The Science and Technology Corporation at UNM, a branch of the University invested in the creation of local intellectual and technological properties, held its first ever Innovation Fair on Tuesday to expose students to new opportunities.
The event invited startup companies in New Mexico as well as UNM students who are looking for internships in the entrepreneurial or technology field.
The potential and interest was meant to be mutual, as students provide a unique opportunity for companies present at the fair, said Rob DelCampo, executive director at UNM's Innovation Academy and a professor at the Anderson School of Management.
“A lot of these companies do not have a ton of capital, and they can’t afford to hire full time employees,” DelCampo said.
Students offer help to these companies by providing them with their time and commitment, whether they decide to start now or during the summer break. Not only do the students get hands-on working experience, but they are also able to receive different benefits from their experience
“Some of them are offering pay and we have a couple who want to offer equity,” DelCampo said.
Aside from financial compensation, students are also able to receive UNM credit. Students are able to get three credits if they meet the academic criteria held by the Innovation Academy, which includes taking a certain number of hours for a certain number of credits.
Some of the businesses in attendance at the Innovation Fair included Zummit Labs, the New Mexico Angels, the Albuquerque Tourism Sightseeing Factory (Albuquerque Trolley Co.), Rude Boy Cookies and the Albuquerque Sol Soccer Team.
Startup companies look for specific qualities they want students – and potential employees – to possess.
Mike Silva, co-founder of the Albuquerque Trolley Co., said he specifically tries to find people who come from a teamwork-oriented background, like sports and theater.
“For me, that tells me that they’ve worked within a group, they know what its like to be responsible and committed to someone else," Silva said.
Local startup companies also look for students who have a love for the city of Albuquerque and who have a strong passion for staying.
Small businesses are integral to the statewide economy, according to the Small Business Administration. The SBA's 2010 report states that, in that year, small business accounted for almost 96 percent of all businesses in the state, employing about 55 percent of the workforce.
With the help of the Innovation Fair, students were able to learn more about these companies and provide information about themselves as well.
Kyle Thordahl, a sophomore business administration major, was one of many students who attended the fair and said he'd like to stay local for a possible summer internship.
"(I know) that there are a lot of really cool startups popping up here in Albuquerque. I thought it would be really cool to come here and check it out," he said.
DelCampo said he wants the Innovation Fair to become a regular event, so as to continue to provide services for startup companies as well as work experience and benefits for UNM students. Students with various levels of knowledge may find an opportunity at future fairs with local businesses.
"We have lots of different opportunities for students with lots of different backgrounds," he said. "We have some folks with some engineering backgrounds, some with communication and journalism backgrounds, all sorts of different things."
Bryce Owens is a student in the communication and journalism department.