Doug Lee, managing director for the WESST Enterprise Center in Albuquerque, died of heart failure last Saturday.
Lee, 64, led WESST’s technology incubator, which opened in 2009 in Downtown Albuquerque.
Under his leadership, the center helped 16 companies get started, generating nearly $29 million in revenue in three years and creating 197 jobs, said WESST President Agnes Noonan.
“If he were here, Doug would say his biggest accomplishment was creating jobs,” Noonan said. “He was a colleague and a friend who truly enjoyed people. It’s just a huge loss.”
Lee was a long-time champion of business incubators, which provide assistance for startup companies to navigate the early stages of building a business. He formerly served as executive director of the Louisiana Technology Park in Baton Rouge from 2001-2006, where he helped 18 companies get started.
He previously managed two marketing firms in Virginia and Maryland, and he worked as a motivational speaker and lecturer. In the 1970s, he served as a confidential assistant to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and as media manager at the White House Office of Public Liaison.
Lee was a “people person” who took pride in mentoring and inspiring entrepreneurs.
“He was passionate about entrepreneurship,” Noonan said. “He loved to sit down with early-stage businesspeople to help them succeed. He always said he was doing what he loved.”
In September, Lee told the Journal that among the most productive and enjoyable things for him at WESST was the daily hallway interaction with entrepreneurs.
“One of the most important things in an incubator is synergy, being around other entrepreneurs and exchanging ideas and so forth,” Lee said. “My door is always open and people come in all the time.”
WESST will establish a Doug Lee Entrepreneur Fund in his honor to support existing and small businesses, Noonan said. The center will hold a celebration of Lee’s life from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 30, at the incubator at 609 Broadway NE.