Entrepreneurs from around U.S. to converge on ABQ

By May Ortega/Reporter/Albuquerque Business First

From left, Nick Piontek, Allen Wong and Shyno Mathew will be coming to Albuquerque over the next few months to learn about its entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

 

What do San Francisco, Manhattan and Austin have in common? Entrepreneurs from each area will be coming to Albuquerque to scope out what it has to offer.

The National Marketing Campaign, a year-long, $1 million effort, involves touring innovation conferences on behalf of the city. One example is Collision, in New Orleans, which had 20,000 attendees in May.

That conference is where Nick Piontek, vice president of acquisitions for Austin-based CooMo Travel, entered a contest for a trip to the Duke City. He, along with two other winners from other conferences, won an all-expenses-paid stay in Albuquerque to tour its “innovation district” and meet with people like the city’s Economic Development Department director Gary Oppedahl.

CooMo Travel, founded in January 2015, lets users help other users build their trip’s itinerary by recommending local activities. Piontek will be here from July 19 to 21. For him, the trip is a great chance to help the startup’s reach.

“ABQ wasn’t on our radar before,” he said. “Receiving this opportunity has opened our eyes to new possibilities we could pursue with ABQ. We also want to learn more about ABQ, so we can find influencers who can help our users plan trips to come to ABQ.”

He also hinted that he’d be looking for investors to pitch to in the future, given Austin’s own aggressive venture fund climate. So far, CooMo’s CEO has put in half a million dollars into the startup, according to Piontek.

“The problem with the investor network in Austin is that most of the high net worth investors are non-technical or in the real estate market, making them highly risk averse to tech startups,” he said. “We need to find an early stage investor who is interested in our platform and is networked in the travel industry. We’re looking to raise around $2.1 million in the upcoming months.”

Another startup that will have some of its team visit the city is Manhattan-based qLogiX Entertainment, which is developing programs to encourage more people of various genders, races and socioeconomic statuses to join the science, technology, mathematics and engineering fields. Shyno Mathew, who co-founded the company in February 2016, will be in ABQ from Aug. 15 to Aug. 17.

“To inspire more young minds to STEM, we are looking for partnerships with city of Albuquerque, McCune Foundation, Sandia National Labs, the Native American community or other organizations,” Mathew said.

The third winner, who entered the contest at a conference called Hustle Con, is Allen Wong, co-founder of San Francisco-based Campsyte. The two-year-old startup matches people with similar needs so they can share spaces, like an office. It’s unclear when he’ll be taking his trip, but he is curious to learn about the city’s real estate and startup players.

“We’d love to see everything that Albuquerque is doing to innovate and build an entrepreneurial culture,” Wong said. “If there are ways we can share ideas and develop partnerships, I think our trip will be well spent.”

Autumn Gray, program manager for the National Marketing Campaign, said bringing entrepreneurs from outside ABQ for a look into its innovative ecosystem benefits everyone involved.

“We have found through sponsorships of the national events … that one-on-one engagement with entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers is the best way to share the story of Albuquerque,” she said. “There’s no better way for a person to get to know what Albuquerque and what its ecosystem offers than to have them live and breathe it for a few days.”

The National Marketing Campaign, which launched in January and wraps up at the end of Berry’s term in November, is using $1 million from EDAct funding that was approved in May 2016, according to Gray. EDAct, or Economic Development Action Account, funds come from clawbacks by the city of Albuquerque.

She could not estimate how much the trio of two-night, three-day trips would cost. She did, however, mention that the “very small portion” of the budget invested in these trips will result in great returns for the city.

“A few thousand dollars to have somebody immersed, embedded in our ecosystem for a few days and to carry that knowledge back to the cities that they’re from … that’s going to be huge marketing because they’re then going to be huge mouthpieces for Albuquerque once they go back to where they’re from,” Gray said.

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