Chris Schultz Discusses State of NOLA Startup Scene at Demo Day in NYC

Chris SchultzChris Schultz and other members of the New Orleans tech community were up in New York City last week to participate in the New Orleans Demo Day. Eight of the top startups flew to NYC for investor presentations and networking events. Chris gave a talk at the event touching on what is driving the startup scene on the bayou, include the dynamics and prominent sectors.

The full transcript from Chris’ talk is below:

Hello and welcome to the New Orleans demo day in New York City.  Thanks for being here.

What do you think of when you think of New Orleans? Food! How many people have had a great meal in a restaurant in New Orleans? Was it Commanders Palace? Cochon? Gallatoires? I’m sure you remember the experience you had, with the great New Orleans signature friendly service.  Well today you’re going to hear from a New Orleans startup up that is bringing that service to the world through its web-based restaurant training platform.

As we know, new ventures are being started everywhere.  New Orleans, like New York, is undergoing a startup renaissance.  To understand why this is happening, let’s explore the dynamics that exist in New Orleans.

  • Problem Sets – the interesting companies that are bing created in New Orleans are because founders have exposure to problem sets that are different than silicon valley – so, we’re not just focused on burrito delivery apps, there are companies being created to solve the unique problems we see.
  • Brain Gain – we have had tremendous brain gain of smart talents people that have become entrepreneurs.  This started with Teach for America teachers, now includes  Venture for America founders, and now I’m hearing weekly from mid-career executive talent who are choosing to move their families to New Orleans.  This talent pipeline is an asset that is fueling founders and hiring.
  • Tech Enabled – traditional industries are being disrupted as Marc Andreesen’s  ”software is eating the world” thesis plays out.  These tech-enabled businesses are being founded where founders have deep domain expertise and are applying new technological solutions to traditional challenges.
  • Bike Lanes – You’ve likely heard about the lucrative tax credits that Louisiana offers in the digital media and film industries, but what I believe is really driving the movement is the increasing quality of life that are continuing to improve lifestyle in New Orleans.  Things like bike lanes and the emergence of neighborhoods like the Bywater are putting New Orleans on the map with today’s mobile generation.

With these dynamics in play, we’re seeing a number of sectors emerging that are where we are seeing competitive startup activity.

  • Art, culture, music – the digitalization of these traditional artistic pursuits provides a rich environment for innovative digital media startups
  • Food, culinary arts – the world class food and culinary heritage in New Orleans is driving startups
  • Healthcare
  • Education – the complete reboot of the public school system that lead to an all charter school system along with the influx of teach for america talent is leading to tremendous innovation solving real problems along with access to customers through the charter schools.

In the next few years I’m excited to see innovation that is focused on the regions two economic drivers

  • Energy
  • Port & shipping

It was a different place 6 or 7 years ago.  When a recent Tulane grad wanted to produce a concert during Jazz Fest at the CAC.  He thought to himself, if only there was a way he could pre-sell all the tickets to the event to prove there was demand.  If he was able to sell them, he’d have the cash he needed to pay the band and the show would go on.  Out of his frustration in trying to produce the concert, Perry Chen decided to build a way to fund creative projects and moved to New York to launch Kickstarter.  It was New Orleans that created the environment to spark his idea, and even though he moved to a bigger market to scale, his commitment to the region remains.

And with tax credits, lifestyle, and talent, New Orleans is a phenomenal market for the right companies as they mature.

Four years ago Patrick Comer moved to New Orleans from LA and previously NYC.  He joined Launch Pad and sat at a co-working desk working for a market research firm in LA.  I got to know him as I do with lots of folks who work at LP and he had the insight that the process of getting people to take surveys online was still a manual process, people had to pick up the phone and call each other.  What market research really needed was the efficiency of an exchange doing the same thing that DoubleClick did for banner ads.  Today, Federated Sample has 50 employees and  its headquarters in Canal Place overlooking the Mississippi river.

Some companies will leverage New Orleans as a startup laboratory and the right decision will be to move to SV or NY, some companies are headquartering in NOLA.

The important thing is real companies are being built, and there is real opportunity for investors to participate in these deals.  Federated Sample’s series A was lead by Sopris Capital, a NYC firm.  I invite you to get involved by coming down.  Mark your calendar for these   events:

  1. New Orleans Entrepreneur Week – March the mardi gras of entrepreneurship, a week of events hosted by Idea Village culminating with 60 pitches by companies at seed stage and series A stage
  2. Launch Fest – the annual conference and New Orleans demo day that we product in May in conjunction with Jazz Fest, its a great way to put a trip to Jazz Fest on your expense account
  3. NY Demo Day thanks to our hosts today and all of you for coming, its important to New Orleans to be connected to NYC and have strong ties here, this is the 3rd year we’ve made this trip and we’ll continue to build on it

So I’m excited to welcome you to the main event, a series of 5 min presentations by the companies in the Launch Pad 2013 class.  These companies launched a little over a month ago, have been onboarding customers, generating revenue and closing investment.  We’re proud to have a great class of companies from New Orleans today and I’m excited to introduce the first founder…