by Rhonda Abrams
Ten years ago, the world watched as New Orleans nearly drowned. On Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina smashed into the Gulf Coast, levees failed, and 80% of the unique city was left underwater, devastated.
It has been a hard decade for the Big Easy, but helping lead its rebirth has been a vibrant, growing and enthusiastic community of entrepreneurs. Indeed, the New Orleans entrepreneurial ecosystem may be one of the strongest in the entire country.
“The day after Katrina, everyone became an entrepreneur,” said Tim Williamson, the head of The Idea Village, (www.ideavillage.org), an organization dedicated to building and supporting an entrepreneurial ecosystem in New Orleans. “Between August and October, the city was deserted. We all had to start over. It was the first time in 150 years that the city had to reinvent itself.”……..
The city came together and came to life. Helping lead that rebirth was Williamson’s organization, The Idea Village. Although The Idea Village was founded in 2000, after Katrina, New Orleans was far more welcoming — and desperately in need of — The Idea Village’s energy and innovation.
Williamson’s vision was to convert New Orleans into the most entrepreneurial city in the USA. The Idea Village provided an incubator for start-ups; to date, it has helped launch 4,653 companies. As important, the organization brought entrepreneurship to the heart of the city, in a New Orleans fashion, by creating and running New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (www.noew.org).
For one week each March, NOEW literally takes over the streets of the French Quarter. Banners fly from lampposts announcing events and celebrating entrepreneurship. Dozens of events are held all over the city, run by more than 40 organizations……
All this entrepreneurial activity has enabled New Orleans to spawn highly successful new companies and organizations, based in New Orleans but serving a national and international clientele, including:
• Lucid, an 80-person online survey and data company (formerly known as Federated Sample), which will complete more than $100 million of sample transactions this year.