3/12/12

I'm changing things up a bit this week. I'm devoting the entire week to start-ups, specifically those operating out of the Launchpad in New Orleans. Most of you know I was back there a couple weeks ago. What you may not have known is that I was there to do more than drink whiskey, eat fried food, and shoot guns (though I certainly did all three of those things in mass quantities). I'd been hearing about a tech start-up explosion in New Orleans for a couple years now, and I wanted to see if it was for real.

I'm happy to report that Silicon Bayou is very much for real.

I got in touch with Molly Oemichen, editor in chief of Silicon Bayou News - the paper of record for all things tech entrepreneur in the Big Easy. She arranged for me to tour Launchpad and meet a number of the IGNITION winners. I'm going to be highlighting three of the companies I met with this week on WSO.

It's impossible not to be impressed when you walk into Launchpad. For starters, it takes up three floors of a large building on Magazine Street in downtown New Orleans. More than its size though, is the sense of collaboration you can feel as soon as you walk in.

On top of being a start-up incubator, Launchpad is also a co-working environment. So any entrepreneur can rent work space in the Launchpad and it's surprisingly affordable. In fact, the most expensive space you can rent is one of the large, 2-person private offices and they start at just $650 a month. If all you're looking for is co-working space in the bullpen, that can be had for $275 a month - less than $10 a day. For those seeking a more spacious arrangement without the private office, a permanent desk can be rented on the periphery of the bullpen for $450 a month.

The bullpen is a busy place, and it's where I met the IGNITION founders I interviewed for this week's profiles. Imagine long conference tables surrounded by start-up founders pounding Red Bull and frantically coding and you've got a mental picture of the bullpen at Launchpad. The importance of this environment was not lost on me, because it enables a level of collaboration you wouldn't find almost anywhere else.

Everyone knows what everyone else is working on, and everyone is pulling for everyone else. And, with that much tech horsepower in the same room, almost any programming solution can be created in short order.

Launchpad is also geared toward keeping you working. There are always classes being offered there, and while I was there a Rails zero-to-expert class started up. There is a gym in the building, and yoga classes are offered several times a week. Launchpad has conference and meeting rooms available for people to use, and the walls of one meeting room are floor-to-ceiling white boards for those marathon mastermind sessions.

So why New Orleans?

New Orleans is a great spot for start-ups for a number of reasons. First, the cost of living is lower than almost anywhere else in the country. The weather is great. The people are friendly. The city is vibrant and fun. And, most important, since Hurricane Katrina the city has made a massive commitment to business - which is why you see so many movies and TV shows made there, why there has been a tech explosion, and why some entrepreneurs (as you'll see later this week) have given up Sand Hill Road for Bourbon Street.

So what is Launchpad IGNITION?

IGNITION is a special program within Launchpad that works like a Y-Combinator. Companies applied for the program and were vetted for viability. Seven companies were chosen for the 12-week program, and they're being mentored and fostered to ensure their long-term success. Most of them hit SXSW this past weekend, and it's officially New Orleans Entrepreneur Week this week, so they'll be delivering their pitches on Wednesday for a shot at $100,000 in seed funding.

The companies I'm going to highlight for you this week are all potential game changers in their own space. One is an industry-specific software solution, one is an innovative way to give gifts, and one might even change the face of IB recruiting forever...

Comments (17)

3/12/12

Good stuff! It makes sense to work out of a city like N.O. For the reasons you outlined. It's tough to beat the combo of low cost of living, good weather, and a great night life. Look forward to the posts.

3/12/12
Edmundo Braverman:

IOne is an industry-specific software solution

Curious to hear:
1. what this software business does on a day-to-day basis - wouldn't a lot of time need to be spent outside the incubator, meeting with potential customers to create sales?
2. How does a software company, as opposed to an internet company, take advantage of an incubator?
3. what does the software do?

3/12/12

Good food, good people, great night life... where I live now has none of these things.

Looks like I know where I'm headed.

"For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

3/12/12

Looking very forward to this post, Eddie. Thank you; I am all about anything entrepreneurial, and who doesn't love the Big Easy?

3/12/12

looking forward to this.

3/12/12

Just looked at the Launchpad website really fast - that looks awesome. What a great idea.

Really looking forward to this, Eddie.

MM IB -> TMT Corporate Development

3/12/12

Looking forward to the other posts Uncle E, nice job!

