Cutline:Brad Feld, Managing Director at Foundry Group, was the keynote speaker at last week’s Launch Fest.
New Orleans was buzzing this weekend, and even more than usual in this lively place. As people poured into the city to see their favorite musical acts at Jazz Fest, investors flew in to check out six budding businesses at the second annual Launch Fest
Just across the street from the Fairgrounds at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), the movers and shakers of the entrepreneur community — both within and outside of New Orleans — gathered to hear about Launch Pad Ignition
and the six companies who completed the startup incubator’s inaugural seven-week program.
The two-day program began May 4 with a day for current and soon-to-be entrepreneurs. Those who attended heard success stories from local startups, and valuable advice from people who have been through the process of creating and founding their businesses.
On May 5, the excitement grew as more than 30 investors and dozens more supporters crowded NOMA’s auditorium to hear pitches from the six companies chosen in March to participate in Launch Pad Ignition. Chris Schultz
, co-founder of Launch Pad Ignition, said that the day showed national investors that local investors are taking the lead to build the startup community.
“National investors are looking for local lead investors,” Schultz said. “That’s what it’s going to take to get more money flowing into New Orleans and that’s exactly what’s started to happen. The local investors and national investment community are connecting.”
Scott Case, CEO of Startup America
, an initiative of President Obama, said Thursday’s pitches showed the diversity of the businesses in the city.
“In this day and age, every business is a tech business, but the products were varied in their industries and all high-quality,” Case said.
From a company that sells films online to easy-to-use gaming software to the E-bay of self-learning, the six diverse startups sought to describe the problem they’ve found in their market area and the innovative solution their company provides.
Brent McCrossen, CEO and co-founder of Audiosocket
, mentored the entrepreneurs on a daily basis over the seven weeks, and said the pitches went from “terrifying” to polished.
“I challenged them to know their business inside and out, and articulate it in a way that exudes confidence and passion,” McCrossen said. “It is not the end of the road for them. They’ve come a really long way but they have additional work to do.”
Schultz said the pitches wowed several investors, some of whom made verbal commitments to a few of the companies. We’ll be following up with the participating companies in the coming weeks and report the result of Launch Fest.
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 startups’ 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,” Vorkink 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, Schultz said he hopes this will become a staple in the entrepreneurial community. The goals are to expand the program to 10 companies, and eventually host it twice a year for talented businesses and founders.
Meanwhile, Startup America, which helped get Launch Pad Ignition off the ground, will continue to provide valuable resources to New Orleans’ entrepreneurs in the form of free tech tools and software, among other benefits. Case said the program is invested in New Orleans because of its unique culture, which lends itself well to becoming a startup hub.
“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.”
For the six startups, this marks the end — and beginning — of yet another exciting chapter in their companies’ young lives. Check back here and at NolaVie.com
for updates as the companies progress.
Here is a video of this year’s Launch Fest pitches: