Albuquerque Journal--Air Force Lab Looking For Entrepreneurs

By Kevin Robinson-Avila / Journal Staff Writer

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Not everyone has the business chops to take new technology to market, but the Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque is searching far and wide for the best and brightest.

The AFRL, located at Kirtland Air Force Base, is seeking aspiring and experienced entrepreneurs with good ideas and a solid commitment to commercialize new lab technology to sign up for intensive training run by AFRL’s new partner, California-based Wasabi Ventures.

The new program will function much like a general business accelerator, which helps people with promising products or services speed their path to market. But in this case, Wasabi will specifically seek candidates who demonstrate the best ideas and potential for commercializing AFRL innovation.

“This is a hands-on program for AFRL to get out into the community to create licenses and commercial startups to take AFRL technology to market,” said Matthew Fetrow, tech engagement lead for the AFRL in New Mexico.

The program aims to recruit AFRL scientists and engineers who are interested in entrepreneurship, as well as individuals in general with or without entrepreneurial experience.

“There are many people at AFRL who might want to become entrepreneurs, and we want to tap into that talent,” Fetrow said. “But there are also many people with a lot of experience around New Mexico, and many more with great ideas who could excel with training. We want to cast a wide net to find as many promising individuals as possible to create more licenses and startups.”

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Jeff Abbott, Wasabi general partner and director of technology commercialization, said the Wasabi process helps locate the most-promising people and ideas and provides them with the education, support and mentorship needed to commercialize lab technology.

To participate, individuals complete a free, online course in the basics of startups and entrepreneurship. Selected candidates then enter a longer, hands-on course to develop commercial ideas for lab technology. The most-promising ones move onto an intensive, six-month incubator to further develop their ideas, culminating in a “Demo Day” with investors and entrepreneurs.

Wasabi has successfully run similar programs with other defense labs, including the AFRL lab in Rome, NY, Abbott said.

Wasabi is organizing information sessions around the state, beginning with a Nov. 11 orientation at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. For more information, visit www.afrlnewmexico.com/lablaunch2017.