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NMSU MBA candidate wins top prize at Albuquerque Startup Weekend

It was an intense, non-stop weekend of business development competition, stopping only to wolf down lunch or grab a few hours' sleep - but after taking their concept from pitch to presentation, a team led by a student entrepreneur from New Mexico State University emerged victorious.

Startup Weekend participants work on a plan for their business idea.
Brian Mangusing, seated, center, works with his team during the first evening of a Startup Weekend event in Albuquerque on Friday, June 21. Mangusing's team, which included fellow NMSU student Jared Naranjo, seated, right, worked for 54 intense hours to develop Mangusing's business concept that uses engineering Lego mechanisms to stimulate interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. Mangusing's plan and product won first prize at the competition. (Submitted photo)

The student - Brian Mangusing - was taking part in New Mexico's second Startup Weekend in Albuquerque. He and another NMSU student, Jared Naranjo, traveled to the event to pitch their ideas and learn about the process of developing a startup.

The New Mexico event is part of an international non-profit organization headquartered in Seattle. Startup Weekend is a global grassroots movement of entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures.

All Startup Weekend events follow the same basic model: anyone is welcome to pitch their startup idea and receive feedback from their peers. Teams organically form around the top ideas (as determined by popular vote) and then it's a 54-hour frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing and market validation. The weekends culminate with presentations in front of local entrepreneurial leaders with another opportunity for critical feedback.

The winning concept was Mangusing's curriculum plan that uses the "Lego Lab" teaching concept originally developed by engineer Yu-Ping Tang of the Controls and Automation Lab at NMSU's Manufacturing Technology and Engineering Center.

Tang developed the bright red training kits, which function at three levels of difficulty, with 15 exercises at each level. They all contain motors, various mechanisms, sensors, controls - and, of course, Legos. Intricate picture diagrams give students step-by-step instructions on how to build the robots.

Mangusing, who has a master's degree in biotechnology and is pursuing another master's in business administration, came across the Lego learning tools through his work as a technology commercialization associate at NMSU's Arrowhead Center. Arrowhead's commercialization efforts are supported by an i6 Challenge grant funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration.

Mangusing is in the process of licensing the idea and curriculum originally dreamed up by Tang, and has been developing a business - dubbed Crimson Curriculum - through Studio G, Arrowhead's student business incubator. Working with Studio G, he's been able to get needed infrastructure and support in finding the best way to develop the concept into a product that could be sold for widespread classroom use.

Arrowhead Center Chief Operating Officer Kathryn Hansen said the collaboration fostered by the student and faculty business incubators is impressive.

"Arrowhead Center is excited by the opportunities being created at the intersection of faculty innovation and student entrepreneurship," she said. "It was so exciting to watch (via webcast) Brian present Crimson Curriculum at such a sophisticated level."

Mangusing said he learned through the Startup Weekend that developing a great idea is just one step in the process.

"At first I thought, if you have a customer and you have a product, you have a business," he said. "It's so much more than that. You have to create a collaborative environment and capitalize on people's strengths. And you have to be ready and willing to change and adapt to meet customer needs."

Studio G was created in 2011 to develop energized, connected, and creative student entrepreneurs looking to launch startup companies. Full-time NMSU students and alumni who graduated in the last five years may apply to Studio G.

"It is certainly possible to develop a concept like this without that support," he said, "but working with Studio G increased the chances of it succeeding a hundred-fold."

Jason Koenig, Arrowhead Center's technology licensing associate, who oversees Studio G, said the Startup Weekend represented a great chance for the students to make the kind of impression - and the networking connections - that will be highly valuable as they continue to develop their business ideas.

"An opportunity can mean everything for an entrepreneur," Koenig said, "and our sponsored Studio G members truly seized their opportunity to shine."

Naranjo, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering technology, also works with Studio G, along with project partner Chase Remley, on app development. His pitch for an app that would analyze video game play to help players perform at a higher level was not picked up for further development, but he worked on Mangusing's Crimson Curriculum team, doing research that helped the team better understand the skill level of the target age group for the learning tools.

Naranjo said the event was a great lesson for him on how much preparation must be done before a pitch is ready for presentation.

"The people who had winning ideas had already done a lot of the homework," Naranjo said. "They had ideas for financial backers, prototypes they'd already created. Now I know what it will take to compete."

Judges at the Startup Weekend event selected Mangusing's model from nine different teams being developed because they said it was a great idea and they liked the team's passion and collaborative spirit.

Mangusing's first-place prize includes $1,000 to invest in the company, along with additional support in the form of office space and other needed infrastructure.

Zetdi Runyan Sloan, program manager at the Arrowhead Technology Incubator, accompanied the students to Startup Weekend and is planning to host another event at Arrowhead Center this fall.

"There's a tremendous amount of interest here," she said.

For more information about Studio G, visit studiognmsu.ning.com. For more information about Startup Weekend, visit startupweekend.org.