Lobo Rainforest News

April 14, 2022

UNM Department of Spanish and Portuguese Graduate Student Finds Startup Opportunity in the NM Rainforest

Isabel LastBefore starting her Hispanic Linguistics Master’s Program at The University of New Mexico (UNM), Isabel Last was trained to teach Spanish as a second language. Throughout her teaching experience, she consistently found that regardless of how creative and immersive she tried to make her lessons and activities, there was a definitive limit to how well instructors could contextualize the content. She knew language teaching needed a paradigm shift. This is where her idea for Faena, an innovative narrative-based language learning video game, began.

Faena creates a story-filled environment in which the user, instead of memorizing conjugation tables and fill-in the blank worksheets, can learn a new language by actually speaking and interacting with characters. The concept is backed by years of language learning, research, and experience. It is the first of its kind capable of addressing three key second-language learning issues: being able to speak and interact in the language, not just write it (communication); being able to recall what you’ve learned and perform it in social interactions (retention); and being engaged enough to keep learning over the years (motivation).


In spring 2021, Isabel learned about UNM Rainforest Innovations & Innovation Academy’s entrepreneurial programming and applied to be in the Lobo Rainforest NSF I-Corp cohort where she was able to engage in customer discovery, fine-tune and validate her idea. Upon her participation in I-Corp, Isabel entered the larger NM Rainforest Innovation ecosystem and became a participant in UNM’s EDA University Center Program where she has been able to find the education, mentorship, connections and support to begin to make her start-up idea a reality.

During her time as an Innovation Academy and University Center participant, Isabel has been a finalist in several pitch competitions including the 2021 Comcast Pitch Deck Competition where she placed 2nd amongst a panel of five finalists.

In addition to I-Corp and pitch competitions, Isabel participated in University Center office hours and workshops such as the one with the New Mexico Angels to bridge the gap between Faena just being an idea to taking more solid and justified steps towards making it a reality.

“Mentoring has been huge and office hours have been the perfect way to transition into speaking with experts and investors who are not only experienced when it comes to startups but also have an educational interest in helping you along,” Isabel says when asked about how the EDA University Center has benefitted her.

“The office hours and workshops have set a good foundation and made a lot of learning accessible and personalized. I am a huge risk-taker myself, but you can only be so much of a risk-taker – it helps to have people to look at your idea and provide feedback.”

Isabel continues to work on building and growing Faena. She is currently working on finding strategic partners to help build the first full gaming experience and hopes to receive more funding by June 2022.

If you are interested in learning more about Faena, you can visit https://www.faena.cc/ or follow Faena’s journey on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/faenagames/.

Faena logo

April 14, 2022

NM Rainforest EDA University Center Activity for January, February and March 2021

During the months of January, February and March, the New Mexico Rainforest, a U.S. Economic Development Administration University Center, held seven mentoring office hour sessions with the various University Center (UC) mentors and hosted five webinars on a variety of entrepreneurial topics. Several of the webinars and office hours were hybrid including a special webinar hosted by Mike Freeman from Innosphere Ventures, a science and technology incubator and venture capital fund. A special office hour session was hosted by mentor John Chavez where startups could discuss their valuation and term sheets. Additional hybrid events and office hours are planned for the months of April and May.

Recordings of the training webinars and corresponding handouts are available online at: http://loborainforest.com/nmrainforest/videos/ . Each webinar has a related quiz that allows you to earn your way to an Entrepreneurial Capabilities Certificate.

The five webinars include:

“Prior Art Searching for Your Technology & Startup” presented by Gregg Banninger, Innovation Manager, Life Sciences, UNM Rainforest Innovations  – Learn about what a prior art search is, how to conduct a prior art search, and why it’s important when developing your technology or business.

“7-Pillars To A Heathy, Thriving Business” presented by A.J. Mirabedini, Founder, CEO at EntrepreneursRx – Learn to see your business as an interconnected organism and achieve success by nurturing each of the seven critical pillars.

“A Look at Insurance for the Entrepreneur” presented by Michael Chesley, Agent at Cress Insurance Consultants – This session explains various coverage needs and options to protect the livelihoods of business owners and their employees. We explore the why, when, and how proper planning can make a difference in your future.

