UNM Rainforest Innovations

Comcast Pitch Deck Competition, Monday, Dec, 2 2019, in Albuquerque N.M. (Eric Draper/AP Images for Comcast)
Comcast Pitch Deck Competition, Monday, Dec, 2 2019, in Albuquerque N.M. (Eric Draper/AP Images for Comcast)

Albuquerque – December 3, 2019.  During an inspiring night at the Lobo Rainforest Building in downtown Albuquerque, five student entrepreneur teams went head to head and pitched their big ideas to an audience of business leaders, entrepreneurs and enthusiastic supporters.

The Comcast Pitch Deck Competition was co-hosted by STC.UNM and the UNM Innovation Academy, the University of New Mexico’s technology-transfer and economic-development organization and entrepreneurial studies program. Sponsored by Comcast and Nusenda Credit Union, the competition offered a platform for student entrepreneurs who want to start or are already operating an early-stage company to present and launch their innovations. Comcast provided a $20,000 prize pool for the five finalists who pitched their innovative ideas and early-stage companies to investor judges before an audience of more than 100 attendees.

The winners were:

  • First Place $10,000 Prize: Erik Strobert, Chemical Engineering, UNM, Perspective Components Inc. – seamless integration of artificial intelligence and gimbal hardware to deliver the world’s smallest Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) camera system
  • Second Place $5,000 Prize: Alissa Chavez, Communications, UNM, EasyFlo – eco-friendly baby bottle
  • Third Place $2,500 Prize: George Boujaoude, Computer Science, UNM, Tomas Manzanares, Computer Science, UNM, and Christian Seely, Computer Science, UNM, Bitekast – podcast listening platform advancing the way we listen to podcasts
  • Finalists $1,000 Prize each:
    • Anna Kuuttila, Master of Business Administration, UNM, and Sara Kuuttila-Webbert, Liberal Arts, UNM, Smarter Starter – children’s educational products tailored for children ages 0-4
    • Sam Crooks, Computer Science, UNM, Film Spots –online platform to scout and reserve film sites

“Partnering with STC.UNM and the Innovation Academy has been a fantastic experience. Our Comcast team is impressed by the talent and creativity showcased by these outstanding student entrepreneurs,” said Chris Dunkeson, Area Vice President, Comcast. “These students represent some of the best young talent in Albuquerque, and we can’t wait to see what’s next for them.”

STC CEO Lisa Kuuttila stated that the student finalists learned how to effectively plan a business model, how to attract investors, and how to market-test their business models to adapt to customers’ needs.  They were able to also network with and receive coaching from successful entrepreneurs.  “The preparation and coaching really helped them present with more confidence and professionalism.  Pitching is not easy, so they did a terrific job!”

“The progress our students made was tremendous,” added Innovation Academy Executive Director Rob DelCampo. “While this isn’t the final step in their entrepreneurial education, it is certainly a great step in the right direction.”

About Comcast
Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA) is a global media and technology company with three primary businesses: Comcast Cable, NBCUniversal, and Sky. Comcast Cable is one of the United States’ largest high-speed internet, video, and phone providers to residential customers under the Xfinity brand, and also provides these services to businesses. It also provides wireless and security and automation services to residential customers under the Xfinity brand. NBCUniversal is global and operates news, entertainment and sports cable networks, the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, television production operations, television station groups, Universal Pictures, and Universal Parks and Resorts. Sky is one of Europe’s leading media and entertainment companies, connecting customers to a broad range of video content through its pay television services. It also provides communications services, including residential high-speed internet, phone, and wireless services. Sky operates the Sky News broadcast network and sports and entertainment networks, produces original content, and has exclusive content rights. Visit www.comcastcorporation.com for more information.

