BINNO’s inaugural event, which took place April 29 through May 2, was a milestone for the New Orleans innovation and technology community: it was the first time a locally owned event hosted an innovation and technology conference with a global and inclusive perspective, attracting speakers and attendees from across the country. The INNO team constructed the inaugural event as a forum for attendees to make connections via networking and discussions around innovative and collaborative ideas.
This is important territory to cover: one panel featured representatives from Entergy, Ochsner, and Accenture, speaking on their companies’ growing investment both internally and externally into building teams capable of nimble and cutting-edge innovative problem solving. For participants interested in a hands-on experience with what this could look like, the INNO program kicked off with an Open Data Government Hackathon challenge, hosted by Amazon Web Services and Loyola University’s Center for Entrepreneurship in partnership with INNO and Participants competed to design solutions for Baton Rouge’s ongoing civic challenges, using data collected by the city and perspective gained through design thinking workshops.
The core speaker program included voices from a range of backgrounds: engineers, market research professionals, VC investors, therapists, lawyers, CEOs, and even a former Saints linebacker. These subject matter experts selected by the INNO team came to New Orleans from around the country to talk and network with attendees. The INNO stage was dedicated to content relevant across many sectors and job functions, while the Deep Dive stage offered attendees the chance to get a bit more granular on topics of particular interest to them; talk topics included “Cultivating Communities with the Courage to Change the World”, “Deal Structures in fundraising and M&As”, and “The Rapid Rise of AR”.
Another highlight of the event programming was the startup pitch competition and showcase night. This event was free and open to the public, which offered members of the community unable to attend during the day a chance to participate. INNO partnered with the Startup of the Year global pitch competition for this event, increasing international representation at INNO. 36 startups were invited to pitch, many from within the gulf south ecosystem but some from as far away as Portugal and Germany. The 5 finalists competed in a lightning final round in front of a panel of judges and a packed house of spectators, and the top two (grand prize winner Enlivity from Boston MA, and runner up MyStrongHome from Columbia, SC) will go on to compete in the global competition which consists of 100 startups from around the world and will be held in October of this year in Memphis. Enlivity also received a prize of $1000.00
Despite the various backgrounds, views, and experiences that made up the INNO community, in year one, all participants were unified by an interest in understanding more about what makes innovation happen, how to leverage new ideas, and a belief that collaboration and partnerships can lead to compounding successes across the board. Change, whether it’s a sudden disruption or a gradual evolution, can be managed; with the right mindset and expertise it can be a catalyst that strengthens business ecosystems or leads to breakthroughs. Sometimes change takes the form of new technology, but it can also take the form of a new perspective or a fresh pair of eyes on existing challenge.