“Basic Bookkeeping & Financial Literacy for Entrepreneurs” presented by Mytegia Lee, UNM-Gallup Mentor and Financial Advisor at SW Native Assets – Learn about basic bookkeeping and financial literacy skills for you and your small business.

“Why Startups Fail” presented by Mike Freeman, General Partner at Innosphere Ventures – Why Startups Fail provides practical advice on avoiding the most common reasons new ventures are not successful. As it turns out, data available on startup failure points to several strategies to significantly improve the odds of success. Mike Freeman, the CEO and General Partner of Innosphere Ventures, a Colorado-based science and technology incubator, and venture capital fund, will give this session. Join us for a dive into the topic of failure modes for startups. Innosphere has worked with 1000’s of startups in its 24-year history and is a partner of Rainforest Innovations.

[youtube_video] https://youtu.be/QNPokrGReqI [/youtube_video]

Earn a certificate in Entrepreneurial Capabilities: http://loborainforest.com/nmrainforest/entrepreneurial-capabilities-certificate/

The following UC events are upcoming in Q4:

  • So You Want to Start a Startup? , April 6th presented by UNM Valencia Mentor, Susan Cornelius – A successful pitch has to sell. To do that, it needs to engage and surprise the audience you’re pitching to. You have what you think is a great idea for a new product and/or service. You are excited about your idea. You explain it to friends and family and they nod their heads and ask questions. How do you get others excited about what you are doing and really get their attention? What are you telling them you are doing? Do you think that people can see your idea succeeding? A great pitch has to grab your audience. It needs to engage and to surprise the audience you’re pitching to. With a great pitch you demonstrate your passion, and you can grab people’s attention. But with a great story about how you are innovating both your product and making a difference in the lives of others, you can find others who will help you succeed and help you get to the point where you not only have a product but you can attract the money you need to launch your idea. Join us for a quick, impactful session that will leave you wanting to learn more! Bring your ideas with you and get ready to succeed.
  • Product Development & Management , April 5th presented by Michael Hay, Vice President of Products at Teradata – Learn how to produce defensible evidence-based roadmaps and create a strategy that will produce paybacks well beyond an intended use.
  • Sales Tips for Small Business , April 7th presented by UNM-Taos Mentor Stacy Sacco at UNM-Taos HIVE – Learn sales tips and strategies for your small business from marketing and networking guru, Stacy Sacco.
  • Mentoring for Entrepreneurs with Stacy Sacco at UNM-Taos HIVE, April 8th – Come to 1:1 mentoring with Stacy Sacco at UNM-Taos HIVE in Taos, New Mexico, where he will provide guidance, coaching, perspective, and connections to enhance entrepreneurship and connections to resources at UNM and in the community.
  • Rainforest Mentor Office Hours with Stacy Sacco , April 22nd – Come to 1:1 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.
  • April Mentoring for Entrepreneurs with Mytegia Lee , April 28th – Come to virtual 1:1 mentoring with Mytegia Lee where she 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! Join Mytegia on Zoom and learn more about what is available and which connections are the best fit for you.
  • How a Strong Brand Builds Value , May 4th presented by Seth Gardenswartz, Partner at Blackgarden Law – A brand can become the most valuable asset a business owns. Tragically, many businesses fail to research and protect the brands they build, often rendering them worthless or even damaging. This program will cover the basics of brand value and strategy to help creatives and businesses build strong and lasting IP assets. We will outline a practical approach to selecting brand elements and provide a framework for the enforcement of brand rights and how to respond to cease and desist letters. The program will be a useful guide, full of local and national examples that participants can use every day to create value for themselves and their clients.
  • 2022 Pitch Deck Competition – Family, Friends and supporters are invited to attend the final round of the 2022 Pitch Deck Competitionat the Lobo Rainforest Building on Tuesday, May 10, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. to hear the five finalists pitch to investor judges. Finalists will present a 10 minute pitch deck with 5 additional minutes of question and answer in front of a panel of judges. The 2022 Pitch Deck Competition is an early-stage pitch competition bringing together university entrepreneurs from all over New Mexico for chance to win $20,000 (sponsored by UNM Rainforest Innovations) in cash prizes for promising business models. The cash prizes are: winning team, $10,000, second place team, $5,000, and third place, $2,500 and 2 finalists, $1,250 each.
  • Rainforest Mentor Office Hours with Stacy Sacco, May 13th – Come to 1:1 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.
  • May Mentoring for Entrepreneurs with Mytegia Lee – UNM Gallup , May 26th – Come to virtual 1:1 mentoring with Mytegia Lee where she 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! Join Mytegia on Zoom and learn more about what is available and which connections are the best fit for you.
  • June Mentoring for Entrepreneurs with Mytegia Lee – UNM Gallup , June 23rd – Come to virtual 1:1 mentoring with Mytegia Lee where she 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! Join Mytegia on Zoom and learn more about what is available and which connections are the best fit for you.

