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New cycle for startups kicks in

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By Roger Snodgrass

A troubled economy inspires people to have a few more irons in the fire or at least to begin considering some alternatives.

In Los Alamos, it’s time for entrepreneurs and inventors to step forward and catch one of the next available waves for start-up business development.

“But what exactly do you want to do?” asked John “Grizz” Deal, a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Hyperion Power Generation.

Hyperion is raising funds for mass-producing its transportable nuclear power generator, but every company is different.

“Are you a product company?” Deal asked a couple of dozen residents at a lunch Thursday at the Hilltop House, sponsored by Technical Ventures Corporation (TVC). “Do you want to license a portfolio?  Are you a collaborative or a stand alone? Do you need capital or just a bank loan?”

Deal is one of a number of entrepreneurs who have benefited from what amounts to a free boost from TVC, the Albuquerque nonprofit with a track record for getting new businesses off the ground.

TVC’s mission as a matchmaker between technology innovators and equity capital investors was written into the Lockheed-Martin contract to manage Sandia National Laboratories as an economic development concept. Since then, TVC has gone on to perform a larger role in technology transfer and commercialization projects coming out of other national laboratories as well, including Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Nevada Test Site.

Their services are valuable but they don’t charge fees and they don’t pinch off a piece of equity.

“If your plan stinks, we’ll tell you it stinks,” said John Freisinger, business development director of Technology Ventures Corporation, emphasizing TVC’s role as an honest broker. “If it’s great we’ll tell you that.”

Freisinger was one of several small-business animators on hand to help Los Alamos entrepreneurs begin to explore, and perhaps begin to realize some of those alternative ideas they have been thinking about.

TVC has opened a new call for business plans and has a whole program to help serious prospects get off the ground.

The 16th annual New Mexico Equity Capital Symposium takes place May 5-6 in Albuquerque. Each year, the event brings technology innovators together with the largest gathering in the region of equity capital managers, angels and other investors.

In order to get there, the TVC advisors and entrepreneurial mentors said this week, people with business ideas, intellectual property or other plans for a corporate take off, need to focus.

The deadline for business plans is Jan. 7, 2009. But interested companies need to get in touch with TVC now, Freisinger said, to begin learning how to talk “the language of money,” which is a specialized dialect based on a very short attention span and backed up by a required entrepreneurial passport known as a business plan.

TVC expects to receive about 60-75 of these plans and will screen them down to about 15 or 25 companies that will have the opportunity to pitch their ideas next spring at the symposium in Albuquerque to people who are looking for profitable investments.

As an enabler, TVC gives preference to development opportunities based on technologies from Department of Energy Laboratories or research institutions in New Mexico.

Los Alamos National Laboratory employees were also encouraged to check with Belinda Padilla at the Technology Transfer Division, 505-667-9896, bee@lanl.gov, for additional opportunities available within the lab and for relevant information such as the entrepreneurial leave program and procedures.

Also at Thursday’s meeting were other role models from Los Alamos, who have been through the TVC training and made it to the symposium, including Ben Warner of Caldera Pharmaceutical and Bob Hockaday of eqSolaris, a solar technology company.

Promising startups will be assigned experienced mentors and advisors for support in developing investment packages.                                                                                                                               

TVC boasts of helping start more than 100 new businesses since 1993, creating more than 12,000 new jobs and facilitating more than $1 billion in investments.

The next workshop offered at the TVC training Center for Commercialization and Entrepreneurial Training at corporate headquarters on Thursday is the “Market Assessment Workshop,” one of the key ingredients for a business plan from the investor perspective.

On Nov. 5, “Operations Startup, Monitoring and Human Resources,” and on Dec 3, “Attracting Equity Investors and Lessons Learned,” will be the workshop subjects.

These workshops are all held from 8 a.m.-12 noon in the Stanford Room, 1155 University Blvd., S.E. in Albuquerque. (To register contact Margaret Speer, 505-843-4202, Margaret.speer@lmco.com.)

For questions about mentors, advisors, training and other assistance, contact TVC 505-246-2882.