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STC and UNM Business School Honor Inventors and Winners of Business Plan Competition

Albuquerque, NM – April 22, 2014 April has been a busy month for UNM in recognizing and honoring innovation and promoting entrepreneurship. On April 3, STC honored 51 UNM inventors who received issued patents this year and recognized the lifetime accomplishments of a top UNM innovator by presenting the 2014 Innovation Fellow Award to Dr. Plamen Atanassov from the Department of Chemical & Nuclear Engineering. The UNM Anderson School of Management held its annual Business Plan Competition for students campus wide who presented business plans for tech and non-tech companies. To read more about these activities, see Kevin Robinson-Avila’s April 21 article, “UNM Seeks to Boost Entrepreneurialism,” in the Albuquerque Journal’s Business Outlook, reprinted below.

Business competition boosts entrepreneurialism

Sul Kassicieh, distinguished professor at the University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management, says New Mexico’s economic prosperity depends on its ability to create a new generation of entrepreneurs. “That’s the key to economic development,” Kassicieh told participants at UNM’s annual Business Plan Competition, held at the Embassy Suites in Albuquerque earlier this month. “It’s all about entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs.”

That concept is the driving force behind UNM’s annual event, which Kassicieh helped create in 2005. This year, 42 students divided into 13 teams competed for cash prizes.

Six teams walked away with a total of $75,000 in awards, ranging from $2,500 to $25,000.

But win or lose, the competition allowed all participants to gain real-world experience in launching and building a business, said John Garcia, former Albuquerque economic development director and now executive vice president for the local homebuilders group HBA. Garcia helped judge the student teams.

“Students spend their time in college reading texts and taking classes, but here they get to go before businesspeople who are directly involved in industry,” Garcia said. “It can be a bitter pill, because the judges are sometimes very honest, and it can also be very uplifting, but either outcome is a lesson in what real life is like in the entrepreneurial world.”

Kassicieh said that hands-on experience is the reason UNM created the competition, which has attracted 345 student participants since it began nine years ago.

“We all need to work to increase the number of people who take the entrepreneurial plunge, and this event helps with that,” he said.

The competition was divided into two tracks. Six teams created technology-based businesses and competed for a total of $60,000, while seven others with non-technology businesses competed for $15,000. Three teams from each track took home prices.

Among the technology companies, a grand prize of $25,000 went to PostGrad App, a three-member team that created a social networking app to help students connect with new people after they graduate. Second-place, with $20,000, went to six students who are developing automobile monitoring software. And third place, with $15,000, went to two women who created a line of educational toys for girls aimed at inspiring interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

In the non-technology track, a team marketing a wearable massage tool won first place with $7,500, students with a new crowdfunding platform for New Mexico won $5,000, and a team developing a digitally controlled showerhead won $2,500.

Since the annual competition launched nine years ago, a total of $475,000 has been awarded to 39 student companies. The funds come from a range of sponsors that include businesses, the national laboratories and professional organizations.

Most award winners use prize money to continue developing their businesses, and this year is no exception. PostGrad App members, for example, said they now plan to hire contract developers to prepare for commercial launch in June.

In addition, PostGrad and other winning teams said the competition experience itself was as rewarding as the prize money.

“Teamwork makes the dream work, and it’s the competition that really pulled us together,” said Adam Ornelas, one of PostGrad’s three members.

Terri-Nicole Baca of As Girls Grow said she and her partner learned a lot about seed funding, startup funding, exit strategies and financing in general.

“You can have a great idea, but we learned that’s completely irrelevant unless you have a solid plan to build it,” Baca said.

Meanwhile, UNM is also working to inspire staff and faculty to take the entrepreneurial plunge by encouraging them to open up laboratory inventions to investors and entrepreneurs.

The Science and Technology Corp., UNM’s technology transfer office, handed out recognition awards to 51 UNM inventors who received patents or trademarks from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2013. The STC provided plaques and stipends to awardees at its annual Innovation Awards banquet on April 3.

By disclosing their work and seeking intellectual-property protection, UNM inventors help the STC to build a pipeline of technology for commercialization, said STC President and CEO Lisa Kuuttila.

“The 51 inventors recognized this year represents a record number of awards, up from 45 last year,” Kuuttila said.

At the banquet, the STC named Plamen Atanassov – founding director of the UNM Center for Emerging Energy Technologies – as its 2014 Innovation Fellow. Atanassov holds 13 university-affiliated U.S. patents.

Source: Albuquerque Journal

For more information, contact:

Kevin Robinson-Avila