Cal Poly names executive director of Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Tod Nelson
Tod Nelson Courtesy photo

A former Amazon employee and businessman has been named Cal Poly’s first executive director of the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship.

Tod Nelson begins his new position on July 1. He’ll be responsible for helping to grow the program by representing the center to supporters, alumni and the local business community.

The CIE helps Cal Poly students and alumni to start a company. The center will also help those who don’t have university ties to grow their businesses through program resources in its HotHouse — which include seed money, hands-on mentoring and office space.

Money allocated by the county will help support the growth of companies not connected with Cal Poly.

“Tod’s extensive industry experience and passion for student success puts him in the perfect position to lead the CIE,” said Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong in a statement. “The CIE is Learn by Doing in action, and its programs energize the entire campus.”

Nelson began his career at Amazon in 1995 as one of the company’s first 10 employees. He helped launch Amazon Music and Video store in Germany and participated in a launch of Amazon Music and Video in the United States.

Nelson has worked a business consultant coaching new companies through the startup process while designing e-commerce and social media marketing strategies.

Nelson will work closely with CIE co-founder Jonathan York and Judy Mahan, director of Cal Poly’s Small Business Development Center, to build on programming and help aspiring entrepreneurs connect to Cal Poly and achieve their goals.

The appointment takes place as the CIE’s SLO HotHouse moves into expanded office space above Ross Dress for Less on Higuera Street.

The program is adding 17 new startups to join the SLO HotHouse summer accelerator program this month, a 13-week summer program. The startups will have the opportunity in September to pitch ideas to investors.

“If all make it into the incubation program in the fall, there could be as many as 25 startups working in the new space,” said Candice Conti, the center’s communications manager.

An additional 20 companies are operating in the two-year incubator program that facilities the growth of those businesses.

Nelson has recently served as an entrepreneur in residence for the program and a lead mentor for CIE student programs; he also has taught introductory entrepreneurship courses in Cal Poly’s Orfalea College of Business.

The CIE includes 12 entrepreneurial programs and a large network of innovators.

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