NMSU expands startup program to branch campuses - Albuquerque Journal

NMSU expands startup program to branch campuses

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Michael Webb, a third-year New Mexico State student, has won a scholarship that will allow him to work on his planned mobile gaming venture, thanks to the expansion of the university’s Studio G program. (COURTESY OF NMSU)

Michael Webb, a third-year game design major at New Mexico State University’s Grants campus, will spend half of this spring semester preparing for commercial launch of his first mobile gaming app.

The Grants native won a $4,200 sponsorship from Studio G, NMSU’s student and alumni startup assistance center in Las Cruces, that will allow him to work 20 hours a week on his new mobile gaming venture, Two Birds Enterprises. Studio G will also provide online training and mentoring.

The grant and services are part of NMSU efforts to extend its startup assistance program from the main campus to Doña Ana Community College, and to NMSU branches in Carlsbad, Alamogordo and Grants.

Webb expects to start selling his first app, a unique connect-the-dots puzzle game, by next summer. Without Studio G, however, that would be hard to achieve.

“They’re paying me 20 hours a week to run my business with lots of advisers to help me on legal issues and on developing a network of industry contacts,” Webb said. “It makes me a lot more confident. Without Studio G, it would take much longer.”

NMSU’s Arrowhead Center in Las Cruces, which manages the university’s technology commercialization programs, received a $369,000 U.S. Commerce Department grant last year to expand Studio G. Arrowhead used the money to build an online program for training, mentoring and coaching. It also contracted local student “champions” to provide individual support for aspiring student and alumni entrepreneurs at each branch campus.

Arrowhead directors hope to replicate the success achieved by Studio G in Las Cruces. The program has helped about 250 student startups since launching in 2011.

Bringing those services to rural areas where economic opportunities are more limited can have a big impact, said Studio G director Kramer Winningham.

“There are a lot of students out there who want to start ventures,” Winningham said. “It’s a way to create opportunities to keep more of those young people in New Mexico.”

Fourteen student ventures from the branch campuses have already joined the Studio G program, said Arrowhead director Kathryn Hansen.

Apart from Webb’s gaming app, new branch ventures include a hand-sanitizing device developed by a student team in Alamogordo, and new task-management software for nonprofit organizations built by aspiring entrepreneurs at Doña Ana Community College.

Grants computer science instructor Zac Smith, who is serving as the local Studio G program champion, said three more students have signed up for Studio G.

Grants branch president Harry Sheski said the program could create new local career pathways.

“There’s a lot of creativity and energy among our folks on campus,” Sheski said. “This can make a difference in people’s lives.”

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