There are a handful of major technological hubs in the United States, where investors and consumers loom to witness the birth of the next revolutionary technology. However, there may be a new city among their ranks, as New Orleans starts to adopt more technological and entrepreneurial resources to reinvent its image and operations.
There’s no shortage of things to do in New Orleans, from steamboat tours to jazz music to ghost-themed walkabouts (and of course, the amazing food). But recently, it’s the innovative, technological spirit of the city that’s been driving its growth.
New Orleans has recently been named the “coolest startup city” in America, and has been getting more attention from top thinkers and innovators in the tech business world. It has also been ranked as the eighth best city in the country for supporting female entrepreneurship, and frequently makes “top” lists for its conduciveness to entrepreneurs and new tech. As The Atlantic points out, this has become a kind of cultural and infrastructural revolution since the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s damage back in 2005.
So just what are the ingredients responsible for New Orleans’s entrepreneurial revival?
- Fresh tech startups. Whether a product of the entrepreneurial spirit of the city or the origin of it, New Orleans has been home to a number of high-tech startups—and some up-and-comers that are just starting to build recognition for themselves. MobileQubes, for example, got its start in New Orleans—the company sells portable battery charging packs for cell phones and other devices.
- New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. The Idea Village hosts an annual event known as “Entrepreneur Week,” taking place at the end of March and celebrating entrepreneurship in all its forms. The event has consistently grown in popularity since its inception, and now boasts attendance in the tens of thousands of people. Throughout the week, entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders, and other leaders in the community step forward to talk about their entrepreneurial journeys, share insights and best practices for young businesspeople, and generally help support the city’s environment for small- to mid-size business owners. In addition, there are a number of pitch competitions that award capital to the most promising entrepreneurial ideas.
- Incubators and accelerators. New Orleans has also attracted the attention of venture capitalists, angel investors, and other individuals with a vested interest in seeing young startups emerge and succeed. New Orleans is now home to several startup incubators and accelerators, including the federally funded Idea Village (which hosts Entrepreneur Week), all of which freely invite tech entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas for the chance to earn capital and find a place in their accelerator programs.
- Operation Spark. Originally conceived at a previous iteration of Entrepreneur Week, Operation Spark is a nonprofit operation dedicated to helping at-risk youth learn new coding skills. It equips school-aged children with some of the high-tech skills they need to be in-demand workers at tomorrow’s big-name tech companies—or possibly to start tech firms of their own.
- The Digital Equity Challenge. New Orleans has also offered the Digital Equity Challenge, inviting participants of all ages and backgrounds to submit their best ideas for how to connect low-income and disadvantaged people to new forms of technology. The move is intended to put better tech into the hands of more residents, equipping them with more knowledge and capabilities than ever before, further fueling the city’s growth.
Preparing for the future
This is only the beginning of the New Orleans technological renaissance. Since small businesses are responsible for as much as 50 percent of all new job creation, the economic benefits of such a thriving startup ecosystem are only going to grow from here. More jobs means more residents, and more residents means more opportunities to create new startups.
The more time, money, and energy New Orleans puts into cultivating its tech-based entrepreneurs, the more rewards it’s going to see.
This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?