Entrepreneur Spotlight


When Ben Doherty came to Cal Poly in 2009, he wasn’t thinking about founding a tech company. In fact, as a student of civil engineering, a startup was the last thing on his mind. That was until his roommate convinced him to take Professor Jon York’s Intro to Entrepreneurship class in 2011.

“My roommate and I had thrown around a few business ideas, but it wasn’t until Jon York’s class that I really got the bug,” Ben explains. “It was then I learned about the business model canvas, customer development and product market fit. I started to realize that I could really do this.”

During the class, Ben and his team would work through startup ideas. But that wasn’t enough. Ben would go home and apply the same process he was learning in Dr. York’s class to other ideas with an entirely different group of friends. It was there that Favor was born.

“We had this idea of eliminating the line at grocery stores,” Ben remembers. “We were actually too early. We were testing out a barcode scanner that had just been released on the iPhone and we learned two critical things. First, the technology wasn’t very good. And second, there were already tons of people at the store. Why not solve this problem in a completely different way and have other shoppers deliver whatever it is our customers need?”

So, Ben and his co-founders set out to build a peer-to-peer delivery application. As a civil engineering student, his first step was to learn how to code. In the true spirit of Learn by Doing, Ben bought “Web Development and Coding for Dummies” and recruited two of his closest friends to join him.

“We brought the book home, divided it into three equal parts, and cut out each section with a bread knife. That’s how we built the first version of Favor!” Ben remembers. “Believe it or not, the code was great, but the design and user experience was terrible. That’s when we applied for the CIE’s Summer Accelerator program.”

Ben and his co-founders spent the next three months building out the product and working alongside a dozen other Cal Poly startups. With the support of mentors, faculty and staff they made great progress and some key connections. They piloted the app in San Luis Obispo and made 45 deliveries in the first few hours! It was then they knew that had a real business.

Ultimately, Ben and his team knew they needed to launch in a market bigger than SLO, so after raising their first round of financing through connections made during the Summer Accelerator, they moved to Austin, Texas. Within a month the Favor app was live and business was booming.

“It’s been a wild ride!,” Ben proclaims. “We went from Intro to Entrepreneurship with Dr. York, to raising $34M, to being acquired by the largest grocery chain in Texas in just a handful of years. I would have never believed this would happen when I started Cal Poly in 2009”

Within weeks of Favor being acquired by H-E-B, Ben launched startup #2, Sunroom. With $2.5M in funding and a growing team, he’s is well on his way to building another successful company.

Now a seasoned entrepreneur, Ben is looking forward to helping the next generation of Cal Poly entrepreneurs make their mark on the world.