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A boost for startups


Rebekah Hartenberger, an 18-year-old student, makes her pitch for developing a wearable attack warning system at UNM’s Science and Technology Corp. (Courtesy Science and Technology Corp.)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Nearly a dozen novel, innovative business ideas are a little closer to market following two pitch competitions and a weekend boot camp for aspiring entrepreneurs to begin building new businesses.

The events, which included cash and in-kind prizes to help select startups take their first steps forward, marked the kickoff of Global Entrepreneurship Week, an annual event aimed at celebrating technology, innovation and entrepreneurship in Albuquerque and other cities.

The activities began at the Matanza craft beer bar and restaurant in Nob Hill Friday afternoon, where seven women-run startups competed in InnovateHER, a national competition sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The event — aimed at recognizing new businesses that have a positive impact on women and families — included $3,500 in cash prizes, plus a chance for the first-place winner to progress to the next round against companies in other cities to earn a place in the final round in Washington, D.C., with $70,000 in cash prizes.

As Girls Grow, which makes toys with engineering concepts to encourage girls in problem-solving, won the first place prize with $2,000. Teeniors, which connects tech-savvy teens with senior citizens to help the elders manage electronic devices, took second place with $1,000. And Etkie, which produces and sells luxury jewelry handmade by Native American women, took third place with $500.

UNM’s Science and Technology Corp. also held an Elevator Pitch competition on Friday, pitting 11 students against one another in 90-second presentations for five cash prizes of $2,500 each. Winning pitches included ideas for new apps, an on-campus retail store for students to buy and trade used goods, a new method for measuring evaporation in reservoirs and lakes, and a wearable “Personal Attack Warning System” device for people to record threatening encounters and transmit them real-time to authorities for help.

Some winners said they would use the prizes to pursue their ideas, such as Rebekah Hartenberger, 18, who said she is working with the STC to patent her personal warning device. “Women in particular need something like this to provide more protection,” Hartenberger said.

Finally, more than a dozen teams of aspiring entrepreneurs participated in New Mexico’s first statewide “Startup Weekend,” with simultaneous events connected online in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces. The events offered a three-day boot camp for people with startup ideas to work with like-minded individuals to test and develop their proposed products and services with mentoring and feedback from investors and experienced entrepreneurs.

Teams in Las Cruces and Albuquerque won locally with a new desalination technology and a novel service to help individuals correct errors on medical bills. A new Santa Fe company, ComboBox, won the statewide competition. The company is building an analytical app for people to send comments anonymously to businesses or organizations that will automatically be sorted out for companies to recognize common issues and trends.

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