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NMSU expands startup program to branch campuses

NMSU expands startup program to branch campuses

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.

Michael Webb, a third-year student at the NMSU Grants Campus, won a 4,200 grant from Studio G to build a new mobile app game he developed into a new business. Courtesy of NMSU Wed Feb 01 17:44:18 -0700 2017 1485996258 FILENAME: 427407.jpg

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 Winingham.

“There are a lot of students out there who want to start ventures,” Winingham 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.”

By Kevin Robinson-Avila / Journal Staff Writer
Friday, February 3rd, 2017 at 2:44pm


NMSU’s Studio G expansion will aid student entrepreneurs

NMSU’s Studio G expansion will aid student entrepreneurs

LAS CRUCES – Students across the New Mexico State University system with an idea for a business now have access to an online entrepreneurship curriculum and network of expert advisers, thanks to Arrowhead Center’s Next Generation Entrepreneurship program. Known as Next Gen, the program brings Studio G, Arrowhead’s student and alumni business incubator, to NMSU’s community college campuses throughout the state.

East Mesa Campus of Doña Ana Community College in Las Cruces, N.M.
(Photo: Courtesy)

Arrowhead Center, NMSU’s economic development engine and technology commercialization hub, received a $368,760 grant in 2016 from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to expand Studio G to students at campuses in Alamogordo, Carlsbad and Grants, as well as students at Dona Ana Community College in Las Cruces.

DACC President Renay Scott said she welcomes the chance for her students to build on their entrepreneurial thinking.

“We’re very excited about the opportunity to offer our students access to Arrowhead Center’s Studio G and other programs to support their entrepreneurial opportunities,” Scott said. “Our students have many experiences at DACC that lead to new ideas, scholarship and items that they wish to market. Next Gen allows students to have access to programs and experiences that will help them develop their intellectual property, develop business plans and work with others who also seek to start their own businesses.”

Studio G, which was founded in 2011, has seen tremendous growth in recent years. Since its inception, Studio G has helped more than 250 ventures involving more than 450 student entrepreneurs. An economic impact study in 2015 found that Studio G clients had an impact of $2.4 million during that fiscal year, and Studio G members have raised more than $2.5 million in investments, grants and contracts since 2013. In fiscal year 2016, Studio G ventures hired 93 paid employees.

With Next Gen funding, Arrowhead Center has already converted the effective Studio G curriculum, modeled on MIT’s Disciplined Entrepreneurship and Lean Launchpad methodologies, into an online format that uses “gamification” to engage student and alumni entrepreneurs in learning tracks that are tailored to different types of businesses and situations.

“Students at our community college campuses now have access to the very same learning system, advising opportunities and mentorship meetings as our clients at the Las Cruces campus,” said Kramer Winingham, director of Studio G and a principal investigator on the Next Gen project. “The online curriculum allows us to scale up what we can offer to students here in Las Cruces, as well as those in communities around the state.”

Three of NMSU’s four community college campuses are located in rural communities with less than 50,000 population, and those areas are also economically dependent on single industries like government enterprises and mining, so developing support systems for the next generation of entrepreneurs in those areas will be crucial for providing employment and workforce development, said Arrowhead Center Director and CEO Kathryn Hansen. It’s also the key to enhancing the commercialization of research, regional connectivity and innovation in New Mexico.

NMSU Chancellor Garrey Carruthers said the Next Gen program is one of several important ways that Arrowhead Center supports NMSU’s land-grant mission of serving the educational needs of New Mexico’s diverse population through comprehensive programs of education, research, extension education and public service.

In addition to scaling the Studio G curriculum for use at the community colleges, Next Gen funding has been used to address the challenge of matching entrepreneurs with funding and technology licensing opportunities on a broader scale. Two new web-based portals, TechMatch and FundMatch, provide a user-friendly online system to steer students toward opportunities and facilitate connections for entrepreneurs who are ready to seek funding for their projects.

