Las Cruces groups flush with cash for startups

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Las Cruces groups flush with cash for startups

May Ortega, Albuquerque Business First | May 4, 2017 

Significant funding for two New Mexico State University-affiliated groups has given them the green light for several forms of startup support.

The Arrowhead Center received a $2.5 million contribution Friday from the Hunt Family Foundation — the largest gift it has ever received. Founded in 2004, the nonprofit serves as the school’s hub for innovation resources.

Four days later, the university’s for-profit Arrowhead Innovation Fund — a separate entity from the Arrowhead Center — was announced as one of three initial recipients of the Catalyst Fund. The venture capital fund was granted $800,000, bringing its total funding to $1.6 million. This has triggered the start of the Innovation Fund’s investment process, according to Managing Director and President Estela Hernandez.

“The significance of the investment by the Catalyst Fund is that Arrowhead Innovation Fund now surpasses the first close investment target of $1 million, which enables us to shift to identifying the first of up to 12 companies for investment over the next three to four years,” Hernandez said. “Reaching the final close target of $2 million ensures AIF has the funding that we foresee will be needed to invest in these companies and help them reach critical milestones in technology and company development to attract follow-on funding.”

The venture fund’s application is officially open. It is looking to invest in up to 12 New Mexico startups.

Meanwhile at the Arrowhead Center, Director Kathy Hansen said it is excited to use its millions in funding to help innovative businesses in New Mexico, El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico — dubbed the Borderplex region.

“We’ll be able to provide greater opportunities for partnerships to support our researchers as they explore ways to apply their work and make an impact in the marketplace,” Hansen said. “We’ll also help drive improvements in the regional economy by continuing to foster a culture of entrepreneurship that addresses the need for business and job creation in innovative ways.”

The center hosts various startup-focused programs, like the state’s first agriculture accelerator, titled AgSprint. It accepted six “agtech” startups last month and will award $2,000 to each one that completes the first five weeks of the curriculum.

Hansen said the multimillion-dollar donation from the Hunt Family Foundation helps the center do its part for New Mexico State University’s newly launched “Ignite Aggie Discovery” campaign. The second-largest comprehensive campaign in the university’s history, according to the school, was created to raise money so its students have the tools to continue their education.

Since its silent phase began in 2013, 20,800 donors have helped raised more than $72 million, putting the project more than halfway to its goal of $125 million.

The $2.5 million donation to the Arrowhead Center will also allow it to create more programs as time goes on, all in effort to advance the area’s technological competitiveness and innovation, Hansen said.

“It’s an exciting time and we’re poised for tremendous growth,” she said. “We’re extremely grateful for the opportunity that the Hunt Family Foundation has provided to build on the work we’re doing.”