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Building a network

Arrowhead Center enterprise adviser guides students, graduates to success

The business world can be intimidating, but NMSU’s Arrowhead Center works with alumni to help students and recent graduates think their vision through fully before making it a reality.

John Cho ’95 meets virtually with young entrepreneurs and inventors as an enterprise adviser at Arrowhead Center. Cho graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from NMSU and pursued a Ph.D. in biochemical engineering at the University of Maryland before withdrawing from the program to join a startup. He has since built a career in technology development and consulting with Hewlett Packard Enterprise, advising the likes of the Food and Drug Administration, NASA and the State Department. Cho shares insights on technology development, government contracting and business strategy pulling from his own industry experiences.

“Students come with a startup idea, and they’re asking, what are my next steps? I try to guide them through some of that and get them down a path by showing them some experiences I’ve dealt with,” says Cho, who also has presented on emerging technologies to the likes of Electronic Arts, the Federal Reserve and Oracle. He says a reoccurring topic is locating funding to build their startup.

“If I’m going to be doing energy, do I have to go to the venture capitalists? Do I have to go to the Department of Energy? We investigate the best options because it’s not always venture capitalists. It can be on a crowd-sourcing platform like Kickstarter. It can be government funding, too,” he says.

Cho says he tries to streamline an advisee’s vision with the exact steps.

“If they want to build an application but don’t know how to code, I’ll suggest they go through a design session around the user experience as well as finding the right business model, before they go spend money on learning to code or finding developers,” he says. “As an adviser, I’m a sounding board and someone that can give them an honest critique of the idea and some guidance.”

Cho wants to have entrepreneurs ready to encounter rejection, calling the development of a startup a “journey, not a one-and-done kind of thing.”

“I feel like this role is as much about increasing the chance for success as it is to save them pain. If it gives them the path to success and now we have another NMSU alum running a multibillion-dollar company like Starbucks, that's awesome,” Cho says.

Jennifer Mora-Chavez ’14, who worked with Cho, says the experience helped refine her ideas with the one-on-one sessions.

“With John, I learned new innovative ways on how to launch my idea that I would have never thought about on my own,” Mora-Chavez says. “He has a unique ability to combine forward-driven thinking with practical application. I am so thankful for him, and all of Arrowhead Center, for their help.”

Cho recognized the importance of giving back to his alma mater and actively sought out Arrowhead Center to support emerging innovators and young entrepreneurs. Since 2018, he has been part of Arrowhead’s nationwide network of business advisers serving NMSU entrepreneurs.

“Luck can be offset by people working together on an opportunity,” he says. “The more support you can have with like-minded people in a community, the people who believe in you, who can support you, who can help you refine your ideas, who can help you execute those ideas, the less luck you’re going to need. Here at NMSU, we want entrepreneurs to be successful, not lucky.”

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