Lobo Rainforest News

June 14, 2023

University Center Mentor Stacy Sacco Named Volunteer of the Month from the City of Albuquerque

stacy saccoOn April 13, Stacy Sacco was named Volunteer of the Month from the City of Albuquerque by Mayor Tim Keller. This monthly series showcases people who are making big impacts on the city and positively impacting the people within it.

“Stacy is a conduit in our community; connecting individuals via his network of contacts and resources and making great efforts to support the people he meets,” said Lisa Kuuttila, CEO & Chief Economic Development Officer of UNM Rainforest Innovations. “This recognition is well deserved, and we are grateful for all his work with UNM Rainforest Innovations and our Rainforest University Center program.”

Stacy serves as a Rainforest University Center mentor, providing support and training to start-up entrepreneurs and small business owners. Over the years he has hosted regular office hours to meet with students and provide support. For the past 20 years, Stacy has taught entrepreneurial studies at the UNM Anderson School of Management and served as the Director of the UNM Small Business Institute. Currently, he is the President of Sacco Connections, a management consulting firm, and hosts a free, informational website, with 3,000+ links to local jobs, events, and resources: https://www.nmnetlinks.com/

View a recording of the ceremony here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l54droVevvM.

May 31, 2023

Dedicated Mentor Susan Cornelius Announces her Retirement

Susan Cornelius, a dedicated mentor and advisor for entrepreneurs and startups, has announced her retirement.

There are many important people that make up our innovation ecosystem here in New Mexico including students, established entrepreneurs, research scientists and investors; there’s a range of people that add value and diversity. One such important member is Susan Cornelius, Principal of  Accelerate2Solutions.

Susan’s passion for advancing entrepreneurs and organizations on the path to success can be seen from her time as a dedicated mentor, providing support to over 600 startup entrepreneurs and innovators and advising over 80 emerging startups. Drawing from her 30 years of experience in the startup realm, her depth of knowledge has helped others on the path in developing their startup.

2023 Hackathon judges

2023 Hackathon Judges: Stacy Sacco, Justin Muskopf, and Susan Cornelius

Susan first collaborated with UNM Rainforest Innovations in 2015 where she served as a judge for a Rainforest Pitch Competition. Starting in 2017, she became an I-corps program mentor (now dubbed the Rainforest Accelerator program), became a University Center mentor starting in 2019, and has coached multiple New Mexico startups on the Business Model Canvas and Pitch Deck through her University Center office hours and bootcamps.

We are grateful for the time Susan has spent supporting many of UNM Rainforest Innovations’ programs,” said Lisa Kuuttila, CEO & Chief Economic Development Officer of UNM Rainforest Innovations. “Susan was a dedicated mentor to her students and her expertise proved to be invaluable to many of our programs. Her impact will be remembered by all those she worked with.

I had the pleasure of working with Susan Cornelius, and I can attest that she was an exceptional mentor. Her approachable and kind demeanor made it easy to seek guidance and support. She has a wealth of knowledge in the industry and a keen eye for spotting innovation and growth opportunities. I am grateful for her guidance and support and will always remember her as a champion of innovation and approachability.” – Mostafa Peysokhan, PhD, Opto-Mechanical Engineer at Keysight Technologies.

Susan prioritized the students she mentored as entrepreneurs first and as students second. Her method involved inspiring, motivating, and connecting with us, while concurrently providing honest, constructive feedback. She acknowledged our achievements when our ideas were sound and offered guidance on refining them when necessary. This amalgamation of support and constructive criticism transformed us into exceptional entrepreneurs. As I transitioned from a student entrepreneur to an entrepreneur no longer shielded by the “student” title, I felt well-equipped for the realities of establishing a business beyond the boundaries of the university, thanks to Susan’s mentorship… It is with immense gratitude that I acknowledge Susan’s pivotal role in shaping not only our entrepreneurial ventures but also our character and determination as we strive to make a meaningful impact in our respective fields.” – Kyle Guin, Co-Founder, VastVision Technologies.

December 13, 2022

NMBio: 2023 Knowledge Fair & Expo

The 2023 Knowledge Fair & Expo will be held from 8 am to 4 pm, January 10 at CNM’s Workforce Development Center in Albuquerque.


The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America is the Title Sponsor for this year’s Knowledge Fair.

The fee to attend is $75. The fee for a table-top display is $150; it includes one admission ticket. Sponsorships are available from $500 to $5,000. Contact me for details.

Our lineup of speakers includes five founders/CEOs of early-stage development companies and top executives from three mid-stage testing companies and two highly successful manufacturing companies. You’ll hear from representatives of our leading educational and research institutions on how they are preparing our state’s future biotech workforce.

The funding landscape for the biosciences is undergoing dramatic changes. Who are the players shaping the capital formation programs for NM? Will the biosciences get a significant slice of the state’s anticipated billion-dollar surpluses? Enough $$$ to truly jump start our sector and enable us to compete with our neighboring states?
You’ll also get a preview of proposed legislation that could impact prescription drug access, pricing as well as access to pharmacy care.

May 9, 2022

2022 Pitch Deck Competition Offers Platform for University Student Entrepreneurs to Share Their Business Plans or Startup Visions for Cash Prizes

Albuquerque, NM – Coming up on May 10, university students in New Mexico will have an opportunity to pitch their innovative business ideas for prize money at the 2022 Pitch Deck Competition. Going on its third year, the competition serves as a platform for student entrepreneurs to showcase their innovations and hone their pitching skills.

