This past week was New Orleans Entrepreneurship Week #NOEW. While this was the 6th annual, it was my first. The week was full of programs and pitches put on by the fine folks of Idea Village and their many partners. I have been working with IV this season in many capacities, they do everything here in NOLA by season (more on rhythms and rituals here.) I hosted over a dozen Idea Sessions, where any entrepreneur can come in and receive 90 minutes of support and counsel from more experienced folks. I also was co-EIR for the first-ever Food Challenge, which took 5 food product companies through a 10 week program. I even presented an Idea Institute! a 2 hour free class spreading the gospel of the to the business model canvas. Finally, for the past 45 days I have acted as pitch coach for a host of the companies that presented last week. Through these activities and many nights at Capdeville I am no longer a stranger to this vibrant community. However, even with my status changed to “kool-aid drinker”, a few things still managed to stick out to me this past week.
This City Loves Its Startups
While startups remain not much more than a buzzword in many cities, NOLA top to bottom is building, encouraging and supporting them all. From youth programs to sector specific challenges NOEW showcased an incredibly diverse range of business creation efforts. And with support from government, local industry and recognized celebrities it is clear that startups are an important part of New Orleans’ rebirth. This wide spread support and diversity of business types means that while you may be a sole founder you are never alone.
The Power of Rising Tides
Pun not withstanding this city really understands the phrase, “a rising tides raises all boats.” Because of this, the NOLA startup scene is as collaborative and open as any I have seen. Startups are always willing to share learnings with each other and see the success of any as the success of all. The winner of this years Big Idea, the week’s capstone crowd funding event, is a new brewery looking to turn the $50k prize into a New Orleans home for its novel craft beers. The mentor who has helped guide this startup through the many challenges associated with starting a new brewery is none other than the founder of the only craft brewery currently in New Orleans. Like a good party host, “the more the merrier”, not “how will we feed all these people” is the first thought of folks here.
When It’s Time To Change…
The classic Brady Bunch song that highlighted Peter’s awkward transformation into adulthood was also apparent this past week. Lots has been written about how to start an entrepreneurial ecosystem and if engagement, visibility and inspiration are measures there are few that have done it better than Idea Village and NOEW. However like any good parent there comes a time when you have to recognize that your child is growing up and your role needs to shift. And likewise the child needs to understand that with new freedoms come new responsibilities. I for one am excited to see how this next chapter unfolds and play whatever part I can.
Cue the street cleaners that are the final parade float, letting everyone know the night is over and let’s get back to building the stories that will be told at NOEW 2015!