Lessons Learned From the First PowerMoves Event

Damon BurnsDamon Burns is the founder of Munivestor, a financial data platform for the municipal bond industry. He is also an investment committee member of the New Orleans Startup Fund and co-founder of inNOLAvation. Follow him on Twitter @damonearlburns.

My experience with the first PowerMoves NOLA initiative greatly exceeded my expectations. PowerMoves is a three-day event held alongside the Essence Festival to showcase some of the top minority entrepreneurs from around the country. Essentially, PowerMoves seeks to make New Orleans a hub for high-growth minority entrepreneurship. In total, 40 companies descended on New Orleans to meet investors and other entrepreneurs. My company, Munivestor, was fortunate enough to be accepted into the inaugural class. There were many lessons learned but a few standout.

Entrepreneurs should focus on giving and the getting will come. 

PowerMoves contained a number of great events including the TechStars Risingstars Bootcamp, which is the event that I participate in. When I learned that I was accepted into the program back in May, I immediately began to think about strategies to outperform the other 15 companies in the Bootcamp for the cash prizes. I quickly learned how flawed my approach was. The mentors from TechStars implored us to share and collaborate in the weeks leading up to the main event in New Orleans. It is apparent that each entrepreneur took that advice to heart because I was moved by the level of generosity and sincerity displayed by each entrepreneur. The fact that money was on the line quickly became an afterthought as each individual focused on learning and supporting other entrepreneurs in need. As a result, bonds were formed and friendships established. The relationships that were formed will outlast the runway provided by the award money. Each person understood the importance of giving, which is why every company won.

Traction is king.

I toiled around with the idea of Munivestor for far too long before I decided to take action. Once I decided to come out of my shell and talk to investors I was generally told that I had a cute idea but nothing to show for it. This reality was discussed over and over last weekend. Companies that are able to show early progress via revenue or users are most appealing. It is the best form of validation that you can earn. Both customers and investors care about traction. Ideas are worthless without execution so spend less time dreaming and more time doing.

New Orleans is on the rise but we have some work to do.

There is a certain something about New Orleans that infects all who come in contact with it. Our quest to become a hub of high-growth entrepreneurship is definitely aided by this mystique. The entrepreneurs and investors that I encountered last weekend were certainly impressed by our hospitality and balanced approach to life. However, we are still missing a few elements. We need victories (e.g. acquisitions, jobs and IPOs.), talent and capital to reach our full potential. Those missing elements are to be expected at this stage of our growth but positive things are occurring. Going forward, our focus should be on making sure existing and future entrepreneurs get the support they need. New Orleans should be grooming entrepreneurs in much the same way that Professor Charles Xavier grooms superheroes.

High-growth minority entrepreneurship really does matter.

There is so much undiscovered and unfunded talent in this country that many problems are going unsolved. This matters because our planet needs every innovator to get the opportunity to make her or his dream a reality. The more entrepreneurs we have working to solve problems the better off society will be. This is especially true for minority entrepreneurs that historically come from problem riddled communities. The importance of PowerMoves can’t be overstated. Providing minority entrepreneurs with the proper exposure is a step in the right direction. Ultimately, it is in everybody’s best interest to realize that smart people come in all genders and colors. This initiative is not charity but rather an effort to build a better world.

New Orleans needs PowerMoves NOLA but the rest of the country needs it just as much. I met some amazing people that are on inspirational journeys. I truly believe that each entrepreneur that participated will impact the world in some way. PowerMoves NOLA is important for this very reason. Reversing the investment trends of the venture capital industry is not only good for returns but it is also good for mankind.