April 13, 2016 by Lauren Goldstein, NMSU News Center
Successful regional business owners are returning as the school of sharks in another round of Aggie Shark Tank, circling for a chance to bite into novel innovations and promising inventions from New Mexico State University entrepreneurs.
NMSU’s Arrowhead Center will host Aggie Shark Tank from 2 to 4 p.m. April 22 at the Las Cruces Convention Center. A reception with refreshments will follow from 4 to 5 p.m. The event, based on the hit television show, is free but online registration is required at arrowheadcenter.nmsu.edu/aggiesharktank. Members of the public and university community are encouraged to attend.
The stakes are high as NMSU entrepreneurs pitch their ideas and products before a team of regional “sharks,” investors who will offer funding in exchange for partial stake in the company. Lou Sisbarro of Sisbarro Dealerships, Royal Jones of Mesilla Valley Transportation, chile farmer and agribusiness leader Dino Cervantes of Cervantes Enterprises, and real estate developer Mickey Clute are the sharks returning for this year’s event. Kauffman Fellow Beto Pallares, an active high tech early-stage investor and university lecturer who also serves on several corporate and venture fund advisory boards, will join the panel as a guest shark. At least one entrepreneur contestant from October will return to pitch again this season.
In addition to being an entertaining event, Aggie Shark Tank is a chance to help new technologies leap toward the marketplace and forge connections within the regional business community. Along with the possibility of investment, the sharks also offer mentorship and sustained communication with contestants. The initial concept for the event arose from a 2015 collaboration between Lou Sisbarro and Arrowhead Center.
Last October, tension was high as sharks grilled NMSU entrepreneurs with questions about products, markets, customer base, and other business aspects. Andy Rice, a former Aggie and vice president of Chicago-based private equity firm The Jordan Co., joined the panel as a “mystery shark.” In the end, Lou Sisbarro and Dino Cervantes invested $30,000 in NMSU graduate Rajaa Shindi’s Brain Interactivity Training for treating attention disorders in elementary school children. Also, Royal Jones invested $15,000 in NMSU student Jorge Banda’s system to capture heat from vehicle motors and use it to power auxiliary systems. The investments were in exchange for a portion of equity in the contestants’ businesses.
Shindi also clinched a $1,000 cash prize for the Audience Favorite award and a $2,500 cash prize for Sharks’ Favorite award. Both awards will be featured again this season.
“Aggie Shark Tank is an awesome opportunity for our student entrepreneurs to get in front of regional sharks and pitch their ideas for investment. We’re really excited about getting more communities involved this year and it should be a great event,” says Kramer Winingham, director of business incubator Studio G at Arrowhead Center.
No audience members are solicited for financial support during the program. To register for free tickets, visit arrowheadcenter.nmsu.edu/aggiesharktank.