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New navigators will help guide NM entrepreneurs

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There’s a new crack team of experts on the beat to help aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators navigate the challenges of taking new technology to market.

A newly-announced Tech Navigator Program is corralling some of New Mexico’s best and brightest local players in technology commercialization into a one-stop shop to help individuals and startups connect with the resources they need to forge paths to market. The program includes experts from all of the state’s national laboratories, the University of New Mexico, the City of Albuquerque, and many of the local business and entrepreneurship programs now involved in building an innovation district in the heart of Albuquerque.

Program participants will guide people directly to local experts and resources to assist them in navigating everything from licensing new technology from the labs to building marketing strategies and finding funding for their endeavors, said Dorian Rader, vice president of the New Mexico Angels investor group, one of the partnership’s founding members.

“We have a wealth of entrepreneurial resources and scientific talent in New Mexico, but it can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start, and that’s where we come in,” said Rader, the program’s lead tech navigator. “Entrepreneurs and scientists alike can contact the program to find out exactly who has the resources to help them, while participating in collaborative programs with our partners.”

The program will launch weekly office hours at the new Lobo Rainforest building at the Innovate ABQ research and development site Downtown.

“People can stop by to get their questions answered and receive orientation on where to go for assistance,” Rader said. “We’ll directly walk them through everything and guide them straight to people and programs that can help them.”

That includes the ABQid business accelerator, the FatPipe ABQ co-working space, the Bioscience Center startup incubator, and the city, which provided some initial funding for website development and program promotion.

The Tech Navigator Program is the brainchild of City Alive. That’s a local project created by Living Cities, which is a national funding initiative backed by large banks and foundations that is working with Albuquerque on job creation and economic development through innovation and entrepreneurship.

“Technology transfer and the commercialization of research are key areas for Albuquerque’s economy to grow,” said Mayor Richard Berry in a prepared statement. “I am pleased that the city has provided funding for the first Tech Navigator to support entrepreneurs with everything from navigating venture capital and funding to business plans and market research.”

UNM’s Innovation Academy is participating as well through a new, eight-week Tech Navigator Challenge in which student teams will design business plans to commercialize university and lab technologies, culminating in a pitch competition for $25,000 sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory.

“We are incredibly excited to pair our students with world class technologies and organizations,” said Innovation Academy Executive Director Rob DelCampo. “UNM wants to be a model to others in opening up the world of technology transfer for students.”