Original Article | Cassie McClure | cassie@mcclurepublications.com | Apr. 29, 2021

The Hunt Center for Entrepreneurship at New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center tested a new batch of bold entrepreneurs willing to hold their own against the sea of shark investors at its sixth annual Aggie Shark Tank on Thursday, April 15.

Sharks included Isabella Ortiz, an investment analyst at 4S Bay Partners; Beto Pallares, Arrowhead Innovation Fund manager; and Drew Tulchin, president of New Mexico Angels investment group, who listened to different pitches via Zoom and then asked sharp questions to probe to deeper depths. 

“It’s not only a place for entrepreneurs to make the connections that can lead to investment in their business, but it’s also a forum for them to get valuable feedback from a broader community of startup enthusiasts as well as from some who may have an understanding of their industry,” Pallares said.

Two entrepreneurs, Mark Davis and Steven Alderete, were selected for consideration of investment.

Davis, an NMSU alumnus with degrees from the Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, founded Likehuman, which commercializes next-generation deep learning technologies for a smarter future.

“The Aggie Shark Tank experience helped me refine my presentation and business model through active review and critique that culminated in a chance to present to a slate of potential investors,” Davis said. “It was a fantastic opportunity to hear other entrepreneurs pitch and to learn more about the kinds of questions investors ask and how they think about business development.

“At Likehuman,” he said, “we see our upcoming seed round as a validation stake that will help with intellectual property development, initial hiring, and demonstrate the viability of our business and technology vision.”

Alderete, an NMSU alumnus with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering, spent 31 years with the U.S. Department of Defense. After his retirement last April, he became the owner of Trail-9 Outdoors and presented the H₂OBO System, which keeps hiking hydration systems dry and hygienic.

“The investment is going to expedite my efforts. So far, I have financed this project out-of-pocket. This initial investment will also help me bring in other hesitant investors and reach my investment goal,” Alderete said. “It’s a great feeling knowing that professional investors are interested in and believe in my product. It’s a win-win situation for all.”

Sonia Gonzales, also an NMSU alumnus, was selected as the winner of the Crowd Favorite Award of $1,000. Gonzales is the inventor of the Callie Baby Bottle, a bottle that offers a realistic nursing experience and helps reduce colic.

“Being crowd favorite was definitely a surprise,” Gonzales said. “There were some great presentations to compete against. I’m extremely grateful to all the people who voted for me.”

Gonzales said as soon as she knew she was selected as a competitor, it kicked her planning into high gear through Arrowhead Center.

“For two months, I had meetings with several advisors in all respects of business,” Gonzales said. “It was amazing to have so many great advisors readily available to me. Every advisor was happy to help, even with some elementary questions I may have had.

“It’s a game-changer, and the success my company sees will be a direct reflection of all the advisors that helped,” she said. “Now I believe that anything is possible with a dream and a plan.”