Lobo Rainforest News

November 25, 2019

New Competition Opportunity for Student Entrepreneurs to Pitch to the Next Level




Albuquerque – November 25, 2019 – On December 2, New Mexico’s university students will have a new opportunity to compete for prize money to fund their early-stage, promising business ventures.


STC.UNM and the UNM Innovation Academy will co-host the Comcast Pitch Deck Competition. This year, Comcast and Nusenda Credit Union will sponsor this platform for student entrepreneurs to showcase their innovations and hone their pitching skills in front of investors. The $20,000 prize pool, funded by Comcast, will be awarded to the five best individual or team presentations: Student entrepreneurs will compete for 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.


“We’re proud to power the dreams of these dynamic student entrepreneurs to help them grow and launch their businesses,” said Chris Dunkeson, Area Vice President, Comcast. “These students represent some of the best young talent in Albuquerque, and we feel confident that our investment will return dividends for our local community.”


“STC and the Innovation Academy are thrilled to be partnering with our community sponsor Comcast for this event,” said STC CEO Lisa Kuuttila. “This is a wonderful experiential learning experience for new and current student entrepreneurs from not only UNM and its branch campuses but for students at all New Mexico colleges and universities.  The Comcast Pitch Deck Competition allows us to take our entrepreneurial training programs to the next level and we are very grateful to Comcast for their generous support in helping us to achieve this goal.”


Innovation Academy Executive Director Rob DelCampo added: “This contest meets a critical milestone for our student entrepreneurs. The opportunity to do an investment-style pitch in this setting really complements the other educational opportunities we already offer.”


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 Dec. 2. The five finalists competing in the finals are:

  • George Boujaoude, Computer Science, UNM, Tomas Manzanares, UNM Computer Science and Christian Seely, Computer Science, Bitekast – A podcast listening platform advancing the way we listen to podcasts.
  • Alissa Chavez, Communications, UNM, EasyFlo – An eco-friendly Baby Bottle
  • Sam Crooks, Computer Science, UNM, Film Spots – Online platform to scout and reserve film sites.
  • Anna Kuuttila, Master of Business Administration, UNM and Sara Kuuttila-Webbert, Liberal Arts, UNM, Smarter Starter – Children’s educational products tailored for children ages 0-4
  • Erik Strobert, Chemical Engineering, UNM, Perspective Components Inc. – Seamless integration  of artificial intelligence  and gimbal  hardware  to deliver perfect recordings.


The event is free and starts at 5:30 p.m. at the Lobo Rainforest Building. Community members, family, friends 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 your attendance go to ComcastPitch.Eventbrite.Com.


About Comcast

Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA) is a global media and technology company with three primary businesses: Comcast Cable, NBCUniversal, and Sky. Comcast Cable is one of the United States’ largest high-speed internet, video, and phone providers to residential customers under the Xfinity brand, and also provides these services to businesses. It also provides wireless and security and automation services to residential customers under the Xfinity brand. NBCUniversal is global and operates news, entertainment and sports cable networks, the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, television production operations, television station groups, Universal Pictures, and Universal Parks and Resorts. Sky is one of Europe’s leading media and entertainment companies, connecting customers to a broad range of video content through its pay television services. It also provides communications services, including residential high-speed internet, phone, and wireless services. Sky operates the Sky News broadcast network and sports and entertainment networks, produces original content, and has exclusive content rights. 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.


As the technology-transfer and economic-development organization for the University of New Mexico (UNM), STC.UNM (STC) 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. STC’s 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, STC is substantially growing its program using the Rainforest model to develop an innovation economy in New Mexico.  Visit our website at www.stc.unm.edu.




Media Contacts

Julianne Phares





Denise Bissell



November 19, 2019

New Investor Program

January 29, 2019

Make money and earn credit

‘Design. Build. Bank’ focus of spring break class at UNM’s Innovation Academy

Spend your spring break creating ways to make money instead of finding ways to spend it. The UNM Innovation Academy, in partnership with the School of Architecture, Liberal Arts and Integrative Studies, and University College is offering a new class where you can earn three credits in just five days.

“Design. Build. Bank!” is a course where students will use interactive and project-based methods to create a business idea, product, place, application, etc. and learn how to make money doing it! Students don’t even need to have an idea already, they can develop one when they get there.

The course is cross-listed in ARCH (graduate and undergraduate), LAIS, and UNIV (for dual-credit students). Everyone is welcome, and there are no pre-requisites. Classes will be held Monday through Friday, March 11-15. Class will take place at the Lobo Rainforest and will run 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., but don’t worry, it definitely won’t be eight hours of lecture.

Use your spring break to build the next social media app, instead of oversharing on the ones you already have.

If you would like more information, contact Tiffini Porter at tjp0217@unm.edu.

Link to original UNM Newsroom article http://news.unm.edu/news/make-money-and-earn-credit

January 23, 2019

NM Rainforest University Center Program Launches in January

The new year at UNM main and branches campuses is off to a good start with the launch of a new statewide program that promises to boost entrepreneurial activity in communities across the state.


