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Paso Del Norte Venture Competition widens scope

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Paso Del Norte Venture Competition widens scope – El Paso Times 3-9-13

Paso Del Norte Venture Competition widens scope
By Paula Monarez Diaz \ El Paso Times Posted: 03/09/2013 12:00:00 AM MST

Teams competed last year in the Paso Del Norte Venture Competition. For the first time, private startups will join the competition.

The Paso Del Norte Venture Competition, an event that offers people the opportunity to create or grow a startup company, has expanded its focus this year.

The event, held at UTEP’s Mike Loya Center for Innovation and Commerce this weekend, has opened its doors to private startups for the first time. In the past, only university students participated. “We are excited to be hosting the 2013 Paso Del Norte Venture Competition,” said Sacnite Ramos, UTEP’s assistant director of the Undergraduate Programs for the College of Business Administration, in an email. “This venture competition gives local students and entrepreneurs the opportunity to create or grow a startup company, and provides professional direction and mentorship for their venture.”

This is the fifth annual competition to be held UTEP, said Nancy Lowery, assistant director of the Hub of Human Innovation, a competition sponsor. “We have nine teams from universities in the El Paso, Ciudad Juárez and Las Cruces region,” Lowery said in an email.

“There will be 13 local companies participating in the PDNVC.” Participants from UTEP, New Mexico State University and the Instituto Tecnológico Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (Tec de Monterrey) have been working for five months on their plans, which involve forecasting, market research and financial cash flows. Their subjects include mobile wellness technologies, water recycling, cloud-based collaborative platforms, cyber and energy security, the next generation of interactive advertising, solar technology and green construction materials, said Aaron Cervantes Herrera, coordinator of the Loya

The competition is a platform for entrepreneurial minds to find new ways to become active players in the regional economy. Panels of judges, which include bankers, investors and entrepreneurs, will pick the winner. All presentations will be in the Business Administration Building.

The interaction between the teams and the judges is similar to that on the popular ABC reality show “Shark Tank,” where a panel of successful entrepreneurs consider investing in startup companies, he said. However, in the competition, the judges will provide professional direction and mentorship. “The goal of the competition is to improve the entrepreneurial spirit and enhance our region’s economy,” Herrera said in an email. “Additionally, we try to complement classroom theory with hands-on experience.”

The winning team will receive $10,000 cash, plus in-kind services. Additional prizes will be given for best business plan and best elevator pitch. In addition, the overall winning team will receive an invitation to participate in the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business Venture Labs Investment Competition. The winning team of that competition receives a $100,000 mixture of in-kind services and cash. In addition, the four top UTEP teams will be invited to compete in the UT System’s new competition, where they also have an opportunity to win $100,000.

Information: Aaron Cervantes Herrera at 747-6157 or

Venture competition goes pro

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Venture competition goes pro – El Paso Inc 2-10-13

Venture competition goes pro
Best idea wins $10,000
Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2013 6:00 pm | Updated: 3:45 pm, Tue Feb 12, 2013.
By Robert Gray El Paso Inc. staff writer

The Hub of Human Innovation business incubator is searching for entrepreneurs and start-ups in the region with big ideas, interested in competing in El Paso’s first ever venture competition for professionals.
For years, college students have competed in the Camino Real Venture Competition, pitting their business plans against each other. But this year the competition has been renamed the Paso del Norte Venture Competition and split into two tracks – a student track and professional track. “We wanted to expand this opportunity to entrepreneurs
in the community,” says Hub director Cathy Swain. “Our belief is the entrepreneurial culture here is alive and very, very well.”

Intent to compete forms are due Monday, Feb. 11, the competition entry forms are due Feb. 25, and the competition is March 9 at the Mike Loya Center for Innovation and Commerce at the University of Texas at El Paso. The top 10 ventures will have the opportunity to make 15-minute business pitches to a panel of judges comprised of angel investors, bankers and venture capitalists. The best pitch wins.
First prize includes $10,000 and a year of incubation at the Hub. The second-place prize is $3,000. To be eligible for the professional track, the business must be incorporated and located in the Paso del Norte region and must meet two of these three criteria:
• Have been in business no longer than three years
• Have no more than $250,000 in total annual revenue
• Have less than five full-time employees.
“We want businesses that can actually scale beyond the region. They are going to base, here but their impact extends beyond the region,” Swain says. “So we aren’t looking, for example, for local restaurants or dry cleaners, which are a critical part of the economy
here and are served by a lot of other organizations.”