For more information about the NM Rainforest EDA University Center Program and other entrepreneurial resources, contact Cecilia Pacheco at cpacheco@innovations.unm.edu.

April 8, 2022

UNM Rainforest Innovations Receives $800K EDA American Rescue Plan Grant to support Training Programs for New Mexico Tribal Entrepreneurship Project

3-year EDA Funded Grant looks to bridge gaps and seek solutions to Tribal Entrepreneurship

(April 4, 2022 – Albuquerque, NM)UNM Rainforest Innovations, the University of New Mexico’s technology transfer and economic development organization, has been awarded an $800,000 American Rescue Plan Economic Adjustment Assistance grant from the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) to help break down barriers and generate opportunity through entrepreneurship in historically underserved communities in New Mexico with a primary focus on coal-impacted tribal communities.

“This funding will help us develop strategies to better serve tribal entrepreneurs through mentoring and programs to support resilient businesses”, said Lisa Kuuttila, CEO & Chief Economic Development Officer of UNM Rainforest Innovations. “With EDA Funding the grant for three-years, we plan to hire a Program Manager and Tribal Liaisons to identify gaps and barriers for entrepreneurship and to foster engagement within the communities. We also plan to form an advisory board made up of strategic partners and statewide organizations to support the success of the project.”

One of the overarching goals of the project is to mitigate the barriers that impact tribal entrepreneurs, and notably coal-impacted communities, from starting and growing resilient businesses. Some of the ways UNM Rainforest Innovations aims to do this is by providing mentoring and entrepreneurial training opportunities, link resources available in urban parts of the state to rural communities and engage statewide partners to create further connection points within the vast entrepreneurial ecosystem in New Mexico.

The American Rescue Plan Act was signed into law by President Joseph Biden on March 11, 2021 and was designed to support the health and economic wellbeing of Americans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the act, EDA was allocated $3 billion in supplemental funding to assist communities across the nation in their efforts to accelerate economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and build local economies. Projects eligible for funding under the Economic Adjustment Assistance program includes a wide range of technical, planning, workforce development, entrepreneurship, and public works and infrastructure projects.

To read the EDA press release go to: https://eda.gov/news/press-releases/2022/03/31/albuquerque-nm.htm

See Kevin Robinson Avila’s April 4 article, “Feds help UNM extend startup outreach to tribes,” on the Albuquerque Journal Website here: https://www.abqjournal.com/2485674/feds-help-unm-extend-startup-outreach-to-tribes.html and reposted below.


Feds help UNM extend startup outreach to tribes

By Kevin Robinson Avila
Published Monday, April 4
Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

A new $800,000 federal grant will help the University of New Mexico’s Rainforest Innovations extend a helping hand to aspiring Native American entrepreneurs across the state.

The grant, announced last week by the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration, will allow Rainforest Innovations to begin bridging the gap between existing startup support programs and tribal communities, said Lisa Kuuttila, UNM Chief Economic Development Officer and CEO of Rainforest Innovations, which manages the university’s tech-transfer and entrepreneurship programs.

