Last week New Orleans officially added a new season to the calendar…Entrepreneur Season. The annual New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, NOEW (pronounced “no-ee” since nothing down sounds like it looks) is in the books and this year was one that may go down as the tipping point, not just for New Orleans but perhaps even the regional ecosystem.
Last year I wrote about my views on NOEW 2014 and stated that I thought that Idea Village and the ecosystem were at a point where roles and responsibilities needed to change. As entrepreneur-in-residence this season I had a ringside seat to watch those changes begin to take place.
Uppenteaux Da Rite
Jim Coulter’s keynote provided the perfect left-brained showcase of the growth and impact of NOEW, balancing out the stubborn, perseverant right-brained passion that is Tim Williamson. With attendance, start ups and partner organizations rapidly growing it was a set of charts that every startup should aspire to.
Friday’s Demo Day pitches were another example of the growing strength of the ecosystem. My co-EIR Hank Torbert and I had the privilege of working with 15 amazing companies ranging from a freshly launched app to an industrial technology led by a former EIR. What all these companies had in common was quality. Many of them were announcing new partnerships, accelerating progress and even funding. From the founders to the traction they were getting these were all companies that had earned the right to be in the room.
And what a room it was. Over one hundred investors both local and national crammed into a conference room to get a look at what many across the nation have overlooked. Our goal as EIR’s was to create a sense of FOMO for those that were not in that room and based on the buzz, business cards and emails we may have succeeded. This year’s room was filled by the hard work of Alex Rawitz and his tireless networking. My guess is whomever has the job next year will have a much easier time of it.
One Festival. Many Tents
The partner organizations pitches were a joy to see as well. Leveraging the NOEW platform to elevate their efforts both locally and regionally they brought energy and passion to the party. Idea Village’s open platform has become a Jazz Fest for entrepreneurship and festivals are what we do best down here. The Delta Regional Authority brought startups from the many states within its domain and once again New Orleans served as the gateway to the Mississippi. This time for new ideas rather than barge loads of goods.
Second lines, cocktail parties, celebrity chefs on panel, Saints announcers and brass bands reminded everyone that this was not your typical conference but this was a truly a New Orleans style festival. One that is not only for the locals but one that can and should draw entrepreneurs from everywhere. If you want to read a great piece on this check out this post.
The 300th anniversary of New Orleans is only a couple of years away and I think it is time to go back to where it all began. I want the upcoming NOEW’s to be made up of the same crazy gumbo that started it all. I am looking for French, Spanish and Caribbean entrepreneurs and ecosystems to partner with the Idea Village and to see NOEW and New Orleans as the perfect platform for highlighting their accomplishments and journey. So if you are one or know of one please let me know.
Yeah You Rite
The team at Idea Village did an amazing job and I will add my voice, applause and gratitude to the multitudes that have already shown their appreciation. I would especially call out the team that worked with Hank and I and the 15 demo day companies; Alex Rawitz, Amelia Lane Johnson, Leilah Bundesen-Magier and James Arney. Without you guys Hank, me and all the companies would not have made it.