One year ago (yesterday), I contributed my first guest article to SBN, and publicly announced my entrance into the #NOLATech community. I was wide-eyed, optimistic…and terrifically terrified. I thought it would be some hard work, a little fun, and that I’d meet a few interesting people along the way. Well, guess what?! I’m pleased to admit that I totally underestimated the state of entrepreneurial affairs in the New Orleans!
Sure, it’s obviously been harder work than expected, but we all know that the best things often are. What’s really important, though, is that I haven’t had “a little” fun, or met “a few” interesting people, but that I’ve had some of the most remarkable times of my life, while meeting countless incredible people. And, these people are quite literally changing the world.
As always, New Orleans continues to impress me. There’s no end to the talent, drive, and (perhaps most importantly) the unbridled passion of our citizens–it’s just absolutely unbelievable. We pour our hearts and souls into every project we undertake and moment that we live. That passion pushes us not only to make our companies (and ourselves) better, but it often seems like we’re attempting to improve the city in and of itself. To paraphrase Sunken City’s Warlock: “The most powerful thing is [passion], which you will find in New Orleans–the city of desire!” I believe that we use that passion as fuel fuel for our desire to be the best people, as well as the best city. We actually do ask: “What does this community…need?”
Some people feel there are too many articles being written regarding our city’s entrepreneurial efforts, or that our city’s growth is even a bit overblown–but, I don’t think that’s the case. What we’ve accomplished in the past eight years is absolutely mind-blowing, and there is not a single indication that we’re slowing down. With regards to the (admittedly high number of) encouraging articles, I choose to believe they’re relaying the message that opportunities are abundant, but not endless; the opportunities are ‘discounted’, but not free; and, while opportunities may be ‘discounted’, it’s not to be confused with a gold rush. In my mind, they’re saying that you’ll have to work hard, but you’ll be surrounded by people and organizations who genuinely want to help you succeed; and, you’re going to be joined by more likeminded people each and every day.
Nobody is saying we’re perfect, but NOLA embraces its imperfections; we even crack jokes about them, while we simultaneously work towards fixing them. For example, there are those who believe New Orleanians party too much, and that “larger markets” worry about that effecting our collective productivity. While many of us joke about “Friday Lunches,” nowadays they’re somewhat of an anachronism. (Although that’s not necessarily true during carnival season). Regardless, to combat this citywide “party image,” GNO Inc. just launched destinationgno.com to combat exactly that. Speaking of our partying habits, new city ordinances have disallowed private porta potties on parade routes. So, what did a couple of local “entre-pee-neurs” do? They created Airpnp! And, what if NOLA startups are having a hard time finding capital? Lookout, here comes a local crowd funding platform, FundDat. One of the most impressive qualities about our entrepreneurial community, is their focus on projects driven not only by their own passions, but those ingrained in our city’s heritage.
Could you imagine a better city to develop new technologies related to Food, Music, or Art? I certainly couldn’t. (Regardless of how biased I am). How about a better breeding ground for technologies that tackle issues regarding Health, Urban Development, or Education? Everyday, new startups are turning local weaknesses into scalable tools for strength. BeneFit is becoming exponentially more popular each day, Travis was invited to the White House for Stop the Beef, and 4.0 Schools is literally tearing down walls to make way for all their new innovators. New Orleans is uniquely positioned to become a hatchery for the future business (and social) models of all these industries. Will it happen overnight? Of course not. But, in just a few short years, we’re already made incredible strides.
Our growth is real, and people around the globe are paying close attention our progress. Uber is coming (ready or not). TechCruch just held their first meet up here, and was pleasantly surprised. Not to mention, of course, the nearly 200 companies and countless volunteers who came together, to create the 40 NOLATech Week events. With almost no budget, and only 6 weeks to plan (and implement those events), our city pulled off one of the most impressive feats imaginable. For those unaware, #NOLATech Week drew in attendees from 15 states, 33 cities, and 3 countries. Additionally, we’ve already garnered nationwide support to make this year’s event larger than any of us could have ever imagined. (If you’re interested in volunteering or sponsoring, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org). But, we’ll be announcing more information about the 2014 #NOLATech Week, at the beginning of next month. (As well as a new coalition aimed to assist in the unification of our entrepreneurial/tech community).
Anyway, I suppose the point of all this is to say that these are exciting times–and they’re only getting better. Some unbelievable people are doing some extraordinary things, in city that at one time or another, many didn’t believe in. We’ve taken impossible situations and made some of the most unimaginable things. We’ve begun to tackle age-old problems with state of the art solutions. We’ve done what we do, while being who we are–New Orleanians. Let’s just keep it up!
If you have any questions, feel free to comment on this post or connect through Twitter @JSDSeidman