New Orleans’s premier event for established and emerging businesses, the New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, is set to return in accordance with all public health guidelines over March 21-25, and its return is being attributed to Idea Village, a self-described “accelerator” of small businesses. Idea Village provides a wide range of support for start-up and emerging businesses in the New Orleans area. In fact, they report a total of 286 companies participating in their accelerator program, and those firms have so far earned an estimated $367 million in combined revenue just in the past year alone.
The last in-person New Orleans Entrepreneur Week was held in 2019 when approximately 2,000 people gathered in the city’s downtown Ace Hotel to hear presentations on topics designed to inspire and create a new wave of successful South Louisiana business owners. The following year, the event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but if all goes according to plan, then the decade-old NOLA event will return once more to an in-person gathering, offering local business owners the chance to learn from and network with local industry leaders.
CEO of Idea Village, Jon Atkinson, said of the event’s projected return, “not being able to convene in person for the last two years has been heartbreaking and we are optimistic about the opportunity to start getting people back together while also embracing all we have learned about hybrid and digital communication this spring.”
During a normally scheduled New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, Idea Village offers businesses several opportunities to advance the stake they hold in industry success by calling upon curious entrepreneurs to apply for the latest version of their accelerator program, as Idea Village is also known for choosing several early-stage technology-enabled companies each year that show high growth potential. After they’re selected, these companies participate in an intensive four-month program wherein they are taught financing and marketing lessons, mentored by industry leaders, and given the opportunity to network with potential funders.
The four-month program ultimately culminates in a “pitch competition” among the top three finalists with the overall winner receiving $50,000. The winner of the last NOEW pitch competition, RentCheck, the developer of an app that aims to smooth tenant-landlord relations, is now sitting alongside previous successful startups on Idea Village’s list of the “10 Companies to Watch.”
Though, if recent Accelerator program pitch competitions are any metric to go by, the most successful start-ups completing the program aren’t always the winners of the competitive pitch component.
One such company benefiting from Idea Village’s accelerator program was Levelset, a Louisiana start-up tech company that assisted people in the construction industry with contracts and bill collection. Last month, the 10-year-old company sold for a record $500 million to a California tech company, setting a new record sale for a Louisiana start-up company. CEO and founder of Levelset, Scott Wolfe, attributed part of his company’s success to Idea Village, saying, “after The Idea Village accelerator program, our company was unrecognizable. We became a more mature business post-program, with a clear understanding of our vision, mission, and values.”
Even though no in-person Entrepreneur Week was in session this past year, the accelerator program moved forward with an approximate dozen participating companies. These participants ranged from the eco-friendly company Youni Co. to the Bywater-based Culturalyst, which is an online network designed for creative types in the New Orleans area.
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