The fifth annual New Orleans Entrepreneur Week concluded last Friday with success, demonstrating that the New Orleans business scene and community are getting stronger every year.
The first few days of NOEW were packed with an eventful lineup that included educational public track sessions, memorable keynote speeches, and pitch competitions that awarded New Orleans-based entrepreneurs more than $140,000 worth of business services and financial capital. (You can read more about Monday and Tuesday events in my Halftime Report.)
From Wednesday until Friday, an additional $200,000 in seed capital was awarded, as well as in-kind business services and the opportunity for a few startups to receive venture capital funds from investors around the country.
The Urban League of New Orleans City in Business Challenge spotlighted five women-owned businesses – DyverseCity, GotPlanz, Key Models and Talent Agency, Ooh La Bra!, and Sweet Risings Nursing Tutorial. DyverseCity, an urban lifestyle center that engages the community in local startups, networking, and personal development, was awarded $10,000 in capital to further develop its efforts.
The 4.0 Education challenge, a partnership between the Idea Village and 4.0 Schools, focuses on startups that aim to solve critical problems within education and school management. Five startups competed last Thursday; winner of $25,000 was mSchool, which aims to help open public microschools in local communities by providing technology, software, and training. A second award of $5,000 went to Haystack EDU, an online platform that helps match teachers with schools.
During Friday’s Power Pitch, Haystack EDU and Zlien, a platform that solves credit problems within the construction industry, each won trips to Silicon Valley, Houston, New York, and Baltimore in pursuit of meetings with investors. The fast-paced pitch competition aims to connect local entrepreneurs with investors from outside the region.
The Coulter IDEApitch also provides a unique opportunity for companies prepared to meet with venture capitalists and investors who are looking for companies that are in the later stage and in pursuit of larger amounts of money. This year, AudioSocket, Bioceptive, ChapterSpot, and Tutti Dynamics pitched in front of a room of 100 and panel of five investors, including billionaire investor Jim Coulter, for an opportunity to win a trip to San Francisco with personal introductions to several sophisticated venture capital investors. ChapterSpot, an online fraternity and sorority management platform, won the competition. They will seek funding to move their business model into new industries.
The week’s festivities ended in New Orleans fashion with The Big Idea, the nation’s largest crowd-sourced investor pitch event. More than 1,700 business and community members showed up at Manning on Fulton Street to choose which of 15 companies would receive funding.
Attendees voted for their favorite startups using chips worth $50, then the top three companies pitched in front of more than 1,500 people for the chance to win $50,000 in capital. Two first-place winners were chosen, after a leader couldn’t be determined from the crowd’s cheers. Education Everytime, a musical platform that cues classroom efficiency, and Your Nutrition Delivered, a nutritional food delivery service, each received $50,000.
“New Orleans connects like no other city in the world and the entrepreneur season offers a blueprint for entrepreneur support that is tailored to our unique culture, traditions, and assets,” said Tim Williamson, co-founder and CEO of The Idea Village. “This year, our diverse network of partners and professionals embraced this platform, which resulted in broader community engagement in the entrepreneurial movement.”
The Big Idea also marked the end of Entrepreneur Season, which engaged more than 3,000 of the most innovative corporations, business leaders, investors, entrepreneurs, and MBAs in the country. The season also marked a total of $3.07 million in resources invested to 975 New Orleans startups through over 150 events.
New Orleans native and author Walter Isaacson noted last week at NOEW that “New Orleans is in its third wave of entrepreneurship,” citing the creativity, imagination, and diversity that keeps our city thriving.
With aspirations to make every entrepreneur week even bigger than the last, Williamson added, “now, we have the rhythm to ride this wave with a vision to make New Orleans a top 10 city for entrepreneurs by 2018, New Orleans’ tri-centennial.”
Looking forward to next season? The Idea Village’s 2014 Entrepreneur Season launches on July 15, 2013.
Adriana Lopez writes about the New Orleans entrepreneur community for NolaVie.