With all of these systems in place, the next step is to start funneling community college students into the entrepreneurial pipeline. Each of the college campuses has selected a leader with strong connections to both the students and the local business community to champion the effort to recruit students to Studio G and build engagement with those local business networks. At DACC, that’s Joan Keeney, a college assistant professor in the Business Department.

For more information about Studio G, or to apply from any of NMSU’s system-wide campuses, visit For more information about the Next Gen Entrepreneurship program at DACC, contact Joan Keeney at

By Amanda Bradford, For the Sun-News


Into the Shark Tank: Aggies pitch ideas to area investors

Into the Shark Tank: Aggies pitch ideas to area investors

LAS CRUCES – Carlos Murguia, pitching his business idea to a room of possible investors, cut to the chase.

“What are we here for today? To make money, so let’s get started!” the New Mexico State University student and entrepreneur said before his five-minute presentation to a panel of Las Cruces “shark” investors in hopes of gaining funding and other business support. The exchange came during the Aggie Shark Tank event, held Oct. 19 before a large and enthusiastic crowd at the Las Cruces Convention Center.

Murguia was one of five NMSU students who pitched their business dreams to the sharks — agribusiness leader Dino Cervantes, real estate developer Mickey Clute, Mesilla Valley Trucking owner Royal Jones, and Sisbarro Dealerships owner Lou Sisbarro.

After the pitch, the sharks ask the entrepreneurs a range of hard-hitting questions touching on financial forecasts, product development, customer base, competition and market opportunities. In addition to the opportunity to gain investment from shark panelists, the entrepreneurs also had a chance to win $1,000 prize based on audience vote for the best pitch.

Contestants included:
  • Murguia, pitching KoolKat, a mineral-based roof coating that can reduce temperatures inside a building to produce substantial energy savings
  • Jason Koenig, seeking funding and mentorship for Pixanthropy, a software platform that facilitates philanthropic giving by connecting to a new generation of social donors
  • Jonah Brown, seeking funding for his business Dynitikos, a rapid turn-around replication-technology service for high-precision, high-quality metal pieces for jewelers
  • Roberto Acosta, seeking funding for equipment to open Float Spa, a new business offering therapeutic sensory deprivation therapy to help people relax and recharge
  • Avinash Kuna and his business SOLAS, a startup developing new, more advanced proprietary technology to the security surveillance industry.

Kramer Winingham, director of Studio G, said the five entrepreneurs were chosen out of 25 applicants.

“Aggie Shark Tank is open to all NMSU students,” he said. “Once we receive the applications, we review them to identify business plans that have advanced to an appropriate stage to request funding and are also a match to the investors’ interests.”

Once they’re chosen, the entrepreneurs go through four or five practice sessions to refine their pitch with the Studio G team and also receive feedback from mentors in the Arrowhead Innovation Network. “We want to give them the best chance to raise the money they need to advance their business,” Winingham said.

Murguia won the $1,000 Audience Favorite prize and an offer from Jones to test his roof coating product on one of his properties. The investors did not commit funds to any of the entrepreneurs in this event, but they did offer to mentor them as they continued to shape their business plans.

“We strive to be good mentors,” Cervantes said, “but part of that is addressing any deficiencies in their plans.” Most of the participants take the constructive feedback well, he added.

“I think there were around 10 people at the first event,” Cervantes said. This time, an audience of 200 onlookers was on hand to cheer on the entrepreneurs.

The Aggie Shark Tank was born out of an idea by Sisbarro, a fan of the popular “Shark Tank” TV show series. Sisbarro approached Kathy Hansen, Arrowhead Center CEO, with the idea to create a similar program to help NMSU students. Sisbarro asked other investors to participate and worked with Hansen’s team at the Arrowhead Center to shape the event.

Cervantes said he and the other panelists have worked with several of the entrepreneurs since the first Aggie Shark Tank took place. In last spring’s event, investors committed $80,000 with some portion going to all five businesses.

“We’ve seen some interesting projects and we’ve stayed in touch with several of the entrepreneurs,” he said. “Many of them typically take a year or more to go to market so we’re just starting to see some results.”

