Lobo Rainforest News

July 1, 2021

Entrepreneurial Capabilities Certificate Recipient Finds Opportunity in the New Mexico Rainforest

When it comes to entrepreneurship and university economic development programs, the goal is to cultivate a mindset that drives students not only to get a job, but to create them.

Entrepreneurship is no small feat. It requires drive, discipline, risk and the ability to seize opportunity. Entrepreneurs are not afraid to fail and are usually those who reach out for help, utilizing the people and resources around them to learn, grow and succeed. This is the case when it comes to former UNM student and Entrepreneurial Capabilities Certificate recipient Christian Slough (CJ).

In February 2020, prior to the state Covid-19 shutdown CJ participated in a CTSC Health Hackathon where he and colleague Amelia Bierle brainstormed an idea for a “Smart Inhaler.” From this hackathon came a chain of events that eventually led to the formation of the start-up company, Thuvia Systems LLC. As this venture unfolded, CJ discovered all the resources and trainings available to student entrepreneurs through the NM Rainforest University Center, a program funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, to provide entrepreneurial training and technical assistance to individuals or small businesses who are looking to start or grow their idea.

In August 2020, CJ participated in the Create.Sell.Bank! for the Community Course where he learned various eCommerce techniques and strategies which are essential skills for any entrepreneur to learn especially in today’s economic climate. Additionally, CJ engaged with the NM Rainforest University Center content, videos and officer hours. The training videos and office hours helped him gain valuable insight regarding important aspects of entrepreneurship and in December 2020 he earned his Entrepreneurial Capabilities Certificate after viewing 7 webinars and completing each of their associated quizzes.

Based on concepts learned through the University Center videos and advice received while attending Virtual Mentoring Office Hours, CJ realized that a key step to help drive the Smart Inhaler and Thuvia Systems LLC forward was to engage in in-depth customer discovery. Mentors from the University Center advised CJ to begin engaging in customer discovery through customer interviews and encouraged him and Amelia to apply for the Spring 2021 Lobo Rainforest I-Corp Cohort where they received further guidance.

“In addition to the mentoring and trainings received from University Center, I-Corp really helped our idea evolve. Through customer interviews we realized that if we wanted to fully deliver our value proposition, we needed to bring in all players in our ecosystem; from the physicians and patients, to the pharmacists and caregivers,” CJ states.

Since their final I-Corp presentation, CJ and Amelia have helped Thuvia Systems apply for an STTR grant and the startup has partnered with Dr. Ramiro Jordan’s Why Lab at UNM.

Most recently, through connections made within the NM Rainforest Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, CJ has started a position in sales and marketing for the New Mexico startup company Build with Robots, who builds turn-key robotic solutions that enable the world’s workforce to be healthier, more productive and more fulfilled.

Over the past year, CJ has learned and benefitted from the multitude of opportunities provided through the NM Rainforest University Center and the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Albuquerque. As he reflects he states:

“One thing I’ve learned is that there are so many resources here in New Mexico and through UNM, it’s just a matter of letting yourself be vulnerable, going to mentoring office hours, reaching out via email and not being afraid to ask questions or reach out for help.”

One of the goals of the NM Rainforest University Center is to help students like CJ develop an entrepreneurial mindset and access the resources available to them in order to help their ambitions and ideas thrive.

If you are interested in earning your Entrepreneurial Capabilities Certificate, attending office hours or connecting with any of the programs and resources mentioned above, email Cecilia Pacheco at cpacheco@innovations.unm.edu. UNM Rainforest Innovations will help get you started.

July 1, 2021

EDA NM Rainforest University Center Activity for April, May and June 2021

During the months of April, May and June, the U.S Economic Development Administration (EDA) New Mexico Rainforest University Center held nine mentoring office hour sessions with the various University Center mentors and hosted three webinars on various entrepreneurial topics.

Did you miss these webinars? If so, the recordings, handouts and quizzes are available at: http://loborainforest.com/nmrainforest/videos/. The webinars included:

Patent Protection in 2021: A Primer presented by Henry Coleman 

Learn the basics of patent protections in 2021 – all the important points and pitfalls that you need to know from U.S. patent attorney, Henry D. Coleman.

Applying Creativity Techniques to Your Small Business presented by Stacy Sacco 

This webinar shows participants various creative techniques that can be used to create and grow a business from the ideation phase to second-stage growth.

User Research 101: Focus on Product Users presented by Charley Wilhite

Getting your product right is as important as getting the business right. In this session we will dive into User Research (UX): understanding what you need to know, drawing out assumptions and gaps, prioritizing your learning, methodologies for collecting data, and making sense of it all.

