The University of New Mexico reports another 11 startups launched this past fiscal year to market UNM technologies, but unlike previous years, every one of them plans to stay in New Mexico.
That’s a significant reversal from FY 2017, when eight of 12 startups marketing UNM technologies left for other states, said Lisa Kuuttila, president and CEO of the Science and Technology Corp., UNM’s tech-transfer office. And it’s the first time since the STC began publishing annual statistics on its program achievements for each fiscal year, that not a single startup chose to relocate to other markets.
“It’s a significant milestone for us,” Kuuttila said. “It reflects the growing support here for entrepreneurs seeking to launch and grow companies.”
More availability of early-stage funding is a contributing factor, Kuuttila said. That includes the State Investment Council’s new Catalyst Fund, which provides equity for venture firms offering seed and follow-on financing to local startups, plus robust investments by the New Mexico Angels and other individual investors.
Expanding support programs at the high-tech Innovate ABQ research and development zone Downtown is also a magnet for local startup activity. The STC is now housed in Innovate ABQ’s Lobo Rainforest building, along with tech-transfer professionals from the national laboratories and business support organizations.
“Moving into the Lobo Rainforest building raised UNM’s technology transfer efforts to a new level,” Kuuttila said. “Awareness is growing about all the entrepreneurial activity happening there. It’s attracting many people from out of state to come and learn about it.”
It’s also encouraging some veteran entrepreneurs to locate here, such as Mark Chavez, former chief information officer for the global cloud-based business platform Salesforce.com. Chavez (formerly known as Trae Chancellor) launched a new startup, Lens, at the Lobo Rainforest building this year to build a social media platform unplugged from the cloud for individuals to regain control of their personnel information. Some of the Lens technology comes from UNM.
“The major reason we located Lens here is because of a fundamental shift in the local ecosystem,” Chavez said. “There are so many people now asking how they can help you get started, and it’s all concentrated right here at the Lobo Rainforest building.”
UNM faculty and students as well are more actively pursuing entrepreneurship, launching new companies with university assistance. This past year, for example, chemical and biomedical engineering professor Heather Caravan and graduate student Phuong Nguyen launched Adaptive Biomedical Design, a consulting firm to turn innovative designs for medical diagnostics and treatment into marketable products and services.
STC’s latest metrics show a significant leap in general in entrepreneurial activity on campus. The tech-transfer office helped researchers file 93 patent applications in this past fiscal year, up from 68 the year before. UNM faculty also disclosed 107 new inventions to the STC, and investors signed 49 licensing agreements to market UNM technologies.