Press Release

SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO, UNITED STATES, May 20, 2022 / — Today, Innovate+Educate, a national nonprofit; and Cottonwood Technology Funds, a VC firm, both located in Santa Fe, NM, announced outcomes and awards from their most successful summit held over the past decade. “Close It meets Crossing the Cactus Summit” was produced and held in Santa Fe, New Mexico on May 2-4, 2022. The summit’s first day featured a private C-Suite gathering designed to strengthen collaborative efforts in corporate hiring and learning. Over fifty Chief Learning Officers (CLOs) and CHROs worked on key areas for a design-centered effort around the future on skills-based hiring efforts as well a need to build out more accessible, transferable, portable learning that continues to stay with the individual. “New Mexico has never seen this caliber of leadership at one event before”, said Jamai Blivin, CEO and Founder of Innovate+Educate. “The Summit recognized the importance of developing hiring and learning assets that support the worker and learner’s successful journey. The group determined that these learning assets should be demand-driven and aligned with corporate needs in an effort to scale innovations in work, economic development, and technology-enabled solutions. We look forward to continuing the work that came out of the private event.”

The full event then opened with over 500 C-Suite attendees from across the globe, including Asia, the Netherlands, Europe, Israel, and Mexico. Corporate leaders participating included executives from Bank of American, Caterpillar, Cisco Systems,, Google, Amazon, JP Morgan Chase, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Bayotech, Infinitum, Proctor & Gamble, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Walmart, Presbyterian Hospital, Lurie Children’s Hospital Chicago, and many more. Venture Capital and Foundation leaders included executives from Shell, Chevron, Caterpillar, Kind Capital LLC, Atento Capital, Anzu Partners, ReThink Education, Strada Education, Charles Koch Foundation, Live Oak Merchant Partners, Hamamatsu Ventures, Sun Mountain Capital, and Tyton Partners.

Throughout the event, leading experts in economic development, the future of work, and technology commercialization and innovation gathered to advance successful strategies for States such as New Mexico, as well as many other regions in the U.S. and globally. Ross Devol, President and CEO of Heartland Forward provided a keynote as well as identifying those regions of strength and what that means for the economy. “Convening thought leaders and practitioners on these latest practices in starting and scaling knowledge-based firms and creating talent are critical for economic development and job creation,” stated Devol. Jim Link, the CHRO of the Society of Human Resources, Washington, DC attended both the pre-event and the full summit. “Crossing the Cactus is an excellent example of the collaboration necessary across multiple entities to drive systemic change and solve big problems.  From angel investors to academics to practitioners to technology innovators, our growing skills crisis shortage will take big ideas and those willing to make a difference for significant progress to be made,” stated Link, post-summit.

Said David Blivin, Managing Director of Cottonwood Technology Funds. “The Summit elevated the work that is happening nationally and globally related to technology commercialization and job creation. So much of this is relevant to every state, and particularly New Mexico, to improve the economy and the lives of New Mexicans. It would have been nice to see more of our New Mexico leadership participate to share more of our New Mexico initiatives and also learn from their peers.”, a skills-to-jobs marketplace technology startup located in Austin, Texas, received the “Dare to Disrupt” Disruptor Shift Award. Dr. Parminder Jassal, Founder and CEO of accepted the award on behalf of the company, acknowledging America’s working learners, “Unmudl would like to thank Innovate+Educate for the Disruptor Award, today we are accepting this award on behalf of America’s working learners who daily are asking us for help to unmuddle their work+learn futures.  America’s businesses and most forward-thinking Community Colleges are doing the hard work to serve working learners efficiently and affordably.” Other awards went to Road Trip Nation (the Decade of Empowerment Award) and Brandon Christowsky (SHIFT Decade Leader Award) for his leadership with Edwin’s Restaurant, supporting thousands of learners in prison and post-incarceration with pathways for success.

Looking ahead to post-summit, the work will continue, stated David Blivin. “The Cactus reference is symbolic of the majority of the world where innovation is plentiful, but not always lead to job creation due to the lack of capital, management, and policies that support the ideas. There is plenty of work ahead. Innovation requires purpose-driven leadership working collaboratively.”

Jamai Wallis Blivin
Innovate Educate
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