The event is free and starts at 5:00 p.m. at the Lobo Rainforest Building. Friends, family, community members and supporters are invited to attend the final round. The five finalists will present 10-minute pitch decks to investor judges with five additional minutes of Q&A. Hors d’oeuvres and refreshments will be served. To register for the event, go to 22PitchDeck.Eventbrite.com

There is a $20,000 prize pool, sponsored by the UNM Rainforest Innovations Board of Directors, that will be divided among the five finalists. There will be a $10,000 first place award, a $5,000 second place award, a $2,500 third place award, and $1,000 each for fourth and fifth place.

Pitch deck competitions go further than the typical elevator pitch by including visual representations and summaries for a new company, business plan or startup vision. The goals of a pitch deck are to spark interest from potential investors, meet investors and give entrepreneurs more experience presenting to large audiences. Judges look for quality of message delivery through non-verbal cues, (voice, eye contact, gestures, movement) and persuasive and creative content which “connects all the dots” toward commercialization.

The student finalists recently submitted five-minute videos, and their preliminary slides for review by the judges. Finalists have access to resources and coaching to help them prepare for the final, live round on May 10. The five finalists competing in the finals are:

  • Tony Wallace, Business, UNM, Amelia Bierle, Public Policy, UNM, Michael Millar, Computer Science, UNM, ASH – The Affordable Student Housing App
  • Cameron CarugatiChemical Engineering, UNM, Ngoc Nguyen, Engineering, UNM, Christopher Fetrow, Chemical and Biological Engineering, UNM, Flow Aluminum – Aluminum air battery for grid storage energy
  • Elias Rosales-Zaragoza, Mechanical Engineering, UNM, LEGARD – Lower-Extremity Guided and Assisted Rehabilitation Device
  • Dharish Totiger, Business and Information Security, UNM, Mark Niederhaus, Business, UNM, Telluride Medical Solutions – Mechanical Patient Controlled Analgesia device
  • Gabriel G. Gurule, Bioengineering, UNM, Ventusol – Clean Energy Solutions

About Innovation Academy
The Innovation Academy is a mindset shared by the UNM Community that asks “how do we teach and learn best so that students are prepared for life beyond college?” Based on the Rainforest theory of a bottom-up approach to innovation, iA encourages different people and groups to come together to create.  It is a cross-pollinating approach to finding solutions to problems and developing new ideas. It is based on the belief that solutions can be found when people with different backgrounds and skills come together to work on real problems and needs coming from companies and the community.  This type of experiential, or hands-on, learning prepares students to be successful in careers and work places in the real world and deepen their core subject knowledge.  Visit https://unminnovationacademy.wixsite.com/unmia  for more information.

About UNM Rainforest Innovations
As the technology-transfer and economic-development organization for the University of New Mexico (UNM), UNM Rainforest Innovations (UNMRI) protects and commercializes technologies developed at UNM by filing patents and copyrights and transferring them to the marketplace. We connect the business community (companies, entrepreneurs and investors) to these UNM technologies for licensing opportunities and the creation of start-up companies. Our vision is to play a vital role in New Mexico’s economic development and to be a leader in technology commercialization. Under the leadership of CEO Lisa Kuuttila, UNMRI is substantially growing its program using the Rainforest model to develop an innovation economy in New Mexico. Visit our website at http://innovations.unm.edu/


April 19, 2022

UNM Rainforest Innovations announces spring pitch competition winners

Original Article posted April 18, by UNM Newsroom: https://news.unm.edu/news/unm-rainforest-innovations-announces-spring-pitch-competition-winners

How long does it take to earn $1,000? For students competing in the biannual Rainforest Pitch Competition, it only takes 90 seconds (plus a good business idea).

More than 60 New Mexico college students submitted their video pitches for a chance to win seed funding. This semester the business ideas included an application to find affordable student housing, outsourcing home organization, and horse behavior rehabilitation. Industry expert judges selected the top 10 pitches to win seed funding for their business ideas.

“We were thrilled to see so many folks submit their pitches for the Spring 2022 virtual Rainforest Pitch Competition,” said Rob DelCampo, UNM Innovation Academy executive director. “The students always impress us with their energy and drive to create innovative solutions to obstacles that many people deal with on a daily basis.”

The top three pitches won the Judges’ Choice Winner prize of $1,000. The first winning entry was “LEGARD” – a biofeedback rehabilitation device, pitched by Elias Rosales. The second winner was a pitch for “ASH – Affordable Student Houses,” which is an application to help students locate affordable options to live while in college. ASH was pitched by Anthony Wallace on behalf of his team, which includes Amelia Bierle and Michael Miller. The third winner was “Telluride Medical Solutions” pitched by Dharish Totiger which focuses on providing patients in emergency medical situations with easy, inexpensive, and disposable pain medication.

The seven remaining pitches were each awarded $250 as finalists and given feedback from the judges. Those finalists were Mingyang Zhang for “UNMSemiLab,” Aniyah Augmon for “Glamour Guard,” Abu Bakar Siddique & Dheeman Saha for “UNM Builders – Personal Mouse,” Sara Fuchs for “Sara’s Horse School,” Karlann Harms for “Karly’s Klosets,” Damian Lopez for “Coffee2,” and Heidi Garcia for “G.P Real Estate Investment Brokerage.”

The Rainforest Pitch Competition is a biannual event put on by the UNM Innovation Academy and UNM Rainforest Innovations. For more information, visit Rainforest Innovations.