About Innovation Academy
The Innovation Academy is a mindset shared by the UNM Community that asks “how do we teach and learn best so that students are prepared for life beyond college?” Based on the Rainforest theory of a bottom-up approach to innovation, iA encourages different people and groups to come together to create.  It is a cross-pollinating approach to finding solutions to problems and developing new ideas. It is based on the belief that solutions can be found when people with different backgrounds and skills come together to work on real problems and needs coming from companies and the community.  This type of experiential, or hands-on, learning prepares students to be successful in careers and work places in the real world and deepen their core subject knowledge.  Visit innovationacademy.unm.edu/ for more information.

As the technology-transfer and economic-development organization for the University of New Mexico (UNM), STC.UNM (STC) protects and commercializes technologies developed at UNM by filing patents and copyrights and transferring them to the marketplace.  We connect the business community (companies, entrepreneurs and investors) to these UNM technologies for licensing opportunities and the creation of start-up companies. STC’s vision is to play a vital role in New Mexico’s economic development and to be a leader in technology commercialization.  Under the leadership of CEO Lisa Kuuttila, STC is substantially growing its program using the Rainforest model to develop an innovation economy in New Mexico.  Visit our website at www.stc.unm.edu.


Media Contacts

Julianne Phares

Denise Bissell

Also see Kevin Robinson-Avila’s December 3, 2019 article, “Students win $20,000 in new ‘Pitch Deck’ competition,” from the Albuquerque Journal, reprinted below.

Students win $20,000 in new ‘Pitch Deck’ competition

By Kevin Robinson-Avila / Journal Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019 at 2:04pm

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Five teams of University of New Mexico students shared $20,000 in cash prizes Monday night in a new “Pitch Deck” competition sponsored by Comcast and Nusenda Credit Union.

Students pitched about the progress they’ve made in building novel startup companies to three judges from venture capital firms at UNM’s Lobo Rainforest building at the Innovate ABQ research and development zone Downtown.

Perspective Components Inc. won the $10,000 first-place prize for proprietary gimbal hardware it built to improve the efficiency and quality of imaging systems on smartphones and cameras, which it will use to break into the security surveillance market. That company also won the $10,000 first-place prize in October’s “Balloon Pitch,” organized by the ABQid business accelerator.

Alissa Chavez, a UNM student who previously earned national attention for inventing a “Hot Seat” to alert adults about babies left in cars when she was just 14, won the $5,000 second-place award for her new “EasyFlo” baby bottle for parents on the go, which stores formula and water in a single bottle for quick, easy feeding.

A team of computer science students won $2,500 for a new platform they’re building to share chunks, or bites, of podcast presentations. Two others won $1,000 each for an online platform to scout and reserve film sites, and for an e-commerce business offering specialized educational materials for children under 4.

UNM’s Innovation Academy and the Science and Technology Corp., UNM’s tech-transfer office, will now make the event an annual competition that differs from their five-year-old, twice-annual Elevator Pitch.

The Pitch Deck requires extensive preparation for a deep, 10-minute dive into what a startup is offering, its business plan, financial projections, customer validation, and more, said Academy Director Rob DelCampo. The Elevator Pitch only offers lightning-fast presentations to promote a business idea.

“It’s a showcase for student startups to progress to the next level,” DelCampo said. “It’s an investment-style pitch to show whether a startup has something real to offer that could attract investors.”

It’s open to university students statewide, although 23 of the 25 participating teams came from UNM, including the five finalists, likely because the event is so new, DelCampo said.

UNM President Garnett S. Stokes called it a “next-level” competition to advance student entrepreneurship and training.

“These students are New Mexico’s new economic drivers,” Stokes told event participants. “Over the past three years, STC and Innovation Academy programs and events have helped students launch more than 60 startups.”

Comcast contributed the $20,000 in prize money, plus $5,000 for event-related costs. Nusenda also gave $5,000.

“As we look to the future, these student businesses will grow and become part of the economy bedrock,” Comcast Area Vice President Chris Dunkeson told the Journal. “We want to give young entrepreneurs a chance to show what they can do and help them move forward.”

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