Executive's Desk: NM's 'village' vibe offers startups unique benefits - Albuquerque Journal

Executive’s Desk: NM’s ‘village’ vibe offers startups unique benefits

Fans enjoy interactive games at Electric Playhouse in April 2021. Dozens of investors understood the value proposition of the company — healthy play using advanced digital projection technology. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

In New Mexico, many of us bemoan our status at the bottom of many national rankings.

An old saw is “thank goodness for Mississippi.” Otherwise, we’d be 50th. In the case of startup and high-growth companies, there is good news and a lot of bright spots.

One of the reasons for success in startup companies is that New Mexico can take advantage of the things we do have and the features of our state. We are small. The population is low. Many say we are more like a village or small town that a big city or the nation’s fifth largest state.

Forget six degrees of separation — how about one or two? So, an entrepreneur or executive should be able to connect with and reach anyone in our state that can help advance the company. We should encourage and support that. Need a customer, a researcher, a new employee and/or an investor? The proverbial village should be able to solve for that.

For investing in New Mexico companies, what our state offers is actually a bonus. Due diligence, especially to learn about the character of the entrepreneur and the history of the company, is right in front of us. This reduces cost and transaction time.

Drew Tulchin. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Many of our business leaders wear many hats in the community. They serve on boards, they support more than one company and they are involved in civic activity. This is positive. It supports the veritable barn raising, which was the only way small towns could accomplish large projects that provided a step forward — like a new building.

Companies like Build with Robots (buildwithrobots.com) have extensive success in New Mexico. Founded by two executives with previous entrepreneur successes, they were a known quantity. Local entities recognized their potential and partnered with them to advance for mutual benefit. Sandia National Labs, NMSBA – MEP, City of Albuquerque and NM EDD all understand the value of a company stating they were New Mexican and offered high wage, sustainable jobs that were here and staying here.

The company was able to connect with our local airport, local schools/school districts and corporations with warehouses — reaching decision-makers in these institutions through personal connection, even during COVID. This led to valuable partnerships, collaborations, investment and sales.

Electric Playhouse (electricplayhouse.com) is another success story. Dozens of angel investors understood the “value proposition” of the company — healthy play using advanced digital projection technology offering fun for families and adults that could leverage empty big box and mall retail spaces proliferating across America. Local stakeholders saw how their investment benefitted other parts of the community — schools, churches, neighborhood groups, businesses and so forth. The village was helping itself by fostering a new offering in our community. The company took over a big box store on the West Side that had been empty for years. Now, the parking lot is full.

From these relationships, this startup was able to get staff, advisors and experts in far-ranging topics to give invaluable input to advance goals. Now, the company is advancing to neighboring states, particularly Texas, where the high population, density and wealth provides extensive opportunity. If the business model can work in tiny New Mexico, the numbers will be easy in larger metropolises.

Our state offers many programs that truly help our local companies. New Mexico is ranked above average/near the top for public support to startups, research and development investment and federal grants received into startups. For a great report on this, check out our partner Tramway Ventures’ research at tramwayventures.com/our-strategy/. Many state agencies are doing good work and are providing valuable offerings that leverage private investment. This includes the alphabet soup of NM EDD, NMFA, NM Tax and Revenue, and others.

Hats off to the state’s license board taking on the challenge of regulating a marketplace for recreational cannabis. We’ve seen excellent customer service and educational programming there.

The startup scene in New Mexico is vibrant, successful and growing. For success, we talk about the T’s: Time, Treasure and Talent. It isn’t just investors who build these companies. Everyone has something to offer these companies to advance them on their journey: a customer, an employee, a consultant, a referral. Together, we can work together to make the difference. United we stand strong. Though trite, it is true. The proverbial village can raise the child.

Drew Tulchin is president of New Mexico Angels (nmangels.com) a 20-year-old local organization dedicated to supporting local startup and high-growth companies. Tulchin served as Meow Wolf’s first CFO. The executive’s desk is a guest column providing advice, commentary or information about resources available to the business community in New Mexico. To submit a column for consideration, email gporter@abqjournal.com.

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