Entrepreneurs said they were appreciative of the opportunity to participate in the Aggie Shark Tank.

“It was great to be around the other contestants,” Brown said. “They’re the shakers and movers of the community, and their energy is exciting.”

Brown is a freshman at NMSU, a young entrepreneur with prior experience including a bike shop in Elephant Butte, graphic design, and some experience in jewelry making.

Murguia said he spent five to six hours a day in preparation for three weeks before the event. He felt the coaching he received from Studio G was invaluable.

“I liked the learning process. I can tell you that the presentation I did today is nothing like the presentation I started with,” he said. “Now that I’ve done this, I know I can get up and present my company to anyone.”

All Aggie Shark Tank events are free and open to the public. More information about past Shark Tanks and contestants can be found at The next event is tentatively scheduled to take place in March 2017. Anyone interested in learning more should contact Kristin Morehead 575-646-5575 or email

Paula Heikell is a freelance writer and can be reached

NMSU Arrowhead Center’s Aggie Shark Tank event continues to grow

NMSU Arrowhead Center’s Aggie Shark Tank event continues to grow

Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University hosted its third Aggie Shark Tank event Wednesday at the Las Cruces Convention Center, and while the “shark” investors may have chosen not to bite on any of the business opportunities that were offered up by student and alumni entrepreneurs, they did share an ocean of advice on how they might take their ideas to the next level, along with an offer to try out one product, which may prove more valuable than an investment.

Aggie Shark Tank is based on the popular “Shark Tank” television show, and offers entrepreneurs working with Arrowhead Center’s student business incubator, Studio G, a chance to pitch their ideas for businesses or technology commercialization opportunities to local business leaders for possible investment.

Carlos Murguia describes the benefits of KoolKat roof coating technology to the panel of local “sharks” during the Aggie Shark Tank event Wednesday at the Las Cruces Convention Center. Murguia received the “Audience Favorite” award, with a cash prize of $1,000. (NMSU photo) OCT16
Carlos Murguia describes the benefits of KoolKat roof coating technology to the panel of local “sharks” during the Aggie Shark Tank event Wednesday at the Las Cruces Convention Center. Murguia received the “Audience Favorite” award, with a cash prize of $1,000. (NMSU photo)

The school of Las Cruces “Sharks” includes chile farmer and agribusiness leader Dino Cervantes, real estate developer Mickey Clute, Mesilla Valley Transportation owner Royal Jones, and Sisbarro Dealerships owner Lou Sisbarro.

Jones said after Wednesday’s round of business pitches that he saw a lot of passion in the entrepreneurs’ presentation, but wasn’t hooked by any of their proposals.

“They really had that fire that you need to be successful,” Jones said. “I think some of these ideas have potential in the right market, and while we didn’t choose to invest funds, we’re always ready to share some additional suggestions and guidance.”

Student entrepreneurs included Jason Koenig, one of the creators of Pixanthropy, a company that goes beyond existing crowdfunding platforms to help organizations raise money and connect to a new generation of social donors; Carlos Murguia, who is looking to bring KoolKat roof coating technology to the U.S. market; Jonah Brown of Dynitikos who wants to build a business using a new replication technology that blends 3D printing and conventional metal casting to replicate high-precision, high-quality metal pieces, such as custom jewelry and tools, with rapid turnaround times; Roberto Acosta, who hopes to open Float Spa, a therapeutic center that offers sensory deprivation therapy, which has become popular throughout the country as a way to help people relax and recharge; and Avinash Kuna, whose proprietary technology, SOLAS, brings new capabilities to the security surveillance industry to address today’s challenges and threats.

Murguia’s KoolKat roof coating technology won the $1,000 Audience Favorite prize, voted on immediately following the presentations by a crowd of 200 guests. Murguia said the prize will help him obtain an important certification for his product that will help him move to the next stage in his plan to bring the mineral roof coating product and business, based in Mexico, to the U.S. He also received an offer from Jones to try out the product at his facilities in Las Cruces.