Do you want to get connected with the EDA NM Rainforest University Center? Here are some of the upcoming events:

  • Virtual Rainforest Mentor Hours – July – Come to 1:1 virtual mentoring with Stacy Sacco where he will provide guidance, coaching, perspective, and connections to enhance entrepreneurship and connections to resources at UNM and in the community. There are many resources available to those who have ideas that they may want to turn into a business! Come by and learn more about what is available and which connections are the best fit for you.

If you are interested in learning more about the EDA NM Rainforest University Center Program and Resources contact Cecilia Pacheco at cpacheco@innovations.unm.edu.

Additional Press Releases Relating to University Center:

NM Rainforest University Center Student Uses EDA Funded Program to Supplement Education and Jump-Start Entrepreneurial Pursuits

NM Rainforest University Center Works to Build Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Rural New Mexico Through Partnerships with UNM Branch Campuses

An Entrepreneur’s Journey – EDA NM Rainforest University Center

New Mexico Recovery Course Helps Small Business Strategize, Survive & Thrive Through Pandemic

May 25, 2021

Albuquerque Business First’s Women of Influence Awards Honors Susan Cornelius

Albuquerque Business First has announced their honorees for this year’s Women of Influence awards, including Susan Cornelius, Principal of Accelerate2Solutions. Honorees are chosen each year based on the positive impact they have made in the New Mexico business community.

Ms. Cornelius has worked with UNM Rainforest Innovations for over 6 years and has provided tremendous value to our local innovation ecosystem. She serves as a site mentor for the New Mexico Rainforest University Center and provides regular mentoring office hours and webinars to the UNM community. The University Center program provides entrepreneurial training and technical assistance to individuals and small businesses who are looking to start or grow their idea.

She is also involved in the Lobo Rainforest I-Corps program and serves as a Lead I-Corps Mentor for teams learning how to transition their STEM-related technologies to the marketplace. The University of New Mexico became an I-Corps (Innovations Corps) site in fall 2017 and has now completed its eighth cohort. Ms. Cornelius has served as a mentor during all eight cohorts.

Ms. Cornelius is also the Principal of Accelerate2Solutions, an innovative, small, high tech company focused on creating successful, lean startup-ups. Ms. Cornelius has coached more than 71 companies, and created seven start-up companies, ranging from $500M to $150,000, helping them emerge as successful high tech, and life and health sciences companies. She brings 30 years of experience in start-ups, mergers, acquisitions, and successful, entrepreneurship in healthcare, research, enterprise software service solutions, medical devices, national defense, and high-tech sensing devices for homeland security.

The Women of Influence virtual awards event will be held on July 15 and honorees will be included in a special section of Business First that will be published July 16.

See also, “Meet Albuquerque Business First’s 2021 Women of Influence,” on the Albuquerque Business First website at https://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/news/2021/05/18/meet-business-first-2021-women-of-influence.html


April 21, 2021

NM Rainforest University Center Works to Build Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Rural New Mexico Through Partnerships with UNM Branch Campuses

Home to multiple national labs and several top tier research institutions, New Mexico has come to be known as the State of Innovation. In addition to the presence of strong STEM institutions, the inhabitants of New Mexico have a long history of engaging in entrepreneurship activities. Whether it’s selling piñon and firewood on the side of a northern New Mexico road, showcasing Native American art and jewelry under the portal in downtown Santa Fe or Old Town Albuquerque, running a food truck at a Navajo flee market in Gallup, or developing the next renewable energy technology at the Los Alamos  National Labs, New Mexicans have the spirit of entrepreneurship running through their veins.

However, in a state with a population of under 3 million and more small rural communities than urban metropolitan hubs, it can be hard for New Mexico entrepreneurs, especially those living in the more rural parts for the state, to capitalize on their business pursuits.

As a result, upon the receipt of a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Association (EDA) in 2018, the NM Rainforest EDA University Center is working to bridge that economic gap. The University Center focuses on developing eCommerce based entrepreneurial training and uses The University of New Mexico (UNM) branch campuses to help spread eCommerce knowledge and training to the more rural parts of the state.

Participating UNM branch campuses include Los Alamos, Valencia, Taos, and Gallup and the EDA University Center has tailored its programming to uniquely work with and meet each campus’ individual needs with the ultimate goal of helping each community establish its own entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Since the establishment of the NM Rainforest EDA University Center program in 2018, several branch campus communities have been very active and engaged with the University Center:

Victoria Gonzales, who has served as the main point of contact for UNM-Taos, states “UNM-Taos is very grateful to the University Center for support given over the last few years – we have enjoyed the technical expertise offered by entire main campus team. UNM-Taos students and entrepreneurs have taken part in the great programs offered by the Center including the Create, Sell, Bank class and the Pitch Deck Competition and have gained invaluable knowledge from these opportunities.

