Entrepreneurs: Find Your Home on the (Silicon) Bayou

Image courtesy of Social Monsters.

Image courtesy of Social Monsters.

Louisiana’s Silicon Bayou is making headlines on a global scale, and for good reason: Thanks to smart management and economic incentives, the region that lost a third of its population post-Katrina is on the mend and looking good. From video game graphics and software developers to bioscience, the New Orleans business scene is booming. After the floodwaters poured in to close businesses, a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship is breathing new life into the city.

Silicon Bayou Business Incubation Options

Most cities are lucky to host one small business incubator. New Orleans is blessed with half a dozen or more. Here’s a sampling:

Launch Pa​d: A shared workspace, a hangout, and a business-growing hotspot, Launch Pad calls 643 Magazine Street in the Central Business District’s IP Building its home. It has grown with the entrepreneurial climate, from a 4-office space in June of 2009 to 11,000 square feet and 75 or so members today.

The Idea Village: It has been a vital force in New Orleans since before Katrina. Founded in 2000, its vision is to see New Orleans develop “a self-sustaining ecosystem that attracts, supports, and retains entrepreneurial talent.” And the Village wants to do that by 2018, the 300th birthday of the city. The Idea Village sponsors entrepreneurial programs year-round, culminating with New Orleans Entrepreneurial Week, every March. Headquarters are at 515 Girod Street.

New Orleans BioInnovation Center: A business incubator focused on biosicence, this cutting edge facility calls 1441 Canal Street, in the downtown medical district, its home. Great ideas can find all the support needed to get a project off the ground at this full-service non-profit. Founded in 2011, the impact of this facility has already been felt in the local economy. The BioInnovation Center has been responsible for the creation of more than 200 high-salary jobs, 14 new products, and has helped 115 innovators get started.

Show Me the Money

It’s one thing to have an idea and develop it into a business plan, but another to secure funding and get it off the ground. Biotech inventors can begin the search for capital at the BioInnovation Center, which offers a low-cost loan program to clients.

If your idea isn’t bioscience-based, you’re not out in the cold, though. Anyone willing to pitch a feasible project should be able to get help. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

New Orleans Startup Fund: Sponsored by Greater New Orleans Regional Economic Development, the NOSF provides seed money for promising early-stage companies. Find them at 365 Canal Street, or call (504) 527-6900.

Catapult Fund: Entrepreneurs in the arts can find a friend here. New Orleans may be called the “Silicon Bayou,” but entrepreneurs of all kinds are welcome here. Led by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, art innovators can get training and funding, thanks to the Catapult Fund. To qualify, entrepreneurs learn to write a business plan and compete for startup capital. The foundation is at 1205 N. Rampart Street. Call (504) 558-6100 for info.

SBA Funding: A mainstay of business stimulation in the U.S., the Small Business Administration (SBA) plants Small Business Development Centers (SBDC’s) at strategic locations throughout the nation. Check the Louisiana SBDC for information about grants and loans that could apply to your startup idea. There are numerous locations in the region.

Private Funding: Whether you decide to approach angel investors or traditional lenders, most (or all) will require a business plan. Others might need to self fund, at least to begin. There are any number of ways to find a little extra cash, from taking a loan from a 401(k) to selling future annuity payments to crowdsourcing online.

If you have an idea for a business, enough courage to put it out there for evaluation, and the stamina to see it through. New Orleans is waiting for you.