ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque’s weeklong Tech Fiesta, which some 2,000 people attended in mid-September to celebrate thebizO-RobinsonAvila_Kevin_BizOcity’s upsurge in startup activity and innovation, may be just the warm-up for a much bigger series of events this fall.

Albuquerque will host the state’s first participation in the annual Global Entrepreneurship Week Nov. 17-23. Like the Tech Fiesta, which included more than 20 events Downtown, the November celebration will include multiple workshops, presentations, networking activities and more to bring aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators together with veteran businesspeople, investors and technology professionals.

But this time, the agenda is even more ambitious, with some 40-plus activities planned, said Albuquerque Economic Development Director Gary Oppedahl. And, the city will be one of just six metropolitan areas in the U.S. to be profiled nationally as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, an international event that inspires educational festivities in some 140 countries every year.

Alissa Chavez, left, explains her "Hot Seat" invention to Graciela Avila at an event during Tech Fiesta. Chavez, 17, invented the Seat to alert parents when they leave a child alone in a car. (Kevin Robinson-Avila/Albuquerque Journal)

Alissa Chavez, left, explains her “Hot Seat” invention to Graciela Avila at an event during Tech Fiesta. Chavez, 17, invented the Seat to alert parents when they leave a child alone in a car. (Kevin Robinson-Avila/Albuquerque Journal)

“We’ve been selected as one of only six cities across the country to be a ‘focus city’ during the week,” Oppedahl said. “The eyes of the world will be upon us.”

Both Tech Fiesta and Global Entrepreneurship Week form part of the city’s collaborative efforts with the local business and professional community to build on Albuquerque’s newfound groundswell of entrepreneurial innovation. The events aim to educate people, provide resources and networking activities, and above all inspire them to get involved.

“We want to create a constant schedule of events to engage entrepreneurs and innovators,” Oppedahl said.

The Kansas City-based Kauffman Foundation will assist the city in bringing in nationally renowned speakers for the November celebration. Companies like Microsoft and DuPont have offered to host technology-related events during the week. The University of New Mexico will organize a lecture series. And the New Mexico Technology Council and other associations will offer startup boot camps and other events to showcase many of the city’s newly formed businesses.

Many activities will be tailored to draw in a wider audience. That includes dedicated workshops for women, plus a number of events entirely in Spanish.

The goal is to build on the momentum of the Tech Fiesta and other programs and activities that have emerged since last year to promote startups, said Eric Renz-Whitmore, community manager for the NM Tech Council.

“The sparks are beginning to fly,” Renz-Whitmore said. “We’re thrilled with the sheer number of people taking an interest in startup companies and entrepreneurship. All these activities and events help bring people together, and that’s how startup communities grow.”

Oppedahl said Albuquerque may be nearing the “tipping point” in terms of building a vibrant local environment for homegrown businesses.

“I think we are approaching critical mass,” Oppedahl said. “We’re really seeing people get off the sidelines.”

That growing entrepreneurial spirit was evident throughout Tech Fiesta, which took place Sept. 13-20. During the week, scores of people turned out for most activities. One event — the grand opening of the Levitated Toy Factory Downtown for 3-D printing of toys and other products — drew hundreds of people.

Participants in most events said the week provided opportunities for people to learn about taking risks and accepting failure as a necessary part of working to build successful businesses.

The New Mexico Pitch Fiesta, for example, where 11 aspiring entrepreneurs competed for cash prizes for the best “elevator pitch” to attract funding for potential new products, allowed novices to present their ideas to a broad, mixed audience of veteran and amateur entrepreneurs.

“Events like these get people to feel good about being risk-takers,” said Steve Walsh, a distinguished UNM professor of technology and entrepreneurship. “I’ve started five different businesses over the years, some of which failed and some were successful. We want people to go out and take risks, learn about the process and build management skills, whether they succeed or fail.”

The challenge now is to keep Albuquerque’s emerging groundswell going, said Sul Kassicieh, a distinguished professor at UNM’s Anderson School of Management.

“The more small businesses we can create in New Mexico the better,” Kassicieh said. “We need more of these types of activities to feed the movement underway. There’s a real buzz building.”


Original Article By: Kevin Robinson- Avila-Journal