The Hub of Human Innovation, located amidst a cluster of technology companies in the Transtelco Building in Downtown at 500 W. Overland, will coach entrepreneurs and help them perfect their pitches. The startup factory, launched close to two years ago, aims
to turn baby startups in the region into high-growth global companies. “We are trying to get people to lift their head a little bit and see what is possible out there,” Swain says. “There is a real global opportunity, and we are so strategically located to capture it right here in the border region.”

Paso del Norte Venture Competition
Saturday, March 9
Mike Loya Center
University of Texas at El Paso
Information: (915) 321-3121

Venture competition offers opportunity

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Venture competition offers opportunity – El Paso Times 2-3-13

Cathy Swain: Venture competition offers opportunity
By Cathy Swain Special to the Times
Posted: 02/03/2013 12:00:00 AM MST
Don’t miss a great opportunity to pitch your business to potential investors in the Professional Track of the Paso del Norte Venture Competition.

The deadline to apply is Feb. 11, and final judging is March 9. Sponsored by The Hub of Human Innovation and hosted by the University of Texas at El Paso, the competition offers a $10,000 cash prize and one year of affiliate incubation services to the winning business. A $3,000 cash award will go to the second-place finisher.

The competition provides a venue for developing business concepts from initial planning to a startup company and product commercialization. The competition has both a Professional Track and a Student Track to give students and professionals in the Paso del Norte Region the opportunity to launch a startup company.

The Professional Track is for entrepreneurs with big ideas that address today’s challenges through innovative approaches. Eligible entrepreneurs must be developing or expanding innovative businesses, which will contribute to the regional economy and can scale beyond the region. Eligible businesses must be incorporated and physically based in the Paso del Norte region (El Paso, Las Cruces and Juárez), scalable beyond the region, and meet two of the three following criteria:

  • In business no longer than three years.
  • No more than $250,000 in total annual revenue.
  • Fewer than five full-time employees.

The following are important dates in the competition:

  • Feb. 11: Intent to compete due.
  • Feb. 15: Notice of eligibility sent to contestants.
  • Feb. 22: Last day to practice pitch with Hub staff.
  • Feb. 25: Competition entry form due
  • March 9: Final judging.

The Hub of Human Innovation incubator works with entrepreneurs who have technology enabled scalable ideas to bring those ideas to market. Hub staff, partners and volunteers also work with companies based outside the region, seeking a “soft landing” to launch new products or tap new markets from here.

The Hub Works Monthly Workshops are held on the fourth Thursday of most months and are followed by Hub After Hours, which offers networking opportunities to connect innovative companies with know-how, talent, technology and capital.

Hub programs that support client companies include the Hub Team Mentor Program, which is modeled after the world-class MIT Venture Mentoring Service, Hub Clean Energy Partners, Hub Manufacturing Partners and The Hub EquityNet CrowdFunding Program.

The Hub is also preparing to host an intensive, hands-on 14-week advanced entrepreneurship course this spring, to go beyond the basics through the process of creating a scalable company. People with business experience who have managed a team and a budget, and who want to launch or grow a company beyond local markets will benefit from this course. The Hub will take applications in mid- February.

Cathy Swain is the executive director of The Hub of Human Innovation, 500 W. Overland, Suite 230. Email her at To learn more

Paso Del Norte Venture contest seeks entrepreneurs

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Paso Del Norte Venture contest seeks entrepreneurs – El Paso Times 2-1-13

Paso Del Norte Venture contest seeks entrepreneurs
By Vic Kolenc / El Paso Times
Posted: 02/01/2013 12:00:00 AM MST
El Paso area entrepreneurs have a shot at $10,000, and a year of business incubation in the 2013 Paso Del Norte Venture Competition.

Eligible entrants must be innovative businesses with big ideas that will help the regional economy, reported The Hub of Human Innovation, sponsor of the March 9 contest at UTEP.

Businesses must be located in El Paso, Las Cruces or Juárez and meet two of three other requirements: in business three years or less, annual revenue of no more than $250,000, and fewer than five full-time employees.

