If you have big dreams and crazy ideas, New Orleans is the place to make them happen. On the last day of Entrepreneur Week, thousands gathered to support the remaining events, including The Big Idea, where 15 companies were vying for $50,000 in seed capital.
The 15 companies showcased their early-stage companies outside of Manning’s on Fulton Street. Each was chosen because they are considered to have the best, new big ideas in the city. $50 chips were given out to 1000 of the 3000 some attendees who were told to vote for their favorite big idea. Three entrepreneurs were chosen to move on to pitch for three minutes in front of the crowd: Education Everytime, Pierce Industries, and Your Nutrition Delivered.
In addition one of the largest, if not the largest, crowd-funded investments in the world, three judges were in attendance to finalize the winner. Whichever company received the loudest round of applause would take home the prize. Judges for The Big Idea included Jim Coulter, Archie Manning, Mary Matalin, and Wendell Pierce.
As Tim Williamson, CEO and Co-founder of Idea Village, prepared to announce the winner, he first announced, “a little twist.” He said, “We’ve actually got another $50,000 that’s been donated.” So both Lorenzo Castillo from Education Everytime, an online platform where teachers inspire and discover engaging music to enhance classroom experience, and Erik Frank Your Nutrition Delivered, a company that delivers healthy to your doorstep, walked away winners.
But not only were Castillo and Frank winners this week, Webster Pierce from Pierce Industries is a success story as well. With his invention the Wave Robber, Pierce can stop and reverse coastal erosion. Earlier in the week, Pierce was the winner of the Water Challenge Pitch and a $50,000 in seed funding for further development and implementation of the device.
As Entrepreneur Week came to a close, Williamson wanted to remind everyone what the week is really about. “This is not a conference. Calling this a conference is like saying Mardi Gras is just a party or jazz fest is just a conference. It’s so much more than that, it’s a culmination of a season.”
The overwhelming support from global leaders in entrepreneurship was felt throughout the city. Guests from Latvia, Israel, and Silicon Valley, among others, flocked to New Orleans to further engage and promote the 51 entrepreneurs over the week.
Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Idea Village Robbie Vitrano tweeted out earlier today that New Orleans became a global model for entrepreneur ecosystems not by teaching people how to be like us, but by reminding them to find themselves. With passion and perseverance, these entrepreneurs will excel far beyond Entrepreneur Week.