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Student startups win $77,500 in UNM competition

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FormaPop, a student startup that won the UNM business plan competition last year, created these storage cups for baby formula that snap onto any baby bottle. (COURTESY OF FORMAPOP)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The University of New Mexico awarded $77,500 to six student startups in this year’s business plan competition.

The annual event, organized by UNM’s Anderson School of Management, featured 15 competing teams, including 10 from UNM and five from New Mexico State University.

Program planners had opened the competition to students from Central New Community College last year, and decided to expand it this year to all of New Mexico’s research universities, said Sul Kassicieh, a distinguished Anderson professor and the endowed chair in economic development.

“Going forward, we want to expand it across New Mexico to include a lot more colleges,” Kassicieh said. “That will offer opportunities for more students and increase the potential for economic development around the state.”

The competition included two parallel tracks, with eight technology-based startups competing for three cash prizes worth a total of $60,000, and seven teams competing for three more awards worth $17,500 in the non-technology Entrepreneurial Challenge.

The top $25,000 technology prize went to Sandia Nanoinks LLC, formed by four UNM students using Sandia National Laboratories technology to create copper-conducting inks for the printed electronics industry. The technology integrates copper nanoparticles with different solvents to make cheaper inks than the typical silver conductive ones used today, said Brian Billstrand, a chemical engineering student who worked on the technology as an intern at Sandia.

“I got excited about it and built a team to take it to market,” Billstrand said. “We’ll use the prize money for legal and accounting expenses and for additional research and development.”

The second-place $20,000 prize went to Ibex Aegis LLC, another UNM startup that built software for geological mapping with unmanned aerial vehicles.

Timer Glove, an NMSU startup with software that tracks results from exercising on mobile devices, won the third-place $15,000 technology prize.

In the Entrepreneurial Challenge, the first-place $10,000 prize went to Muchos Tamales, formed by two students from UNM and CNM to introduce U.S. consumers to more varieties of tamales than the typical meat-filled hot ones. That includes many spicy-free tamales made with pineapple, sweet potatoes and more, plus fried tamales smothered in green chile, said UNM civil engineering student Daniel Guerrero.

“There’s a wide variety of delicious tamales that are made in Mexico but you don’t see in the U.S.,” Guerrero said. “We want more people to try them.”

Inde Beats won the second-place $5,000 prize for an app that allows local musicians to promote their music with short online videos. Sway Attire won the third-place $2,500 prize for its hemp-silk clothing line.

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