Intent-to-compete forms are due Feb. 11, and businesses will be notified by Feb. 15 if they are eligible to compete. The second prize is $3,000.
Information: Nancy Lowery at, or 321-3121.

Financial frontera

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Financial frontera: Juárez module creation gets a lift

by Michael Hissam / Special to the Times

View original El Paso Times Article

A binational effort led by the El Paso del Norte chapter of the Network of Mexican Talents Abroad aims to boost regional production of components to Juárez maquiladoras.

Alberto Correa, president of the chapter, as well as Quantum Research of the West Inc., said the El Paso chapter seeks to enable local suppliers to increase production of direct material components to the maquilardoras. This would be done through higher technology matched to component-product needs to warrant a larger share of that supply market.

Direct materials include components that become part of the final product shipped from Juárez to a global base of customers.

These materials represent the value added — what the customers want to pay for in products sold to them. In plain Spanglish: bigger bucks, más dinero, compañero.

“About 2.5 percent of direct materials used in Ciudad Juárez come from suppliers in Ciudad Juárez; El Paso represents about 2 percent. This is a very big problem for the maquiladoras. That means that 95 percent of the materials or components come from other parts of the world. That’s the money!” he declared.

Maquiladoras Juarenses use billions of components yearly. That’s billions with a “B,” mil millones en español. Correa and his group want to make sure more of them could be made here in Paso del Norte.

Correa and representatives of regional Mexican economic organizations last month signed at the Mexican Consulate in El Paso a collaboration agreement that will support the development and transfer of technology to maquiladora supplier development programs focused on Juárez: “We have contact with high-tech companies, with leading universities and leading laboratories, either directly or through third parties. In addition, we have negotiated with the Secretary of the Economy in Mexico for them to support this development. The technology is transferrable and the maquiladora suppliers do not have all the funding needed for this type of effort.”

The amount of funding from the Secretary of Economy has yet to be determined as each company must identify its needs then seek federal help with the funding: “The mechanisms are already set. The government will not supply the entire funding, but they will supply a very important percentage.”

In addition to Juárez, Correa pointed to other opportunities in the state of Chihuahua. He explained that once companies gain the technology to produce, they must accelerate their production activities to meet the needs of the maquiladoras or other customer entities. “In the state of Chihuahua there are several interesting clusters that have to be supported,” he said. “We are talking about the manufacturing cluster in Juárez, which is the main focus. We are also talking about the aeronautic cluster in Chihuahua City, as well as the agricultural cluster in Cuauhtemoc. All those need suppliers who have the right technology.

“We supply the technology so that the locals can manufacture the components.”

Alloys and composites used in the growing aeronautic industry in Chihuahua represent opportunities for the higher-tech, supply-side manufacturing needed for support.

Working from the Hub of Human Innovation incubator in downtown El Paso, Correa, representing Team Technologies of Albuquerque, offers engineering services, technology development, precision manufacturing, instrumentation and controls to companies in the El region. “We plan to become a source of reliable technology for local need,” he said. “We work for the potential integration of a binational facilities, and expect to contribute on a short- to medium-term basis to job-creation efforts pursued by regional policies.”

Concerning the agreement or convenio signed last month, Correa added, “The projects derived from it will constitute a substantial advance in the integration of industry in the region to the global economy through knowledge.”

Michael Hissam is president of Trans-National Executive Communications. He may be reached at

Incubator Help for Business Good

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Incubator: Help for business good for everyone 08/12/2011

El Paso Times Editorial Board

View original El Paso Times Article

Often, businesses need a little help to make a successful start. And help is available through a business incubator at the University of Texas at El Paso — the Hub of Human Innovation.

The El Paso City Council recently approved giving the hub $1.255 million over four years.

It’s a good way to spend the money, which comes from a new increase in the El Paso Electric Co. franchise fee. That fee is paid by EPEC customers in the city.

A lot of the money will go to help the Medical Center of the Americas, something that prompted city Rep. Eddie Holguin to wonder whether the funds would be “double dipping.” The MCA is supposed to support biomedical innovation, something the Hub also does.

But with El Paso’s emphasis on becoming a medical care and medical research center of international note, it seems logical to sink that money into biomedical research.

The MCA’s strategic location on the border makes it a natural focus of both national and international attention for treatment, research and associated businesses.