Since the launch of the NM Rainforest University Center program, UNM-Taos has worked to acquire their own set of funding to establish the Taos Hub of Internet-based Vocation and Education (HIVE). The Taos HIVE has established its mission on “combining small business coaching and mentorship, a coworking space, and community college classrooms to support any stage of learning in an accepting, accessible, and community-led atmosphere.” This effort will help the community of Taos continue to develop its own innovation ecosystem independent of the NM Rainforest University Center.

UNM-Valencia has also been a dedicated and engaged member of the NM Rainforest University Center through the efforts of one of its prime business professors, Stephen Takach.

When asked to reflect on the University Center’s partnership with the UNM-Valencia branch campus Stephen states:

The University Center comes alongside me as I work toward one of my longstanding goals of bringing entrepreneurial experiences into the UNM Valencia community and ultimately is a comfortable destination that I constantly refer my students to with their entrepreneurial goals which expands and enhances their educational experience.”

UNM Rainforest Innovations and Innovation Academy will continue a collaborative effort so that the NM Rainforest University Center can continue to support the development and solidification of eCommerce training and the creation of thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems throughout both urban and rural New Mexico.

If you’d like to learn more about the NM Rainforest EDA University Center or engage further with the program and its efforts please contact Cecilia Pacheco at cpacheco@innovations.unm.edu.

April 19, 2021

Comcast Pitch Deck Competition a Success for Young Entrepreneurs

Albuquerque, NM – April 19, 2021 –During an inspiring virtual event, five student entrepreneur teams went head-to-head and pitched their big ideas to a virtual audience of investors, business leaders, entrepreneurs and enthusiastic supporters.

The Comcast Pitch Deck Competition was co-hosted by UNM Rainforest Innovations and the UNM Innovation Academy, the University of New Mexico’s technology-transfer and economic-development organization and entrepreneurial studies program. Sponsored by Comcast, the competition offered a platform for student entrepreneurs who want to start or are already operating an early-stage company to present and launch their innovations. Comcast provided a $20,000 prize pool for the five finalists who pitched their innovative ideas and early-stage companies to investor judges.

The winners were:

  • First Place $10,000 Prize – Alexander Hafez, Circular Genomics – A circular RNA technology to help in the clinical fight against depression.
  • Second Place $5,000 Prize – Isabel Last & Miguel Roman, Faena – A research-based, intuitive video game to engage language learning for non-native speakers.
  • Third Place $2,500 Prize – Savannah Hoover, Modest House – An app to help millennials “Learn, Turn and Earn” in today’s real estate market.
  • Finalist $1,000 Prize – Daniel Martinez, Omnos Sleep – An innovative device for the treatment of sleep apnea.
  • Finalist $1,000 Prize – Tina Memarian, Lamiflo – An innovative solution for ischemic strokes.

“The Comcast Pitch Deck Competition was a great opportunity to get meaningful experience presenting to and answering questions from individuals who are business leaders in New Mexico,” said Alexander Hafez, PhD student and grand prize winner. “I look forward using their feedback to help Circular Genomics grow into a successful business.”

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 audiences. Judges looked 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.

“I am so grateful to have participated in the 2021 pitch competition, and I am proud to have represented the UNM School of Law in the final five. Providing these spaces for innovation is so critical,” said Savannah Hoover, Pitch Deck Participant and JD/MBA program student. “A huge thank you to the sponsors, show runners, and participants for such an engaging experience.”

Comcast sponsored the 2019 Comcast Pitch Deck Competition which awarded nearly $20,000 to five student entrepreneur teams.

About Comcast Corporation
Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA) is a global media and technology company that connects people to moments that matter. We are principally focused on broadband, aggregation, and streaming with over 56 million customer relationships across the United States and Europe. We deliver broadband, wireless, and video through our Xfinity, Comcast Business, and Sky brands; create, distribute, and stream leading entertainment, sports, and news through Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, Universal Studio Group, Sky Studios, the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, multiple cable networks, Peacock, NBCUniversal News Group, NBC Sports, Sky News, and Sky Sports; and provide memorable experiences at Universal Parks and Resorts in the United States and Asia. Visit www.comcastcorporation.com for more information.

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 innovationacademy.unm.edu/ 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 (formerly STC.UNM) 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 & Chief Economic Development Officer Lisa Kuuttila, UNM Rainforest Innovations is substantially growing its program using the Rainforest model to develop an innovation economy in New Mexico. Visit our website at www.innovations.unm.edu.

Media Contacts

UNM Rainforest Innovations
Savanah Romero – sromero@innovations.unm.edu

Kyle Biederwolf – kyle_biederwolf@comcast.com