“I’ll keep this moving, and I think the sharks offered some useful suggestions,” he said after the presentations had concluded. “I know from the questions they asked that I need to do more research here in the U.S. I’ve got to be prepared to overcome some skepticism and show that I understand the international market.”

He said one of the most valuable things he gained was the experience of preparing and delivering a pitch. “Look, my hands are still shaking,” he said, holding them up. “But now I know what to expect, and that’s important.”

Studio G Director Kramer Winingham said the process of getting a business ready for a pitch event like Shark Tank can be as important as the outcome, forcing entrepreneurs to really evaluate and fine-tune their plans.

“Studio G really serves as an extension of their team as they develop their business,” Winingham said. “We connect them with a network of mentors and a curriculum to guide their planning, but the entrepreneurs are the drivers here.”

Arrowhead Center CEO Kathy Hansen said the growth of Shark Tank shows that the community is taking a greater interest in how initiatives like Studio G and the Launch proof-of-concept program are creating a pipeline of students and alums who can apply the entrepreneurial thinking they’re cultivating at NMSU.

“This third Shark Tank event had our biggest audience yet, and it’s helping us make additional connections with people who can add value to our programs,” she said. “We’re really grateful to all of our sharks for giving their time and expertise to our student entrepreneurs.”

Information from NMSU

OCT 21, 2016


Aggie Innovation Space merges engineers, entrepreneurs

Aggie Innovation Space merges engineers, entrepreneurs

LAS CRUCES – A team of engineering students at New Mexico State University, working as Aggie Innovators, are actively engaged in promoting technology acceleration across campus. And it’s paying off, with projects receiving more than $367,000 in funding over the past five years.

A man working on electronic equipment.
Industrial engineering graduate student and Aggie Innovator Luis Martinez, along with other Aggie Innovators, helps students with classroom projects as well as projects that may have commercialization value at the NMSU College of Engineering Aggie Innovation Space. (NMSU photo)

This accomplishment is, in large part, due to a partnership comprising the College of Engineering Aggie Innovation Space Presented by Intel, NMSU’s Arrowhead Center and the New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

The Aggie Innovation Space was launched in 2014 by the College of Engineering and led by Patricia A. Sullivan, associate dean for outreach, along with a team of faculty members from engineering, marketing and art. As a maker-space facility, the AIS was designed to foster innovation and entrepreneurship by offering students access to state-of-the-art engineering design software and tools, and provide a physical gathering point where students can connect to work on multidisciplinary projects.

Last year, the AIS adopted a unique peer-management model that incorporates a team of on-campus cooperative-education students serving as Aggie Innovators.
“The AIS is a great resource for students to learn about innovation, design tools and how to make functional prototypes,” said Kramer Winingham, director of Arrowhead’s Studio G incubator. “The resources and workshops offered by the AIS are really exciting. Innovation is a key skill for students to learn to position themselves for success in the future – having a space like the AIS to help students develop skills in innovation is outstanding.”

In spring 2016, the AIS expanded their partnership with Arrowhead Center to include NM MEP, with a specific focus on accelerating technology among engineering student capstone projects.

“The AIS technology acceleration process focuses on integrating traditional engineering capstone projects within a college maker-space facility,” Sullivan said. “The developed process features a peer mentorship model for capstone teams that guides them through the engineering design process, supports real-world application, and introduces collaboration within a multidisciplinary open learning environment. Participants in the process have become adept in accelerating technology for application and have gained valuable workplace skills for future personal and professional growth.”

Luis Martinez, a graduate industrial engineering student involved in the AIS, serves as a liaison between capstone faculty and Arrowhead Center. Martinez developed the adopted technology acceleration model that incorporates development of prototypes, preliminary test and evaluation, and vetting and validation processes.

The vetting/validation stage requires capstone students to seek external validation of their ideas from faculty or “potential clients” of the technology or product being developing. It also allows teams to understand the feasibility of their projects, enhances student soft skills and serves as an initial indicator of opportunities for technology acceleration.