The Hub also concentrates on clean energy, biotechnology, defense, automotive and advanced manufacturing — all areas that hold great promise in 21st century business.

It provides office and lab space, business expertise — and how important is that! — and various other resources that can help businesses get going.

The point is to help and encourage business. Businesses employ people, pay taxes and generally play a huge role in local, state, national and international economies.

So the Hub — the incubator — can play a vital role

El Paso City Council Approves Support

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El Paso’s City Council approves $1.255M to support business incubator August 10, 2011 by Marty Schladen \ El Paso Times

View original El Paso Times article

The City Council on Tuesday agreed to put up $1.255 million over four years to fund a business incubator at the University of Texas at El Paso.

The funds will go to the Hub of Human Innovation, which aims to help businesses make a successful start, especially in biotechnology, clean energy, defense, automotive and advanced manufacturing.

The funds will come from a new, 0.75 percent increase in the franchise fee paid by El Paso Electric customers in the city.

Much of the rest of the money from those fees will go to develop the Medical Center of the Americas.

City Rep. Eddie Holguin asked whether the funds would amount to a “double dip” for biomedical innovation, since that is something the Medical Center is also supposed to pursue.

“We want MCA to develop expertise, but they’re not ready to get up-and-running incubating the biosciences,” said city Rep. Susie Byrd.

Once the Medical Center is able foster biomedical businesses, the Hub will shift its focus from them, Byrd said.

In business parlance, the Hub of Human Innovation is known as an “incubator.”

It provides office and lab space, business expertise and other resources to people seeking to start their own businesses.

Gary Williams, director of UTEP’s Center for Research Entrepeneurship and Innovative Enterprises, said the Hub will look for “gazelles,” which are business plans in fields that promise to attract complimentary pursuits.

Business people call groups of complimentary pursuits business “clusters.”

“We don’t plan to turn anybody away, but we want to focus on the industries that fit the clusters,” Williams said.

Marty Schladen may be reached at; 546-6127.

Inside the Hub

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Inside the Hub: El Paso’s new incubator for startups 8/21/2011
By Robert Gray/El Paso Inc.

El Paso’s brand new business incubator has selected its first class of baby companies and aims to do nothing less than nurture the budding entrepreneurs and their startups into technology powerhouses.

With hopes of becoming the next big thing, five companies have made it through the application process so far, leaving eight office or cubicle spaces open at the incubator, named the Hub of Human Innovation.

One startup, EcoLink, is preparing to market a house its founder claims can be built in three days by two people with rubber mallets, using technology devised by a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Another holds 19 patents, its founder says. Their would-be products include everything from child seat alert sensors that prevent parents from forgetting children in the car, to a system for reusing gray water at home.

That startup, LeFran World Products, is “about to take off like a rocket,” says Cathy Swain, the Hub’s new executive director.

In an effort to look the part, the incubator appears to have imported its style from Silicon Valley.

Inside, the walls are painted stark white with special whiteboard paint, and a few colorful doodles have been drawn on the walls with dry-erase markers to advertise the point. Presumably, the walls will be used for brain storming at some point.

Reminiscent of a loft, the Hub is essentially one 3,000-square-foot room spanned by gray, polished concrete floors and brick walls. A row of glass-fronted offices lines one wall, each just large enough for a desk and chair, and a row of cubicles lines another.

Wall Street, Main Street
While the vision for the Hub is expansive, like the companies it has taken under its wing, its start is modest.

City Council recently funded the incubator to the tune of $1.3 million over four years, its largest source of funding yet. The incubator had been crawling along with support from a $200,000 state grant since its grand opening in late July.

That’s been enough to secure space in the Union Plaza District Downtown, in the Sotoa Gallery building at 500 W. Overland, and hire executive director Swain, but that’s about it.

Swain has done a bit of everything, she says, from working on Wall Street in New York as a vice president for Oppenheimer and Co., to working on Main Street, literally, in St. Johnsbury, Vt., as CFO for Northern Community Investment Corp.

Most recently, she was assistant vice chancellor for commercial development for the University of Texas System. That put her in charge of research commercialization efforts at the system’s 15 campuses.

So what brought Swain to El Paso to take the executive director position at the upstart incubator?

