLO Hothouse in 2012. The SLO Hothouse is an incubator for start-up companies launched by Cal Poly students and alumni. jmellom@thetribunenews.com

The SLO HotHouse, a small business incubator in San Luis Obispo founded by Cal Poly to help jumpstart new business ventures, is set to receive $200,000 annually from San Luis Obispo County.

The money — which will come from county contingency funds this year but will be worked into the economic development budget in subsequent years — will go a long way toward ensuring the HotHouse continues on a successful path, said Supervisor Adam Hill, who pushed for the annual county funds. The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors approved the funds Tuesday as part of its 2015-16 budget.

“This is a critical engine of economic prosperity,” said Hill. “To keep our community prosperous and dynamic, we need young companies doing innovative work. The HotHouse is something we can all be so proud of and support.”

The county is now SLO HotHouse's biggest source of funding, Hill noted.

The program, governed by Cal Poly's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, also receives $25,000 in annual support from the city of San Luis Obispo and $166,000 a year from the federal Small Business Administration to pay for the SLO HotHouse's free consulting services provided by the Cal Poly Small Business Development Center for Innovation. In addition, it receives some revenue from membership fees from co-workers and incubating companies. And Cal Poly pays for an employee to help with fundraising efforts and supports the SLO HotHouse's overhead.

The center hopes to receive about $150,000 from the local business community.

It costs the center about $690,000 annually to operate the program.

With the additional help from the county, SLO HotHouse will be able to expand its programming and help even more entrepreneurs connected to Cal Poly and the community to pursue their dreams.

SLO HotHouse, which will move into a new office space in downtown San Luis Obispo on June 15, offers $10,000 in seed money, hands-on mentorship and weekly workshops to help aspiring business owners.

A total of 17 new startups will join the SLO HotHouse summer accelerator program this month, and if all make it into the incubation program in the fall, there could be nearly 100 people in the new offices.

"We've validated that we're becoming a vehicle for economic development," said Judy Mahan, director of Cal Poly SBDC and incubator director of Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. "We see the HotHouse as a key piece of infrastructure development to support entrepreneurship, tech startups and small business innovation in our county."

Cal Poly will be asked to update the board on how the funds are being used once or twice a year, Hill said.

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