Luring out-of-state CEOs to startups is good for New Mexico

Venture capitalists used to say – maybe they still say it – that they bet on the jockey, not the horse. They mean that the success of their investment depends largely on the talent of the person running the company.

New Mexico has herds of horses. Great ideas are commonplace here. We have very few jockeys, so few, in fact, that STC.UNM, the organization that commercializes technologies invented at the University of New Mexico, has recruited executives from out of state to run a third of the companies it has helped set up.

And that’s a good thing. It takes a special kind of person to launch successful companies, especially companies based on technology. That STC could recruit 12 chief executive officers from places like Pittsburgh, Boston and California speaks to the appeal of our state and the value of the horses we breed here.

STC President Lisa Kuutilla says there is a network of experienced executives who like to visit New Mexico, maybe even have a second home here. Some of them jump at the chance to live and work here full time.

“There’s a whole bunch of them,” Kuutilla said in an interview. “They didn’t come for UNM or STC. They came for New Mexico.”

“We could talk about our disadvantages all day, but we have an inherent advantage,” she said. Kuutilla had a similar job at Iowa State University. When it came to recruiting in Iowa, “unless they were alums, there was no way I could get them to move there.”

That is not to say we don’t have some excellent homegrown entrepreneurs. We do. We need more.

Transplanted executives will hire, train and mentor a number of New Mexicans who will learn how to take a startup from a glimmer of hope to a full-fledged enterprise. At some point, those people will be ready to run their own companies, and some of them are likely to start their own, according to Jason Wiens, policy director of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a Kansas City, Mo., charity that promotes entrepreneurship.

“The research shows that exposure to an entrepreneur means you are more likely to be an entrepreneur yourself,” Wiens said in a telephone interview.

New Mexicans are understandably frustrated by how long it takes to build what Wiens calls an “entrepreneurial ecosystem,” but he suggests we keep some perspective. There are very few places in the country with the kind of robust climate of innovation found in Austin or Boston or Pittsburgh, and it took years for those cities to become entrepreneurial hotbeds.

One reason is that even though the media celebrate the kid who launches a company in his dorm room (Michael Dell, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates), most entrepreneurs don’t start a company until they are in their 40s, Wiens said. It takes that long to develop the skills required to succeed.

The successful entrepreneurs bring an industry knowledge to the startup. STC has brought in CEOs from Pittsburgh, for example, to run some of its biotech companies because Pittsburgh has produced several biotech companies. The transplanted CEOs cut their teeth in that market.

They have a network of contacts developed over years in the industry. They know which companies will make good partners and potential customers. They know which sales and marketing specialists to use. They know which law firms will best understand their companies’ intellectual property needs. They know which investors might be most willing to back their ventures. They know the suppliers and the contractors they’ll need.

Communities can accelerate the evolution of an entrepreneurial ecosystem, Wiens said.

Kauffman studied 356 metropolitan areas in the United States to learn what determines entrepreneurial success. “What mattered most was educational attainment,” Wiens said. That includes good high school graduation rates, good apprenticeship and internship programs, good community colleges and universities.

UNM efforts like Innovation Academy, Central New Mexico Community College’s Deep-Dive Coding Bootcamp and community-based efforts like ABQid are nurturing startups in a number of industries, including low-tech, no-tech and arts-based businesses. Kuutilla says such efforts are essential to give young people entrepreneurial skills and to nurture a culture of innovation and risk-taking.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Winthrop Quigley at 823-3896 or wquigley@abqjournal.com. Go to ABQjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

Share Your Story

Nativo Sponsored Content

Ad Tango


"

taboola desktop

MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS

1
'Warrior Spirit' follows fighter's journey to cut weight
ABQnews Seeker
Nicco Montano made history when she ... Nicco Montano made history when she became the first female Native American champion in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Montano is the focus of the ...
2
NHCC Foundation receives $50K grant for film programming
ABQnews Seeker
The National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation ... The National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation received a $50,000 grant to help grow film programming at the center. The grant was given Bank of ...
3
MMA: Clark, Edwards lose
Blogs
Albuquerque-based MMA fighters Devin Clark and ... Albuquerque-based MMA fighters Devin Clark and Christian Edwards both lost their light heavyweight bouts Saturday on separate cards. On a Bellator card in San ...
4
In NM, helping to prevent suicide remains a task ...
Blogs
Ours is still a state that ... Ours is still a state that is sorely lacking in mental health care providers
5
Actress jumped at the chance to star with Clint ...
Blogs
Fernanda Urrejola jumped at the opportunity ... Fernanda Urrejola jumped at the opportunity to work on "Cry Macho."Not only did the st ...
6
New Mexico gives 'Cry Macho' a different feel
ABQnews Seeker
'Cry Macho' was one of the ... 'Cry Macho' was one of the first productions to film in New Mexico when the film industry got the green light last fall. The ...
7
Help when your loved one is a victim of ...
Blogs
A nonprofit agency provides information, referrals, ... A nonprofit agency provides information, referrals, advocacy and support for the families and friends of victims of violence – all at no ...
8
‘Labor of love’: ‘Small Engine Repair’ hits the big ...
Blogs
It's been a journey for John ... It's been a journey for John Pollono to get 'Small Engine Repair' to the big screen. It started off as a play in Los ...
9
Zero-fare bus bill kicked down the road
ABQnews Seeker
Three leave top jobs in city ... Three leave top jobs in city government