The NM Rainforest University Center Program is funded by a grant from the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) and will provide entrepreneurial training and technical assistance to students and community members at all UNM campuses statewide.  UNM is among 58 other University Centers across the nation who support and foster economic transformation of their state and regional economies.


Administered by STC and its partner, the UNM Innovation Academy, dedicated site mentors and staff visited UNM main campus in Albuquerque and branches in Taos, Los Alamos, Valencia and Gallup from January 16-23 to kick-off the program with a series of introductory seminars on program content.


The program is geared toward students (including faculty and staff) and community members with ideas for starting a new business and those with small companies who want to grow their businesses.  The training is based on an e-commerce platform.  The program’s theme, “e-commerce for all,” is an especially appropriate approach for New Mexico with its small population and rural environment.  Today, urban centers are not a requirement for starting a business.  Many businesses don’t necessarily need physical storefronts but they definitely need an online presence.  Being able to sell goods and services from a website is a key element for success.


Program content is twofold: a series of 12 free seminars for students and community members and a for-credit e-commerce course (already taught in the UNM Innovation Academy). The seminars focus on the basics for starting a business, such as how to generate a business idea, how to do market analysis, what is design thinking, and understanding financing—topics that are helpful for any kind of new business owner.  The e-commerce class, “Create. Sell. Bank.,” teaches students how to build an online storefront and drive traffic to it through social media advertising.


Site mentors and other expert instructors present onsite but seminars also are streamed via Zoom for anyone who wants to join from their computer, laptop or phone.  Soon, recorded sessions will be available for those wishing to view at another time.


A certificate program in entrepreneurial capabilities is available to UNM students and community members who complete seven of the 12 seminars through UNM’s Innovation Academy.


The EDA University Center Economic Development Program’s mission is to make University resources available to regions that are under chronic and acute economic distress due to, for example, high unemployment and low-income levels.  The EDA University Center Program encourages creating strong rural-urban linkages and collaborations, especially relevant to New Mexico.


STC CEO and grant PI Lisa Kuuttila sums up what the NM Rainforest University Center program aims to do:  “The goal behind this grant and program is for UNM to have a statewide impact in helping communities create jobs.  What better way to create jobs in your community than to create your own company.”


See also Shaquana Desiderio’s January 21, 2019 article, “Takin’ Care of Business,” from the Gallup Independent E-Edition and the KRSN radio interview with Lisa Kuuttila below.




For information on the February seminar, “How to Generate a Business Idea,” go to https://stc.unm.edu/event/how-to-generate-a-business-idea-nm-rainforest-university-center-seminar/.


August 29, 2018


Mark Chavez, CEO of one of New Mexico’s newest startups, wants to change the way we think about and use social media, and he’s come back to Albuquerque to develop what could be a disruptive innovation on a global scale.  Read about Ellen Marks’ fascinating August 27, 2018 interview, “One-on-One with Mark Chavez,” from the Albuquerque Journal Business Outlook, reprinted below.  Also see Kevin Robinson’s June 25 article, “Lens startup focuses on cloud-free online privacy,” from the Albuquerque Journal at https://stc.unm.edu/new-startup-at-the-lobo-rainforest-building-creating-next-gen-solution-to-cloud-vulnerability/.


One-on-One with Mark Chavez

By Ellen Marks / Journal Assistant Business Editor
Published: Monday, August 27th, 2018 at 12:02am
Updated: Sunday, August 26th, 2018 at 11:27pm

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It was while eating lunch alone in a London restaurant that Mark Chavez had what he calls his awakening.

A South Valley kid who was in the middle of Silicon Valley’s tech boom and was living in London developing new markets for his employer, Salesforce.com, Chavez suddenly realized how completely hooked he was on constantly pulling out his phone to check his email, his Facebook page, his other social media accounts.

“I just thought, when was the last time I had an hour and was just present, and it hit me,” Chavez recalled. “That’s not possible anymore. We’ve raised a whole generation that only understands validation from what other people are telling them (online) about themselves – how many likes, how many comments.”

Chavez says he knew “as part of my job on the inside, how Silicon Valley strived to attract more users to spend ever more time on their platforms and harvest their data” with methods he likens to cigarette companies seeking to keep people hooked on tobacco.

With that realization, he decided to abandon his career and delete his entire online presence.

“I sold everything,” he said. “I burned everything to the ground and went back to the beginning.”

He also abandoned aspects of his personal life, including the name he had adopted when he first left New Mexico for college in Texas – Trae Chancellor – and an accompanying persona meant to “completely run away from who I was.”

“I played a whole different character, totally played it,” he said. “I thought I was completely inadequate, inferior and I couldn’t be that Hispanic kid from the South Valley. And there’s a more personal side. I’m gay. So I learned how to mask things at the earliest age.”

He returned to New Mexico last January, changed his name back to Mark Chavez and launched his new company, Lens, which aims to help people do what he did: disconnect from Facebook and other platforms to reclaim their own data.

Lens will offer a cloud-free device through which customers can share information with people of their choosing, he said. Users will have control over their personal data, and companies that want to see it will have to pay the individual for access.

