From organizing New Orleans’ first barcamp in 2007, to creating Launchpad, and now to LaunchPad Ignition, Chris Schultz and his team have worked their tails off to put New Orleans tech startups on the map.
And with LP Ignition’s impact on Louisiana’s startup scene clear and the first LP Ignition program coming to a close, Chris took a moment to reflect on his experience with a blog post on the Startup America Blog.
You can find the post here, or read a copy of the article below:
Launch Pad Ignition: Starting up New Orleans
For the last 6 months we’ve been working at startup speed to get Launch Pad Ignition launched. This week we’re headed out to San Francisco to meet with investors and host a happy hour for the 2011 founders and this will be the final official event of Launch Pad Ignition 2011.
Taking time to reflect on the program this year is important both so we can improve for next year and to celebrate the achievements of the founders of the six companies in the 2011 class.
Personally, this has been the most rewarding work I have ever done. It was all made possible by the passion and drive of our founders, the engagement and support of our mentors and the belief in our vision from of our investors and sponsor. The impact of Ignition on the companies was remarkable to watch, I felt like a proud papa at Launch Fest.
I was driven to start Ignition with my co-founders Barre Tanguis, Peter Bodenheimer and Will Donaldson out of the belief that the earliest stage of starting a company is very difficult, and odds can be improved by doing it in a collaborative way with lots of help. This was the same vision that led us to open Launch Pad two years ago. And now we’re solving for the next challenge, the capital gap for early-stage companies in New Orleans. If no-one else is going to fund startups, then we’ll do it.
Through the process of working with the different founders, I learned so much about what makes a successful entrepreneur tick. Lavon Woods, founder of Gamebuilder Studio, taught me about the difference between stubborn and strong-willed. He took coaching into consideration but always maintained his strong vision for how he’s going to build his company. It’s important for an entrepreneur to stand up for his core values.
Through Ben Lavender, I learned the value of a committed team of co-founders. With a full technical team, Dydra was able to move quickly on product, customer development and fundraising in parallel.
I watched and learned as Ross Hinkle taught me how to build a network. It may be all about who you know, and Ross has a knack for getting to know them by diligently targeting connections and reaching out to his network to build relationships.
One lesson that I continue to learn is to continue to focus on our core competencies as an accelerator – why should we exist? What are we best at? Wow do we compete on a national and international level?
This means a continued intensive focus on the startups that are vital to our region and are able to leverage our natural resources.
I believe this will continue to emerge, but I have some ideas about where our future lies. New Orleans is a soulful place and our musical and creative heritage will sprout digital media and entertainment companies. Our culinary skills make it a natural fit for food product startups. The complete revamp of our education system and flock of Teach for America volunteers make New Orleans a prime location for education technology startups. We have competencies in disaster recovery and preparedness that we can share through products and technologies. As Startup America Partnership CEO Scott Case said to me at Launch Fest, “everything is a technology company, just take what you are good at and wrap bits around it.”
After our demo day at Launch Fest, we took the startups on a trip to New York and are headed to the Bay Area this week. We know it’s important for these companies to have networks that extend to both coasts. Our goal of course is that they build their companies in New Orleans. But that will be market driven; we don’t put constrains on them, we simply want them to succeed.
We’ll measure our success in several ways: getting the companies funded and seeing them succeed, generating a return for our investors that is both financial and impactful, and building the economy in New Orleans through the job creation and wealth creation engine of these startups.