Guest blogger Catherine Lyons covers the entrepreneurial community in New Orleans for NolaVie and NOLA.com. She is also an AmeriCorps member working to rebuild homes in the greater New Orleans area. For more information about NolaVie, visit www.nolavie.com.
A fortunate encounter between Startup America and the New Orleans entrepreneurial community at South by Southwest has led to a successful startup incubator in the recovering city and the acceleration of six promising tech companies.
This past weekend, as New Orleans reverberated with the sounds of Jazz Fest, the local startup community and national investors gathered across the street from the festival for Launch Fest, the culmination of New Orleans' first startup accelerator, supported by Startup America.
The seven-week program and ending event marked the start of Startup NOLA, said Scott Case, CEO of the Startup America Partnership. With the valuable resources offered by Startup America, New Orleans can provide the necessary support to its budding businesses. This coupled with New Orleans' penchant for entrepreneurship makes it a city ripe for a growing ecosystem.
"New Orleans has the raw materials for success," Case said. "It has a pool of talent in the universities, an entrepreneurial culture that is dormant but can be revitalized, a group of entrepreneurs who are forming already, and a local and state government that is attempting to try things. This place is special for a reason, and that's because of the rich assets in New Orleans' marketplace. Startup NOLA will be based on that."
Chris Schultz, a leader in the entrepreneur community who helped forge the partnership with Startup America, said the six companies represented in Launch Pad Ignition and Launch Fest really reflect what New Orleans has to offer. From a company that streams concerts online, to one that sells films online, to one that builds games online, they all represent a facet of New Orleans' culture in the digital age.
For more information on the six companies that pitched their product last week, click here.
Schultz said the pitches wowed several investors, some of whom made verbal commitments to a few of the companies. I'll be following up with the participating companies in the coming weeks and report the result of Launch Fest on NOLA.com.
One investor, Christiaan Vorkink of True Ventures, said the event was great because the outside investment community got to see not only the enthusiasm of the founders, but also the energy that is going into building the startup ecosystem in New Orleans.
"This brings out the best in the support system here," he said. "It's clear that there is a strong interest to develop New Orleans as a startup hub. Our company loves stories like GameBuilder Solutions (one of the Ignition companies), who spent a lot of time in the Silicon Valley but realized that's not the only place to build a tech company, so he is now bringing his experience here to his hometown."
While LaunchPad Ignition is over for this year, both Case and Schultz said they hope this will become a staple in the New Orleans entrepreneurial community. The goals are to expand the program to 10 companies, and eventually host it twice a year for talented businesses and founders.
Picture courtesy of http://launchpadignition.com/launchfest.