Chavez said Lens is meant to counteract “these monopolies that get all our data and basically send it out to market to be sold for hundreds of billions of dollars, and we get nothing.”

It’s also meant to help people get away from what he sees as the destructive nature of getting hooked on spending so much time online.

“My personal journey is sort of the story of Lens,” he said. “It’s really to bring sort of the same experience that I’ve had coming to terms with finding internal validation as opposed to looking for it out there.”

For someone who was so immersed in the world of big tech, isn’t it ironic that your new product aims to help people avoid the cloud?

Right. But the conflict I had when I was at Salesforce was to really see the methods that were being applied to create what we considered to be a 360-degree view of the customer. We needed to know every interaction of our customer to understand how we could sell and market to them. It’s scary to understand how much information we could find on an individual. And we bought companies … to fill out this entire profile of the customer. If you want to look at the monetization, just look at the valuation of these companies. It’s incredible how much data is worth in this market that the individual isn’t even participating in.

What were you like as a kid?

First of all, I grew up in the South Valley on a ranch. My childhood was surrounded by ranch life. Getting up early, going to sleep early, but really, really … incredible values that are still with me. I was absolutely fascinated with science and technology, and that’s what really drove me toward nuclear engineering.

You went to Rio Grande High?

Yes, although I actually didn’t fit in anywhere. Obviously, I liked riding horses. I was a cowboy. I did play sports, but I didn’t fit in any one group. When I look back now, I always lived completely independent of systems. I think that really comes out today, and that’s my starting point. That’s why I can disconnect from pop culture and the other things and really question what’s happening underneath this and why is it there. And really being independent of all that.

After working in Silicon Valley and in London, did you ever think you’d be back in New Mexico?

No. I didn’t think I would have the opportunity to be back because my career was taking me to different places, but there are no coincidences, I believe, in life, and I think I do have a special set of circumstances in my own professional, spiritual and personal journey that can be applied in today’s world, and one is to build Lens.

Was it difficult when you disconnected three years ago?

Oh, yeah. What I clearly understand … is it’s not easy to get out of social media. It’s confronting addiction, pure and simple. You feel like you’ve left the structure that has become so life critical to you. All of a sudden, especially friends of mine, of course, they know I’m kind of independent. But they’re like,”we can’t find you anywhere, this is ridiculous.” But what happened is today I actually have stronger relationships with my friends because they’ll send me personal things. It’s not what do I read about them on Facebook or social media; they actually send me something specific with a personal note. I kind of like that.

What do you do in your free time?

My free time now is really about spending time with my family. To be here near my mom is a very special gift to me. It feeds the soul.

Any hobbies?

My newest hobby, being back in New Mexico, is travel in the state. There are so many points of interest that I can learn from and be inspired by. I picked up golf. So we as a (work) team, I thought it would be a humbling sport for all of us.

What are some of your favorite places?

Chaco Canyon ranks as No. 1 for me. I was really moved by being there. For whatever reason, I’m fascinated with former Soviet-era bloc countries – Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia. The richness in that history is quite interesting. London has been a real interesting focal point for me because of the diversity. When you go to dinner, you’re having conversations with people from around the world, and I thrive and starve for that diversity. New Mexico embodies a lot of that, too, but London takes that to another level.

What are your favorite foods?

New Mexican. Barelas (Coffee House) is my favorite restaurant here. I know the whole staff. It’s just a fantastic place to feel like you’re in the community and local.

Any hidden talents?

Writing. I take that from my mom. It’s non-fiction, but I like to put myself two years from now. So right now, I like to write that I’m living in 2020 and how’s my experience. What does the world look like?

What are your splurges?

Netflix is a splurge for me, and I am going to disconnect from that, I decided. I think the reason for that is I just want to know I can. Of course, there’s beautiful, great content, but at what cost (when) you think about the amount of time that’s (involved). And that’s what I try to evaluate now.

Do you have any role models?

My dad and mom, obviously were two important role models for me. The other natural choice is Elon Musk. I mean, where did this guy come from? His investment model is he understands there’s a threat to humanity, so what can he do? Well, he’s going to invest in solar and battery. He’s going to build cars to take carbon dioxide out and, last resort, rockets to get us to another planet if all else fails. I think that’s amazing.

Any regrets?

If you’d asked me that a year ago, I would have had a ton of regrets, but today I don’t. Now that I look at the experiences that I’ve had and how they fit clearly into this role, I have no regrets.

THE BASICS: Chavez, 50, was born near Española and grew up in Albuquerque’s South Valley; bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering from Texas A&M University, 1991; Rio Grande High School graduate, 1986.
POSITION: Lens, CEO; Salesforce.com, CIO; Los Alamos National Laboratory, technical staff member; volunteers at Camino Nuevo Youth Center; plans to partner Lens with the Wemagination center, which focuses on early child development using the concept of play.
• Chavez is a “huge fan of the airline industry.” He is working on getting his pilot’s license.
• He had planned to start Lens in London, where he was living, but found “unbelievable resources” through other New Mexico entrepreneurs and at the University of New Mexico Rainforest building, where his office is located.