Following vetting/validation, students conduct expanded test and evaluation, and then present their final projects to capstone faculty and industry partners. Projects that demonstrate commercial application are invited to further accelerate their technology as a client of Arrowhead’s Studio G student incubator, where they receive additional commercialization guidance and access to external startup funding.

The partnership has paid off with the AIS supporting 42 student projects involving 157 students last year. Of note is the transition of two engineering capstone projects to Arrowhead Center and subsequent funding through the Aggie I-Corps program – a National Science Foundation initiative that leverages university research to create new innovative businesses and increase the economic impact of inventions created at research institutions around the country.

Additional successes include Mechanical Engineering Professor Roy Xu and chemical engineering graduate student Brian Patterson, who joined Studio G in 2015 to further develop bulletproof backpacks for students and more protective helmets for football players. If commercialized, this damage-trap material interface would be less expensive and more protective than Kevlar. The project received a $50,000 grant from the NSF through the I-Corps program.

“With an ongoing capstone integration project and the outreach activities throughout the university, the AIS has been able to provide consultation assistance and topical expertise to a diverse group of projects ranging from the College of Engineering, the astronomy department and even the animal science department of NMSU,” Martinez said.

“As the number of AIS requests for technology acceleration assistance increases, so does the number of Aggie Innovators available to provide mentorship to students,” Sullivan said. “This fall we added five new co-op based innovators and expect additional innovators to join the AIS in January. These on-campus co-op positions are highly competitive, attracting outstanding engineering student applicants.”

More information about Aggie I-Corps and Studio G can be found at and the Aggie Innovation Space at

“Eye on Research” is a weekly feature provided by New Mexico State University. This week’s feature was written by Billy Huntsman of the College of Engineering.

Billy Huntsman, For the Sun-News 11:18 a.m. MDT October 16, 2016


Arrowhead Center to host entrepreneur events

Arrowhead Center to host entrepreneur events

LAS CRUCES – The Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University will host two events geared toward entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneur Encounters, sponsored by Seidel Technologies, will feature an engaging encounter with Emily Calhoun, a successful entrepreneur and owner of Albuquerque-based Floriography — an ethical, sustainable and locally-sourced floral design company. The event will be from 11 a.m. to noon Monday, Oct. 10, at the Aggie Lounge inside Corbett Center Student Union.

Aggie Shark Tank is an opportunity for NMSU student entrepreneurs to pitch their business idea to local sharks. Participants will have 5 minutes to present their idea, followed by 15 minutes of Q&A from the sharks. Participants can ask for a monetary investment or any other type of assistance or connections to help their business grow. All investment deals are negotiated directly between the sharks and participants. The audience is not being solicited for an investment of any kind. Featured sharks are Lou Sisbarro, Sisbarro Dealerships; Royal Jones, Mesilla Valley Transportation; Dino Cervantes, Cervantes Enterprises; Mickey Clute, real estate developer; and Beto Pallares, Joseph Advisory. The event is from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19, at the Las Cruces Convention Center.

For information on both events, including registration, log on to

Sun-News Reports, 8:02 a.m. MDT October 8, 2016



Dickerson gives aspiring entrepreneurs reality check

Dickerson gives aspiring entrepreneurs reality check

Marci Dickerson, proprietor of the largest female-owned hospitality company in southern New Mexico, officially got her start 18 years ago launching a catering company.

In truth, her days as an entrepreneur began years earlier — when she was 7 to be exact.

Speaking to an audience of New Mexico State University students Sept. 12 at Entrepreneur Encounters, Dickerson said she had been looking through a drawer recently and found a name badge. It was the one she wore for that first business — selling cookies at auctions.

“My parents were auctioneers,” Dickerson said. “There were all these kids hanging out. I organized the Cookie Tin. I got each one to bake a pan of cookies,” she said.

“They sold the cookies. I, of course, took a percentage off the top.”

To plan or not

She said doing market research and analyses and writing a business plan will not make a person an entrepreneur.

“You’re either born an entrepreneur or you’re not,” she said.