UNM and many other agencies, organizations and institutions already offer statewide training and assistance through online and in-person programs. Some groups specifically focus on helping Native American entrepreneurs create successful businesses, such as New Mexico Community Capital.

But more is needed to build tribal awareness about available assistance and directly connect them with resources, Kuuttila said.

“We want to reach out to Native American communities in new ways to identify people who either already started businesses or who want to and don’t know where to go for support,” Kuuttila told the Journal. “There are lots of resources across the state, but in rural areas, many may not be aware of them, so we want to bring more of those aspiring entrepreneurs into the existing ecosystem.”

To do that, UNM will hire community “liaisons” to work directly with the tribes.

“They’ll work remotely and travel around the state to work directly with people on the pueblos and the Navajo Nation,” Kuuttila said. “… They’ll do onsite visits and meetings, some by Zoom and some in person. We expect each community or region will have different needs, so we’ll tailor programming specifically to the places we work in.”

UNM will add $200,000 in matching funds to the EDA grant, which was awarded under the American Rescue Plan to help local communities recover from the pandemic, said Commerce Department Assistant Secretary for Economic Development Alejandra Castillo.

“This EDA investment will support UNM Rainforest as it expands its training, mentoring, and strategy development programs to create new opportunities for tribal entrepreneurs and build a diverse and robust regional economy,” Castillo said in a prepared statement.




August 19, 2021

AED and UNM Anderson School of Management Launch a Regional Innovation Series

For Immediate Release
Date: August 2, 2021
Contact: Danielle Casey, dcasey@abq.org

Albuquerque Economic Development is collaborating with UNM Anderson School of Management for the first of a series of action-oriented competitiveness programs with a focus on regional collaboration and innovation.

[GREATER ALBUQUERQUE, NM, August 2, 2021] – A new series of sessions focusing on working together to advance the New Mexico economy will kick off Sept. 16 with a half-day session featuring a showcase of research and analysis projects recently completed by UNM Anderson in support of AED strategic initiatives.

“Anderson’s partnership with AED aligns with our commitment to help advance New Mexico’s economy,” said Mitzi Montoya, Anderson School dean. “This series of working sessions is part of a larger vision to combine the energy and ingenuity of our business leaders, policy makers, educators, nonprofits and stakeholders to work collectively toward achieving inclusive prosperity.”

Early in the process, the AED team developed a list of areas of research and analysis needed, and Anderson fellows have been tackling each item, all through a regional lens. “

Having students as well as the talented faculty overseeing their work delve into research on topics from business retention to innovation assets and talent attraction best practices has been very insightful, as they have the ability to look at opportunities and challenges through a fresh lens,” commented Danielle Casey, president & CEO of AED.

In addition to project presentations that will include breakout group discussions with a goal of identifying actionable next steps, guest keynote speaker Christiana McFarland, PhD, research director for the National League of Cities Center for City Solutions, will discuss the findings of a recently published national report regarding developing regional economic connectivity and the interdependence of urban and rural segments of regional economies.

The program will also include a panel discussion of local experts reflecting on the student presentations, the criticality and interconnectedness of regions and mega-regions, and steps to developing a truly inclusive innovation ecosystem for New Mexico.

For more information or to register for this program, visit www.ABQ.org/events.

About UNM Anderson
The Anderson School of Management at the University of New Mexico is dedicated to excellence in professional management education. At Anderson, faculty, staff and students are committed to shaping the intellect and character of the next generation of business leaders, advancing the knowledge and practice of management, promoting economic development, and building a vibrant intellectual community that serves the highest and best interests of all our stakeholders. Founded in 1947, Anderson offers more than a dozen concentrations at the BBA and MBA levels and is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business in the top 20% of business schools in the nation. For more information, visit mgt.unm.edu.

About AED
AED is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to recruit business and industry, help local companies grow and generate quality job opportunities throughout the Albuquerque metro area. AED provides confidential assistance to businesses considering the area for expansion and new investment. Since its creation in 1960, AED has recruited more than 250 companies and more than 35,000 jobs to the Albuquerque metro area. AED also provides retention and expansion assistance to existing industry. For more information about AED, visit www.ABQ.org.

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.