The Water Challenge is a collaborative initiative between the Greater New Orleans Foundation, Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation, and The Idea Village focused on solving critical regional water issues through entrepreneurship in Louisiana. The goal is to support ventures who are working to make the region more sustainable.
In 2014, Propeller took over as lead organizers of the Water Challenge, regularly bringing together thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and stakeholders invested in the water economy for workshops and other events throughout the year in addition to the pitch event New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW).
The 7th annual Water Challenge culimnated in a pitch competition, highlighting eight ventures (one venture dropped out before the pitch) on Monday, March 20 at NOEW focused on three areas: urban water, coastal environments, and water-based industries.
It’s clear that the city must work together to find solutions to its challenges. “There are challenges with water, but we also have huge opportunities,” said Andy Kopplin, CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation.
The judges evaluated each venture on three criteria:
- Potential for environmental impact
- Financial viability
- Ability to be implemented
After all eight pitches–each three minutes long– the judges selected three entrepreneurs to move on to the final round where they had a chance to answer questions from the judges. BlueFin Data, Marine Turbine Technologies, and Oil Spill Remediation/Containment Net were selected for the final phase of the competition.
Four different prizes were given out throughout the Water Challenge, including a first place cash award, a pre-revenue prize, a non-profit prize, and the Audience Favorite award.
BlueFin Data was announced the first place winner, taking home $10,000 from the Greater New Orleans Foundation.
The pre-revenue prize of $2,500 went to Oil Spill Remediation/Containment Net and the non-profit prize was awarded to Sustaining Our Urban Landscape (SOUL) along with $2,500. The audience was invited to text in votes for their favorite venture, leading organizers to announce Oil Spill Remediation/Containment Net as the winner of the Audience Favorite Award, taking home an additional $500.
In 2016, Martin Ecosystems won the Water Challenge. The company is working to protect existing shorelines and stabilize banks through its floating island technology. Martin now has $1 million in annual revenue and has added five full-time employees.
Find out more about the winners and the rest of the semi-finalists here.