“You have to have enough ignorance to do it and enough arrogance to believe you can.

You have to have an incredible belief in yourself. There’s a thousand reasons why it won’t work. There’s one reason why it will.”

An entrepreneur evolves and keeps growing, Dickerson said. “If it isn’t working, you change it,” she said.

Dickerson said success is built on hard work and openness to recognizing opportunities.

“If you’re an entrepreneur working 12-hour days, you’re working part time,” she said.

“Opportunity looks a lot like work. If you’re given an opportunity you work at it. If you work at it, you will be given an opportunity. You’ll be amazed what falls in your lap.”

A business evolves

Dickerson said she has seized many opportunities, opened countless businesses. The two or three that have failed provided valuable lessons.

Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Debbi Moore, far right, congratulates Marci Dickerson at the opening of the Game II. Dickerson’s grandmother, Blanche Hitson, helped her granddaughter celebrate the ribbon cutting event. BULLETIN PHOTO BY RICHARD COLTHARP

Two days after hearing Hurricane Alley was for sale, she bought it sight unseen, she said.

“The first time I walked into the place was as the owner,” she said.

When a Mayfield coach expressed an interest in an indoor sports facility, she responded.

“I had 20,000 feet of indoor space, and my children play baseball,” she said. “Why not?”

The result was Sports Skills Institute, which opened in 2012 in the former Dickerson’s Barn event center on West Picacho Avenue.

When she found herself with a $410,000 bill to pay two weeks before The Game Sports Bar and Grill opened in 2008, Dickerson asked her dad for help.

“You know all those things you’ve been telling me for six months?” she told him. “You were right. Can you be right with me one more time — at the bank?”

Her mother urged her not to take the risk, but she went ahead.

Learning from mistakes

She’s had failures, but never considered herself one of them.

“You are the only person that gets to determine when you fail.”

She learned by doing.

“I went to Vegas and I saw a blue martini,” she began. “I came home and I had a martini bar (M Five).” M Five failed because “you should never open a bar three days after you leave your husband. Also, you should never open a martini bar for you and your fiends. Also, there was road construction there for a year and I had the wrong management team.

“My lesson from M Five was this — I forgot how valuable I was. I designed it, got it going and handed over the reins to a manager. I forgot I’m the one that makes it work. This is a very big cautionary statement.”

When an owner stops working and becomes the boss “the problem is the payroll is way too high and you’re not doing it any more. If you become the boss too quickly, you will lose it all. It was a humiliating lesson.”

Alta LeCompte can be reached at or 575-343-7478.



Las Cruces Bulletin


NMSU alumnus, business owner recognized as success story

NMSU alumnus, business owner recognized as success story

LAS CRUCES – Luke Smith, founder of EcoSeal, was recently recognized as a 2015 success story at the New Mexico Small Business Assistance Innovation Celebration. The event, co-hosted by New Mexico Angels and NMSBA, took place in Albuquerque during the New Mexico Angels quarterly members’ meeting, according to a news release from New Mexico State University.

The NMSBA program allows New Mexico small businesses facing a technical challenge to access the unique expertise and capabilities of Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories and identified contractors. As a contractor, Arrowhead Center brings the unique resources of New Mexico State University through faculty and staff to assist in a variety of technical and/or business challenges.

Smith graduated from NMSU in December 2015 with his master’s degree in accountancy. While in school, Luke started his own business, EcoSeal, based on the commercialization of NMX, an essential oil-based organic biopesticide developed at NMSU. Before licensing and as part of the research and development stages of the technology, NMX had been demonstrated as effective on a variety of plants.

During the spring and summer of 2015, Ryan Goss, a professor in the NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, led the effort to evaluate and expand research on NMX. Goss manages the Turfgrass Research Program, which focuses on various research projects to minimize turfgrass water use. Goss and Smith developed a valuable and ongoing working relationship.

