The city is abuzz with hopeful innovators in a multitude of industries. Although March 20, 2015 kicked off the New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, this week long free conference is the culmination of months of preparation for several organizations with Idea Village being at the forefront.
Idea Village celebrates its 15th year of existence. Created with the idea of building an ecosystem which would not only support but attract entrepreneurial activity in the city, Idea Village birthed many of the well known and impactful start-ups in the city including Federated Sample and Life City. The method is simple. In July of each year Idea Village identifies its programming for the following 9 months. Entrepreneurs can attend or apply for one of 4 programs that are chock full of workshops, accelerators, and networking events.
Idea Village also supports other niche entrepreneurial efforts such as the VetLaunch. VetLaunch is dedicated to providing support for for-profit veteran owned business in the greater New Orleans area with fewer than 5 employees. The business accelerator focuses on topics such as how to start a business, choosing a legal structure, deciphering accounting, marketing (including social media) and raising capital. VetLaunch hosted workshops and a pitch competition at the Landing Zone on Monday, March 23, 2015. Nola Tchoup Block a makers studio, was the winner of this competition.
Other accelerators participating in NOEW include Propeller, 4ptO, and a collaboration between the Downtown Development District and the Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation. Propeller, the social venture accelerator, identifies and selects its fellows. The areas of emphasis are water, access to healthy food, workforce development, public health, and education. Fellows receive one on one coaching and access to a cadre of mentors from lawyers to public relations firms. Propeller also serves as a co-working and event space. Propeller also hosted $10,000 pitch competition for individuals with innovative solutions to water issues in the city. Wetland Resources, a company that plants hurricane-resistant trees to protect Louisiana’s coastline, won the Water Challenge for a sleeve that was developed to protect newly planted seedlings.
4pt0 hosted a pitch competition where up to $30,000 was being awarded to education innovators. I was able to attend this event and the energy and dedication to resolving the education deficits in the school system was palpable. Many not only had great ideas but had already started putting those ideas to work in pilots all across New Orleans. A winner of this pitch competition was Operation Spark a non-profit that teaches youth how to code so as to improve the opportunities to participate in this new New Orleans economy.
Downtown Development District and the Louisiana Culture Foundation teamed up for a Arts-Based Business Pitch Competition. The winner of the $25,000 prize was Wild Life Reserve a retail and collaborative design space that plans on using the money to create a foundation to help fashion designers learn design and branding.
Although pre-registration is over, you are welcome to come and sign up at the door for events you would like to attend. If this is too late notice for you don’t worry opportunities continue to abound. In April, Propeller with host the PitchNola event for health and food entrepreneurs. In May, Steve Case will host a pitch competition as part of his Rise of the Rest initiative. And of course, don’t miss the culminating NOEW event, the Big Idea Pitch Competition on March 27, 2015.