The Silicon Bayou, a Phoenix Rising

This post originally appeared on  The author, Jacek Grebeski, is also the founder of Badger, one of the Launch Pad Ignition Companies.

When you think of New Orleans the first things that typically pop into head are Mardi Gras, Katrina, Music, and perhaps Crawfish.

The city itself was devastated after hurricane Katrina, and in many ways what is happening in NOLA now can be described as a phoenix rising form the ashes.  A vibrant start-up and technology scene is taking root and starting to flourish.

Typically a distant afterthought for New Orleans, registered Louisiana start-ups in the digital media space are now eligible for a 25% tax credit on all expenditures made within the state, better yet, hire local and you can add another 10%.

This initiative stems from the success that a similar tax credit for film had on the state’s GDP. In 2010 over a billion dollars were spent by the film industry in New Orleans (NOLA). Whether digital media credits will have the same impact on the city as film credits had is yet to be seen but there are a number of people and groups pushing for the industry to develop in the region.

Building From the Ground Up

One of the groups pushing for NOLA is the Tech Stars Network, well known for bringing entrepreneurial accelerators to many a region, and one of it’s newest members is Launch Pad Ignition, with Chris Schultz spearheading the way to build a sustainable tech industry in the city.

But what about the companies? Some start-ups to follow are LiveSet, Dydra, who will pitch in front of such Tier 1 VC firms as AOL Ventures and First Round Capital come May. Better yet, the programme managed to bring in companies from NYC (Badger), and the Valley (Game Builder Studio) as well as one international company (Rayku), to note Dydra is also half German.

Then there’s also the Idea Village an incubator focused on generating more entrepreneurial activity in the city. Sure NY has a few of these, but NY is also 8million people, NOLA, a mere 350k.

Financing Available

Louisiana’s financing situation has historically been in either industry or oil, but such initiatives as the New Orleans Startup Fund, and South Coast Angels increased interest in the tech space means there is enough money to get these companies though a series A, and interest from tier one VC’s on both coasts proves there may be worthwhile investments to be made in the swamp yet.

To sum up, New Orleans still has a long way to go before it’s on the level of New York or Silicon Valley and in fact the presumption of this crescent city known for its music, lifestyle and party will ever contend with the East / West coast big boys may be laughable at present. But with the biggest brain gain in the country, tax credit incentives, a strong and developed network to capital on both coasts and a drive to refashion the city post Katrina, one would be wary to write off the Silicon Bayou just yet. With that, “Les Bon Temps Roulle”.