In fall of 2015, Smith was awarded a $50,000 grant through the NSF I-Corps program to identify markets and marketability of the NMX product. I-Corps, or Innovation Corps, is a National Science Foundation initiative that enables an entrepreneur to lead the efforts of market research from a technology developed through NSF funds. An entrepreneurial lead, a research lead and a mentor complete the NSF I-Corps team. Smith was the entrepreneurial lead, Goss was the research lead, and Kramer Winingham, director of Studio G at Arrowhead Center, served as mentor. Through this funding, Smith was able to interview more than 100 potential clients or partners for the company. This grant also allowed for the purchase of materials for further research of the product in other plants and under different conditions.

The NMSBA program at NMSU’s Arrowhead Center is comprised of full-time program manager Griselda Martinez and students with interdisciplinary backgrounds. Students include Sri Harsh Pakala, a doctoral candidate in electrical engineering; Lizeth Rivera, a recent graduate with a master’s degree in economics; and Carlos Murguia, a master’s student in industrial engineering. Subject matter experts are invited to participate as technical experts based on the needs of participating small businesses.

The NMSBA is currently accepting applications for assistance. To apply, visit For additional information, contact Griselda Martinez at




NMSU’s Sheriff chairholder works to grow a culture of entrepreneurship

NMSU’s Sheriff chairholder works to grow a culture of entrepreneurship

LAS CRUCES – Robert Macy came to New Mexico State University on a mission to make entrepreneurial thinking something that permeates all areas of campus and extends throughout the state.

Macy, a College of Business professor who is the first to hold the Bill and Sharon Sheriff Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship, has spent his first year at NMSU doing just that.

Robert Macy.jpg
NMSU business professor and Sheriff Chair for Entrepreneurship Robert Macy, left, works with Lauren Goldstein in a recording studio used for web and podcasting at the Arrowhead Center on campus on Feb. 29, 2016. (Photo: NMSU)

“I’m trying to just embed it in every college,” Macy said. “I want to create and develop a culture of entrepreneurship across campus and across the NMSU system.”

He’s already made significant strides in that area, meeting with each of the deans to discuss program ideas, reenergizing the entrepreneurship concentration in the College of Business and collaborating with Industrial Engineering Department Head Edward Pines on eventually making the minor in entrepreneurship accessible to anyone on campus.

“I want to have a chance to have a positive effect on students’ lives, not just help them mark time for four years,” Macy said. “These are students who want to do something, and that’s really appealing to me.”

He also works closely with Arrowhead Center, NMSU’s tech commercialization hub. He’s serving as co-principal investigator on Next Gen, a new program funded under the Economic Development Administration’s 2015 Regional Innovation Strategies program. Next Gen will take student entrepreneurship programming developed on NMSU’s main campus to the university’s community colleges in Alamogordo, Carlsbad and Grants, as well as Doña Ana Community College in Las Cruces.

“There’s a lot to build with and work with there. Everybody is really open to trying things,” he said. “I see a lot of opportunity to help people.”

One tool for that is a new broadcast space Macy set up at Arrowhead Center that enables the team to use video conferencing to deliver information and interact live with campuses around the state. Macy also used the space to help launch a series of half-hour shows, available as audio and video podcasts on iTunes or YouTube, featuring entrepreneurs from Studio G, the student business incubator directed by Kramer Winingham, who also serves as co-PI on the Next Gen program.

Kathy Hansen, director of Arrowhead Center, said Macy is contributing in both large and small ways to initiatives all over campus.

“He’s a real force multiplier in that sense,” she said. “He’s very collaborative and encouraging.”

Macy holds a law degree, a master of business administration and a doctorate in management, all from the University of Oregon, as well as a bachelor’s in history from Washington State University. He came to NMSU from Penn State University, where he created two new minors and a new major related to entrepreneurship in the Smeal College of Business and founded the Penn State Innovation and Commercialization Graduate Program. Outside of his academic experience, Macy also developed a law practice focused on startup companies.

College of Business Dean Jim Hoffman said Macy’s experience developing entrepreneurship programs at Penn State, a land-grant university like NMSU, made him a great fit here.

