Cal Poly College of Engineering Graduates Win Big at CSU Startup Competition

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Written by Sullivan

July 16, 2023

Emily Gavrilenko, center, who graduated in December with a master’s in computer science, won first prize and $25,000 for her business Ryde during the Sunstone CSU Startup Launch Competition at San Jose State University.

Two engineering entrepreneurs from Cal Poly won a combined $35,000 for their emerging businesses – Ryde and X-Adapt – during the inaugural California State University startup launch competition on May 5 at San Jose State University. 

The Sunstone CSU Startup Launch Competition is a groundbreaking partnership between the CSU system and Sunstone Management – an international investment firm based in Long Beach – designed to support and fund innovative startups created by CSU students. 

Emily Gavrilenko, of Antioch, California, who graduated in December with a master’s in computer science, won first prize and $25,000 in the service track for her business Ryde – a carpooling marketplace that allows college students in California to buy and sell empty seats in their car. 

Evan Lalanne, of Arroyo Grande, California, who graduated in December with a bachelor’s in manufacturing engineering, placed second in the product track, winning $10,000 for X-Adapt – a modified electric unicycle that allows people with disabilities to access rough terrain like hiking trails.  

Thirty-six teams from 18 CSU campuses competed in the only competition of its kind that focuses on rewarding the business acumen of CSU entrepreneurs. 

The contest required participants to make an 8-minute pitch before a panel of judges followed by a question-and-answer session, according to Gavrilenko. 

“I was more nervous for the award ceremony than the competition itself because I wanted to call and tell my co-founders that we had won first place,” she said. 

Once Gavrilenko was indeed named the top winner in her track, she called co-founders Johnny Morris, an experience industry management graduate, and Josh Wong, a computer science senior, to tell them the good news. 

“We were all screaming together on the phone,” she said. 

The trio founded Ryde in January 2022 to connect California college students who are traveling in the same direction so they can travel hundreds of miles, affordably and comfortably, according to Gavrilenko. 

“We’ve built a community of riders and drivers, and we want to be the go-to travel option for college students,” she said. 

The Ryde website launched in March 2022 and became available on the App Store in October 2022. By March 2023, users could download the app on Google Play. More than 3,500 Cal Poly students, or 16% of the campus community, have signed up for Ryde and have collectively traveled more than 500,000 miles.

Since October, Gavrilenko, Morris and Wong have been part of the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship’s incubator program, which helps early-stage companies develop into financially stable, high-growth enterprises by supplying tools, training and infrastructure. 

Funds from the Sunstone CSU Startup Launch Competition will pay for marketing efforts, incentive programs and product development. One of the new features will be a rating system similar to Airbnb’s five-star system and a profile redesign, according to Gavrilenko. 

She added Ryde will expand to another California college in the fall, with more campuses to follow. 

“SLO is a great community for starting a company, and I think we can go far,” she said.

Name Your Price Dog Adoption Fees

Woods Humane Society hopes to help more dogs get out of kennels, into homes, and on to summer adventures with the flexible adoption fee promotion, Adopt Your Adventure Buddy. Through July 17, adopters can pick their own price (SLO County dog license, $31, not included) for the adoption fee of any dog over five months of age.

“This time of year, especially following the 4th of July holiday, shelters across the region see an influx of stray dogs entering their kennels and are in even more need of our help to transport and find loving homes for adoptable canines,” says Woods Humane Society CEO Emily L’Heureux. “Meanwhile, due to the busy summer travel season, dog adoptions tend to decrease this time of year, leaving us with less capacity to accept intakes than we’d like.”

L’Heureux says that many of the dogs available for adoption at Woods are born adventure partners, eager to run, play, and frolic in the sun with their forever families. “The summer is an incredible time to bond with a newly adopted dog, and we hope that offering a flexible adoption fee during our Adopt Your Adventure Buddy promotion will encourage local families to consider inviting a dog into their homes and on their outdoor excursions this summer, and beyond.” 

Adult dog adoption fees at Woods Humane Society are regularly $150. All adoptable pets have been spayed/neutered, vaccinated, microchipped, and treated for parasites. Adoptions come with a free health check at a local veterinary clinic and the option to enroll in a month of complimentary pet insurance.

To see Woods’ adoptable dogs, or for more information about Woods, go to Woods Humane Society is located at 875 Oklahoma Ave., San Luis Obispo, and at 2300 Ramona Rd., Atascadero and can be reached by telephone at (805) 534-9316.

Post-Pandemic Customer Support Offered by PG&E

In response to COVID-19, PG&E implemented a series of emergency protections for customers including a moratorium on energy service disconnections. While disconnections for non-payment have resumed, the company continues working with customers having difficulty paying their bills by providing assistance and payment plans to avoid disconnection. 

PG&E distributed more than $540 million in relief to residential customers as part of two rounds of funding from the California Arrearage Payment Program. The company also launched the Arrearage Management Plan, which helps qualifying customers reduce unpaid balances through on-time payment and debt forgiveness. Customers can check eligibility by logging in to their PG&E account at or calling 800-743-5000. 

PG&E has flexibility to extend bill due dates or arrange for a flexible payment plan. All customers are eligible to enroll in a 12-month pay plan, and participants who remain current on their plans are protected from collections and having their service interrupted for non-payment. Customers interested in extending their due date or arranging a pay plan are encouraged to visit or call 877-660-6789.

Are you or a neighbor Taking Care of Business. Is your business, including non-profits, supporting our community? Maybe you’re launching a new business, or you’re making updates to your current business model, or re-opening. Perhaps you have a job opportunity, or have been doing some volunteer work, or are collaborating with another business or a non-profit. Or maybe you know someone who is. Submit your awesome local efforts for publication to

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