LAVA Heats Up Los Alamos Business Development

Stakeholders met May 15 at a work meeting for the Los Alamos Venture Accelerator (LAVA). From left, LANL’s Duncan McBranch, entrepreneur Nicholas Seet, LACDC Executive Director Scott Randall and Executive Director Katharine Chartrand of The New Mexico Consortium. Photo by Mandy Marksteiner

Meticulous planning met pedal to the metal enthusiasm at the work meeting for newly formed LAVA, the Los Alamos Venture Accelerator. LAVA is benefitting from an unprecedented level of organized cooperation from key stakeholders.

Representatives from the LACDC, UNM-LA, The New Mexico Consortium, The Regional Development Corporation, Los Alamos National Laboratory, The Small Business Development Center, the Los Alamos Business Incubator and Los Alamos National Security, LLC, met Thursday, May 15, to develop an initial project plan for the LAVA initiative.

“Every person in the room came forward with something valuable to add,” LACDC Executive Director Scott Randall said. “They were all pulling in the same direction.”

Their goal is to create a local business development program that guides entrepreneurs through the process of launching a startup in order to diversify the economic base in Los Alamos beyond LANL and retail.

Inevitable obstacles can stall businesses before they can build momentum. With LAVA, business owners and prospective founders will maneuver through those road blocks and get their business moving in the right direction. It will be a “one-stop shop” where you can be matched with mentors, teammates and investors. Their clear roadmap for startups will lead new entrepreneurs through the complex process of launching a business.

Kathy Keith and Eric Vasquez of the Regional Development Corporation (RDC) engaged Mark Long of Long Performance Advisors (LPA) to conduct interviews of key players in the entrepreneurial ecosystem supporting Los Alamos County and to make comprehensive recommendations on the feasibility of a virtual incubator or business accelerator serving Los Alamos County.  The study laid the groundwork for moving forward with the plan.

Central to the study was the creation of an online portal to collect the resources of the local community. The creation of this portal fell to the LACDC, under the leadership of Randall. 

The decision was made that LACDC is the owner of LAVA and veteran entrepreneur Nicholas Seet, recruited by Randall, has been contracted to be the inaugural “Startup Czar,” leading the new organization. Seet’s company SIVI ( provides the tools that local community development organizations require to activate and accelerate entrepreneurs.

Under Randall’s direction, Seet’s first task will be to identify and aggregate all of the startup resources in Los Alamos, from potential startup mentors, to infrastructure and commercialization strategies that may help a startup get launched and then introduce the concept to the community at large.

Another detail that needed to be decided on was a launch date, since the group offered up a wide range of estimated launch dates that ranged from August 2014 to December 2015.

Since Seet has already prepared most of the materials and through his courses at UNM-Los Alamos, they were able to agree on an ambitious goal to design and launch the Los Alamos Venture Accelerator by Sept. 5 to coincide with the Los Alamos Science Fest.

“Our goal is to encourage people to get into entrepreneurship and promote the entrepreneurial mentality,” Seet said. “We want to widen the base of the funnel to create more businesses in Los Alamos and cultivate an entrepreneurial ecosystem for us all.”

To get involved with LAVA, sign up for email updates at to hear about LAVA’s progress and find out the best ways to contribute.

LOS ALAMOS website support locally by OviNuppi Systems