3/12/12

Not to be debbie downer, but as awesome as I'm sure it seems at a point in time, N.O. is still a coastal city that sits 10 feet below sea level, and is geographically situated smack in the middle of the annual hurricane jogging trail. Katrina was not some 1 in a billion lightning strike. It will happen again - especially as global temps rise and the severity of storms increase. I mean, you live with certain risks anywhere you go, but plowing a bunch of money into N.O. seems like a fools errand imo.

3/12/12
djfiii:

Not to be debbie downer, but as awesome as I'm sure it seems at a point in time, N.O. is still a coastal city that sits 10 feet below sea level, and is geographically situated smack in the middle of the annual hurricane jogging trail. Katrina was not some 1 in a billion lightning strike. It will happen again - especially as global temps rise and the severity of storms increase. I mean, you live with certain risks anywhere you go, but plowing a bunch of money into N.O. seems like a fools errand imo.

Makes sense to put knowledge businesses with low physical capital requirements there then, no?

3/12/12
djfiii:

Not to be debbie downer, but as awesome as I'm sure it seems at a point in time, N.O. is still a coastal city that sits 10 feet below sea level, and is geographically situated smack in the middle of the annual hurricane jogging trail. Katrina was not some 1 in a billion lightning strike. It will happen again - especially as global temps rise and the severity of storms increase. I mean, you live with certain risks anywhere you go, but plowing a bunch of money into N.O. seems like a fools errand imo.

Fair point, but NOLA has bigger problems than hurricanes. There are still structural problems at every level of government, and the crime rate is through the roof. Until they get crime under control (one of the highest per capita murder rates in the country), big business will be hesitant to commit to the city.

When you can store your entire company on an external hard drive (or, even better, the cloud) and then boogie out of town, storms don't present much of a threat.

3/12/12

EB good shit couldn't be happier with your post. Yea looking forward to the rest of your series, will forward it to my entrepreneurial friends, they'll get a kick outta this.

Also would've never imagined New Orleans would start something like that with most of the industry concentrated in Palo Alto. I'm sure you've read the Tim Ferris blog post on AppSumo, those guys hired developers in Pakistan and then took care of sales from home (pretty cost effective and were up in a very short time).

EB seriously, if you were in California I would have picked your brain to start something of our own. I was in the process of start a Geosocial App with a some developers in Pakistan but then backed off because I wanted to focus more on my day job. Although a lot of wannabees are jumping the start-up route. If you have one good salesperson and one good developer I think sky's the limit.

Also to all hustlers, read this book strongly recommended. Very good advice distilled about life, sports, relationship and bizness:

http://www.amazon.com/How-Win-Sport-Business-ebook...

3/12/12

@ Edmundo and evilbyaccident

Agreed - there are ways to minimize the impact, a la cloud storage of critical data / apps, and / or housing infrastructure in data centers somewhere less susceptible to natural disaster. I guess I'm just thinking in terms of a typical start-up, which is usually funded by a handful of people, with maybe $100k - $500k; they basically build out a room with bean bags, colorful art, 20 macbook pros and crank away at the next great RoR app. If I'm one of the guys ponying up $100k, I'm asking - what happens if Katrina blows through here again? Insurance probably makes me whole at some point, covering the lost mbp's and bean bags, but if we're down for 3-6 months waiting for that to get resolved, what then? It's conceivable that something like that puts your project on hold permanently unless you have enough in the bank to float you, or other investors step in. Maybe you lose a key resource while you're waiting for insurance to come through; maybe you lose your window of opportunity to be first to market with the idea; any number of possibilities crop up, so if I'm bank rolling something like that, I'm asking "why take the chance when we can locate in some place like NorCal, or Santa Monica, or Chicago, or any other hotbed of startup activity?".

Again, that's just me being overly cautious / paranoid. I'm sure NO is an awesome place, and I love the startup scene so I wish nothing but the best for up and comers. I'm just playing devil's advocate from the vantage point of someone putting up money for a startup. For my tolerance, it's a risk not worth taking when there are viable options that don't present that risk.

Crime and local government are a whole separate issue, and equally problematic.

3/12/12

@dfjiii

Since storms are nothing new to NOLA, those of us who own business there also carry Business Interruption insurance for just such eventualities. That way when you're wiped out by a storm or flood, you're getting paid the whole time you're down.

Sucks, but it's the reality of living below sea level in a town surrounded by water.

3/12/12

Cool, yea didn't mean to derail the point of the thread - I think it's a great topic so I'm done with my commentary :)

3/12/12

Yeah, I never would have thought of New Orleans as a great place for tech startups either. I'm intrigued to see what these folks have come up with down there.

Metal. Music. Life. www.headofmetal.com

3/13/12

New Orleans is such an awesome place both to live and for business right now!

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