Local, national and international startup companies showed their wares to an enthusiastic crowd of about 150 people Wednesday night at the latest “demo day” for graduates of Albuquerque’s Creative Startups business accelerator.
The accelerator, which helps aspiring entrepreneurs in the creative fields learn new ways to build and grow their companies, will graduate its latest cohort of nine firms this week.
At Wednesday’s event, held at the Kosmos artist studio and gallery near Downtown, the graduates took turns on stage for two-minute presentations about their companies, which included firms from New Mexico, other states and as far away as Mexico and Portugal. Their products and services included an eclectic mix of high and low-tech goods, ranging from Native American crafts and all-natural beauty products to computer-created virtual environments that allow people to converse with fictional figures like Harry Potter.
One participant from England, Chi Atanga, showed pajamas made with “bold African print textiles” that his company makes and sells to provide jobs and social investment in West African countries. His firm, Walls of Benin, gives $10 for every pajama it sells to a foundation for children in West Africa.
“You can change the world in your sleep by buying pajamas from Walls of Benin,” Atanga told the audience.
Another company, The Art of Revolution in Albuquerque, is using the “transformative power” of art to highlight social issues, said executive director Susan McAllister. That company drew broad attention earlier this year with its “One Million Bones” project, which placed replicas of human bones on the national mall in Washington, D.C. to raise awareness about genocide.
“That project connected people from 30 countries,” McCallister said. “We’re creating new tools for artists that can inspire a new generation to work on things with a social benefit. We help organizations design campaigns for education, advocacy and outreach.”
Two other New Mexico-based firms also participated in the accelerator: 12FPS — a Santa Fe advertising company that strives to turn clients’ passion into effective marketing— and Mezel Mods, a Rio Rancho-based startup that is cornering the global market for replacement parts on pinball machines.
Mezel does 3-D printing of specialty parts, with orders coming in from around the world, said co-founder Kristen Browning-Mezel.
“Pinball is alive and vibrant with people excited about it,” Browning-Mezel said. “They’re fanatics who spend like $100 million every year on it.”
Participation from national and international companies demonstrates the global traction Creative Startups is gaining, said accelerator co-founder Alice Loy.
“We’re working directly with communities now in North Carolina, the Washington, D.C. area, Baltimore, Portugal and Mexico,” Loy told the Journal. “We were recently in Kenya meeting with people interested in bringing our startup accelerator model to their region. We’re creating pools of mentors that we can tap into globally to help startups.”
And the accelerator is generating wealth right here in New Mexico, said Roxanne Blair, program director.
“Local companies that participated in our last cohort have raised $1.5 million in funding, and they’ve created more than 80 jobs here,” Blair told event participants.
The companies will be presenting again on Friday for an audience of experienced entrepreneurs and investors, which could potentially lead to funding or strategic partnerships to help some of them move forward. The presenters will compete for $50,000 in prize money, with $25,000 going to first place, $15,000 for second and $10,000 for third.