“He’s reinvigorated the entrepreneurship emphasis here,” Hoffman said. “He just brings a great energy to the college and to the university as a whole, and he understands our land-grant mission of teaching, research and service.”

The chair in entrepreneurship was established by a 2013 gift of more than $1 million in stock from business executive and NMSU alumnus Bill Sheriff and his wife, Sharon, who wanted to help the College of Business attract and reward faculty who would provide leadership and expertise in cultivating a spirit of entrepreneurship in New Mexico and develop resources to advance that goal in the state and region.

“We are excited about the passion Dr. Macy has for developing the program and resources to support the teaching and cultivation of entrepreneurship at NMSU, the local area and the state of New Mexico,” Bill Sheriff said.

“Half the time, I get to do all the cool things Arrowhead’s doing; half the time, I get to do all the great things the College of Business is doing,” Macy said of his role at NMSU. “I was looking for someplace with new challenges – somewhere that I could make a difference. And I found it.”

Amanda Bradford writes for University Communications and can be reached at

Student Entrepreneurs Score Investments At Aggie Shark Tank

Student Entrepreneurs Score Investments At Aggie Shark Tank

Five Companies run by student entrepreneurs at NMSU gave their best pitches to local investors at the “Aggie Shark Tank” in hopes of taking their businesses to the next level. Just about $80,000 was invested in total across the five companies.

The businesses that gave their pitches at the Aggie Shark Tank ranged from sports equipment, to retro gaming, to health technology. One of the day’s big winners was VR Health Journeys; the 4 sharks invested $30,000 for 20% of the company, and they also won cash prizes for being both the Shark Favorite and the Crowd Favorite.

Steve Eiserling one of the Co-Founders of VR Health Journeys says the company brings Virtual Reality Equipment into health care facilities to help improve the quality of life for patients.

“It also started with basically just wanting to help people that are in palliative care try to get out of their environments because they are stuck in it,” Eiserling said. “And so we use Virtual Reality Equipment to bring experiences to them so they can get out and express themselves, and we found along the terms as we’re doing this there is also a benefit in pain relief and things like that as well too, so it’s been kind of a double whammy.”

The Journey has been driven by personal goals as well as financial ones. Billy Welsh, the other Co-Founder of VR Health Journeys has Cerebral Palsy and wanted to find a way to help friends and loved ones in long-term care facilities.

“I realize that there is a lot of boredom and a lot of things go on,” Welsh said. “And it get really depressing because you’re stuck in a room, especially when you’re a kid. You want to go out and play, but you can’t go out and play because of physical and mental things. So, we’re offering people a solution to let people use state of the art virtual reality, so that they can see the world beyond their room or the bed that their confined to.”

Eiserling says the investment will help them get the equipment and start providing services to local facilities who have already expressed interest in their services.

“We’re going to look at cancer and dialysis centers because they deal with a lot of time that they have to waste as well as chronic pain,” Eiserling said. “Senior Centers as well as other long-term care facilities, and drug and alcohol treatment centers too.”

Beto Pallares, one of the Sharks who invested in the company, says this is one of the most innovative uses for Virtual Reality he’s seen.

“What I found really exciting is the ability to link the aspect of Virtual Reality to a real, known market,” Pallares said. “And this case it’s the therapeutic market, whether it’s for older people, or people in therapies and I found that to be really novel and a really good thing to invest in.”

Pallares says tech is a good industry to invest in.

“If you want to create a culture of innovation,” Pallares said. “You have to support the people who are going out to the edge and saying I have this idea, and I need to validate it in this way or that way. We can’t just assume that the only technology we have access to is what we buy from Amazon, or what we go to Best Buy for, we have to invest in our own innovation.”

Billy Welsh is excited to see the impact that VR Health Journeys can have.

“My goal is honestly to get this in every hospital all over the world,” Welsh said. “To change the face of the medical industry is viewed, to get people off of prescription drugs, to make life a little bit more fun.”

All Five companies that pitched at the Aggie Shark Tank received some type of assistance, whether it is money, time, or business connections.



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