Tag Archives: New Orleans

Founders, I Appreciate You


When I started this blog I set out with a single goal, to become the Rick Rubin of Startups. I wrote about why and even declared it on my page to hold myself accountable. Years later I am not sure where I stand in my quest but I do know that the goal remains the same. I have had the good fortune to be counselor, coach, partner, audience to some great entrepreneurs. Founders that have consistently inspired me and always challenged me to never just phone it in.

As I close in on my 5th year in New Orleans, I took some time to look back on the some of the many startups that have been kind enough to share their journey with me.  They have varied in every conceivable dimension; sector, experience, stage, and viability, just to name a few.  While they are all startups and they are all founders they are also all unique.

When I first moved down here I wondered how long it would take for me integrate into the startup ecosystem. While I had over a decade of experience working with early stage companies I wasn’t from here and people “ain’t been knowing me” from high school.  But the community down here welcomed me with open arms, a trait I saw repeatedly as others came to town. At the time, ground zero for the ecosystem was the IP Building. With LaunchPadIdea Village and most importantly Capdeville under one roof, it was easy to actually see the community growing.  A special thanks to Tim Williamson, Chris Shultz and James Eustis for being such great hosts during those early days.

I take coffee, drinks, walking meetings every day with founders.  It is a joy to listen to stories, share experiences and solve problems.  You all have taught me so much.  I am very grateful to learn from, collaborate with and call you friends.  So in no particular order, and in no way complete, here is a list of some of you who have made my first five years here such a joy.  I look forward to the next five.  To those on this list, and to other founders whose wise paths I have yet to cross, if there is ever anything I can do  to make your journey better, you know how to reach me. Namaste.





It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

tired runnerThis is a phrase I seem to being using a lot and one of the ways that I think New Orleans startups are beginning to develop an advantaged approach. Here in New Orleans we frequently have to remind visitors and new comers of this important distinction. Surrounded by so many opportunities for great music, food and fun it is easy to find oneself worn out or moving zombie like through the motions of experiencing this great city.

 The Startup Marathon

A quote went around on Twitter a few weeks back that said something like, “Most companies are overnight successes. And that it happens somewhere between the 1,000th and 2,000th night.” We all know that startups are hard but we must also be prepared for the fact that they are hard…for a long time. Not 6 months hard but 3-10 years hard. And that is if you are one of the lucky ones.

Seasons and Rhythms

Down here we operate in seasons. And not necessarily calendar ones. Although Summer is one sticky slow one you learn to get through, most of our seasons are tied to other things. Saints football, Mardi Gras, Jazz fest and Crawfish season are all more important dates on the calendar than any solstice or equinox.

Down here you don’t schedule meetings on Thursdays or Friday late afternoon during Carnival for fear of being trapped on the wrong side of a parade route. And you don’t schedule a Startup Weekend if the Saints play on that Sunday because your teams won’t get anything done. Some find this annoying (I did when I first got here) and think that startups can’t waste that time and should be at it 24/7. I have come to embrace it, recognizing that it teaches an important lesson. Push when you can but if you can’t then take that time to recharge, refresh and prepare for the next push.

Acceptance that some things take time and that everything follows its own rhythm, including startups and cities, is an important lesson that allows you to run the marathon.

Pitch Tips From Jackson Square


I like to walk. It is my meditation.  It is my exercise. Mostly, in a city like New Orleans, it is my inspiration. Yesterday’s sunshine found me wandering down the riverfront. A quick stop in the French Market to make a $5 investment in sunglasses which I had managed to forget and then into Jackson Square. There, in the noisy crowded confines, stood artists, mystics, and street performers. Each of them fighting for the attention of the waves of people moving by.

I spend a lot of time working with startups, and some really big companies (love you guys, you pay my bills), on their pitches. So, as I sat there enjoying some music and sunshine and others saw showmen, musicians, and hustlers, I saw pitches.

Horn Blast
The loud blare of a trumpet shatters the loud but indistinguishable buzz of the square.  People stopped walking and turned towards the source of the sound.  In that instant the band had created its own spotlight on this sunny day.  The band leaps into a boisterous rendition of an overused and cliched tune.  But the rhythm and the sounds of the brass band quickly draw a crowd.

What is your startup’s horn blast?  Is it your mission, the benefits your product offers, the uniqueness of your solution?  If you could yell just one thing at a crowd of people what would make their heads turn?  What would draw a crowd?

The list of things that New Orleans has contributed to American music would fill an Amazon distribution center.  One of these is the introduction of “call and response.”  Popularly recognized in the song Minnie the Moocher, this element draws the crowd into the song, blurring the line between performer and audience.

As a startup you need your pitch to pull in your audience.  Get them nodding yes as you state the problem you seek to solve.  Get them to raise their hands and identify as a customer that values your solution. Make them feel ownership in your effort. In an age when the line between customer and collaborator is blurred by crowd sourcing and  open innovation you need them to be part of your pitch not passive listeners.

Fill The Bucket
Lyrics to the songs get changed to speak of it.  Stories of the performers’ lives are shared to show how it helps. It is used as a prop.  What is the it?  The bucket.  The call to action is never left alone for long.  The existing contributions are displayed as social proof and drivers for those who have not yet reached into their pockets. The audience is never in doubt as to what they should do, that others have done it before and how what they do impacts the musicians world.

Buy something.  Try something.  Support something.  What is your call to action and how are you making sure your bucket gets filled?

New Orleans is full of lessons for startups and one of the reasons I am so grateful to be here.  Quality musicianship is not enough in a city full of players.  It takes a touch of showmanship.  And so it is with startups these days too.

Oh, and by the way I also know where you got your shoes 🙂

More catalyst on pitching can be found here in my curated magazine