Local startup accelerator program ignites second year launch

For those who think that our entrepreneurial community lags behind bigger markets like Silicon Valley or New York City, think again. The movement is spreading like wild fire in the New Orleans metropolitan area. Some might even say it has ignited a new era of potential for the growth and advancement of our city.

New Orleans has opened up many opportunities for emerging companies. One notable success is Launch Pad Ignition.

The program was founded by Chris Schultz, Barre Tanguis, Will Donaldson, and Peter Bodenheimer and is the offspring of downtown’s collaborative workspace, Launch Pad.  The accelerator program gives six companies the opportunity to build strong networks of mentors and investors from around the nation within the program’s accelerated platform.

Only in its second year, the program has big changes and news with its impending launch on February 13. Its first entrepreneur class brought successes and lessons, and those  experiences have been leveraged to bring in new advances, partnerships, and changes for this year’s class.

One major addition is new partner Abstraction Ventures, a local family fund that has been actively involved in the early-stage funding of many innovative concepts in New Orleans, including Schedulist and Drop the Chalk. The new partner will be providing seed funding to select companies who are accepted into the program, thus leveraging their credibility and traction within the New Orleans entrepreneurial community. Abstraction Ventures’ funding decisions will be based on their own discretion; however, company co-founder Amith Nagarajan will be joining the Launch Pad Ignition advisory board.

The program has expanded from seven to 12 weeks, and it will be culminating at Launch Fest during the second weekend of Jazz Fest. This season will also take a stage-agnostic approach, giving several startups an opportunity to participate regardless of what stage of development they are in —  accommodating bootstrapped, pre-funding, or angel funded companies.

“Launch Pad Ignition is focused on accelerating early stage startups and so are we,” said Nagarajan. “This partnership combines an excellent accelerator program with access to our seed-stage fund. The combination offers tremendous benefits for both organizations and most importantly for the entrepreneurs with whom we work.

“We bet on smart people with great ideas, and we know at the earliest stage, entrepreneurs need an investor to believe in them. Launch Pad Ignition provides a great pipeline of interesting companies and the resources and support to position them for success.”

While the inaugural year’s platform followed the standard Silicon Valley criterion, the founders have decided to cater to New Orleans’ market by focusing on local attention and investors. The plan is to teach this year’s class to exhibit traction through quantitative and qualitative means.

Whether through exhibiting their revenue streams or using their products as an influencer, the idea is for the participants to show potential investors tangible examples of how they can get to the next level with their businesses, and demonstrate that people are willing to pay for their services and products. Larger venture capitalists from New York and Silicon Valley tend to use emotion and intuition when choosing new investments, which makes this particular assignment more difficult for startups. However, the bigger task is intended to further engage local investors, as well as train business owners to tackle and overcome obstacles.

Although the program will stress more engagement and participation from local investors, the team plans to emphasize their large national network of supporters and participants. The program will end with a road trip to New York and San Francisco for the well-known national tech conference, Tech Crunch Disrupt, where the emerging entrepreneurs will be given the opportunity to meet with national investors and press.

“It is vital for technology based entrepreneurs to be plugged into both places,” said founder Schultz. “It is important for them to create a broad network to be able grow to a nation-wide level, and learn how to create sustainable relationships.”

The application period for Launch Pad Ignition closed on Sunday, and this season’s class promises more excitement and ingenuity for our multi-faceted city.

Launch Pad Ignition alums have continued to see advancements since the culmination of their program. Some have acquired new partnerships and capital, and some, such as New Orleans-based company Liveset, have also committed to giving back to the program by participating as mentors to this year’s class.