“It is a clean sheet of paper. I love that,” she says, adding “El Paso is Austin in 1985 – all of the resources are here for it to really take off. But, you know, I am not interested in building an Austin here in El Paso; I am interested in introducing opportunities that will improve the quality of life and that will, essentially, make an asset out of the border.”

She turns and points at the only decoration on the wall behind her desk, two large maps.

“The Mexico/Texas border region is the gateway from Nova Scotia to Cape Horn,” Swain says.

What’s an incubator?
The first wall you see walking through the Hub’s front door is bright yellow, with the words “Technology Meets Market” painted in large letters. That is essentially what the Hub is designed to do – serve as a launch pad for startups, helping them turn their ideas into marketable products.

Those startups that make the cut and are accepted into the program can choose from different levels of service.

Some might need office space and others just a cubicle. Or there are those who are called “associates” who are not located at the Hub but take advantage of its other services.

Beyond the office or cubicle space, the incubator advertises on its website that it provides startups with mentorship, contacts to establish management teams and boards, help identifying investment capital, business gap analysis, access to a library of business development tools, and help creating business plans.

“Business incubation focuses on working with people in the community who may already have a business idea, but who need additional assistance in taking that idea to the next level,” says Linda Knopp, director of policy analysis and research for the National Business Incubation Association in Athens, Ohio.

The screening process involves a written application, a 20-minute presentation to a screening committee and an interview conducted by administrators and staff.

The Hub advertises that it is particularly looking for startups with high growth potential, who have innovative intellectual property, sufficient seed capital or personal resources to carry the venture for four months, products or services that can be brought to market in no more than three years, and founders who have a “coachable attitude.”

The fee structure for the incubator’s services is still under review, Swain says, but will probably involve some sort of monthly fee.

While the Hub has several partners – including Innovate El Paso, the City of El Paso, Medical Center of the Americas Foundation, Paso del Norte Group, U.S.-Mexico Foundation for Science (FUMEC), University of Texas at El Paso, and the Bi-national Sustainability Laboratory – it will be its own organization with a stand-alone board.

The Hub has submitted an application to become a 501c(3) non-profit organization, according to Swain, and is working to fill 18 board positions.

The first class
Long-time El Paso developer David Bingham, founder of EcoLink, says he aims to have 1,000 of his company’s mallet-built “microhouses” constructed in the next 18 months.

In the Hub’s conference room, he pulls up a presentation on his iPad.

The homes run from 250-square-feet to 750-square-feet and retail for $20,000 to $40,000, according to Bingham. They can also be pieced together to make an apartment complex.

The homes are rigged with solar panels, a wind turbine and small generator, and can operate independently from the electrical grid.

Right now, he says the Hub is helping him find a manufacturing facility.

While the homes are not pre-fabricated and are built onsite, Bingham says, the pieces are digitally fabricated from a composite made of plant-based materials on a CNC machine, computer-controlled mills that accurately cut parts and components to make pretty much anything.

Besides EcoLink and LeFran World Products, other companies that have been accepted at the Hub are RoofCARE, a company that has developed a method of restoring and reclaiming roofs instead of replacing them, and TEAM Technologies Inc., an advanced engineering and electronics manufacturing company.

Local startup EvoAir also has a cubicle in the Hub. It has developed products to make general aviation safer by automatizing some of the tasks normally performed by the pilot.

Nationwide trend
Although El Paso is a bit late to the game, the incubator model is still a relatively new one.

While there were only 12 incubators in the country in 1980, there are now about 1,200 in the U.S. and 7,000 around the world, according to the National Business Incubation Association, or NBIA.

And nationwide, the idea of incubators as economic stimulators continues to gain steam, especially since the Great Recession, says Knopp with the NBIA.

More communities are adopting a “grow your own strategy,” as unemployment remains high, instead of simply trying to entice companies to the area, which only moves jobs, Knopp says.

The incubator model has proven effective for startups, she says, with 89 percent of companies that graduate from incubators still in business five years later.

El Paso may be playing catch-up when it comes to developing the infrastructure typically associated with turning ideas into successful startups – active angel investors, access to venture capital, business incubation and the like – but Swain says things are changing fast here.

“I see it rapidly evolving,” she says. “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

E-mail El Paso Inc. reporter Robert Gray at or call (915) 534-4422 ext. 105.