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NM Tech inventors conference attracts national support


Raul Deju, director of the Institute of Entrepreneurial Leadership at John F. Kennedy University in California, will be the keynote speaker at New Mexico Tech’s Inventors and Entrepreneurs Workshop next week. (KEVIN ROBINSON AVILA/JOURNAL)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A lot of wolves will be prowling next week at New Mexico Tech’s second Inventors and Entrepreneurs Workshop in Socorro.

The pack includes prominent investors and serial entrepreneurs from the Silicon Valley, Wall Street and elsewhere, there to sniff out potential deals, share their prowess for taking innovative technology to market and pounce on the best ideas at a “Wolves’ Den” pitch event for student and community innovators to compete for cash prizes.

The conference, scheduled for April 7-8, aims to educate students, faculty and aspiring entrepreneurs from around New Mexico about building startups and taking new technology to market. The university launched the event last year, attracting broad interest by investors and entrepreneurs from some of the nation’s most prominent innovation hubs.

This year appears on track for more of the same, thanks to Tech’s growing reputation as a hidden gem for new, marketable technologies and investment opportunities, said Larry Udell, a veteran venture investor and serial entrepreneur from the Silicon Valley now working as a technology-transfer consultant for the university.

“NM Tech offers a gold mine of opportunities for investors given the broad technology being developed there, including everything from mining and petroleum products to new cancer therapies,” Udell said. “The university’s claim to fame is its nicotine patch, which it successfully commercialized in the 1980s. But New Mexico Tech is now opening its doors for a lot more investment opportunities.”

Teams of students are working on commercialization projects through Tech’s Center for Technology Commercialization, which the university launched in 2014. The center offers courses and hands-on experience for undergraduate and graduate students to acquire knowledge and skills to guide technologies to market.

The conference helps broaden those efforts by bringing local and national entrepreneurs to campus for educational workshops, networking opportunities and potential investment deals, said Peter Anselmo, the center’s executive director.

“This year, we’re focusing on the earliest stage for innovators to learn about how they can determine if their ideas have market potential, and how to move forward if they do,” Anselmo said.

The conference is open to students and the public from around the state. In fact, a $7,000 grant this year from the Kansas City-based Kauffman Foundation will pay for 20 students and faculty from Luna Community College and Navajo Technical University to attend.

Kauffman also awarded a $10,000 grant to finance cash prizes at the Wolves’ Den, a Shark Tank-style event where five teams will compete for three cash awards, plus legal services from the Peacock Myers patent law firm.