Polytechnic is Preparing for Success

Say you’re watching an episode of “Jessica Jones” on Netflix and you’re in love with the black leather jacket that lead actress Krysten Ritter wears. How do you find the jacket? 

For Lauren Horgan, the answer is simple. With Zaluma, her idea for combining object recognition and E-commerce, you can click on the jacket to see which retailers carry it, receive a price match and read user reviews. The software will also directly take you to purchase the jacket on the website of your choice. 

The consumer-centric software will be a blend of object recognition, augmented reality, E-commerce and various integrated coding languages. To one day bring it to market, Horgan lives and breathes her startup Zaluma in her spare moments — cold-calling investors, seeking computer developers, enlisting like-minded founders, researching the legal issues and continually refining the business plan.

“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve dreamed of being an entrepreneur,” says the marketing senior. “You can’t be afraid to fail or pivot along the way. The greatest risk you can take is not taking any risk at all.”

Horgan transferred to Cal Poly Pomona from CSU Channel Islands to better focus on her entrepreneurial aspirations to create a successful startup. After graduation, she plans to apply to law school to study intellectual property law and to one day patent her own ideas while helping other entrepreneurs patent theirs. She has placed among the top three in every business competition she’s participated in, including the Cal Poly Pomona Bronco Startup Challenge (2nd place), the Cal Poly Pomona Women’s Entrepreneurship Competition (1st place), and the Aspire 3 New Venture Challenge (1st place). These competitions have given her real world experience, feedback and a network of like-minded mentors.

Horgan follows a dedicated schedule. She regularly wakes up at 3 a.m. to begin working and spends anywhere from 75 to 80 hours per week on her startup. She believes that her ambitions require a commitment to an unconventional lifestyle.

“Within the realm of software, the only way to stay ahead of the competition is to work while most are sleeping,” she says. “If you’re passionate about something, you’ll find the time for it.”

Horgan has even developed an exit strategy in case her startup suddenly takes off before she finishes college or law school.

“I have a hunch that sometime in the startup process, Zaluma will take off and I’ll have to be prepared for the opportunities that accompany that. I can always go back to school. It’ll certainly be harder, but it’s doable,” she says. “Sometimes, you have to trust your own intuition, take risks and believe in yourself when no one else does.”

Growing up in San Diego, Horgan’s entrepreneurial spirit came alive when she was 11. Her older sister is deaf in one ear, so she came up with the idea of a new cell phone case that would allow her sister to hear better. This idea led to a variety of others. At the time, the people around her dismissed the ideas and said they wouldn’t work. Their lack of support only fueled her passion. 

For the next few years, Horgan dreamed up new ideas and wrote them down in an “invention notebook.” She’s had enough ideas over the years to fill six notebooks. Today, she still jots down new ideas in her seventh.

“Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, because the only one who has the ability to place those limitations on you is yourself,” she says.

Perseverance and time management are also lessons Horgan taught herself as a teenager. In high school, she was the worst member of the wrestling team, and her teammates mercilessly rubbed it in. Again, their ridicule only fueled her drive to prove them wrong.

Every morning, she woke up at 4 a.m. to run before school. She also ran during lunch. And after practice, she continued practicing longer than anyone else on the team. After much failure, Horgan later became the 2014 CIF champion in her weight class.

“I’ve been encouraged by my experiences in life. When I was growing up, I encountered failure a lot, which, looking back, has taught me to embrace it. Failure is one of life’s greatest change agents; without it we can never grow. Failure is part of the process and embracing it early on, while sticking to your vision, will ultimately help you to succeed,” she says. “I’m nowhere near there yet."

What's In a Name?

Finding a company name that is not already trademarked is not as easy as it sounds. After two months of brainstorming and searching the trademark database, Horgan landed upon ZALUMA. The word has no meaning, but that's the point. Many well-known companies - Zillow, Sony and Xerox, to name a few - started with a made-up name to be unique, memorable and ownable.