The collective answer to this problem was to attract and retain entrepreneurial talent, specifically to create new jobs and wealth in the regional economy. This new group of economic leaders would in turn create innovative solutions to the social challenges and become the next generation civic leaders. To accomplish this goal, New Orleans needed a linked network of business, government and university resources to support high impact startups. New Orleans needed a “village” for new ideas.
The entrepreneurs continued to meet informally to discuss ways in which the group could execute this vision. Action was needed, not another plan. So in August 2000, each entrepreneur contributed $2,000 towards a $10,000 business plan contest. Word spread quickly and companies began contacting the group with offers of in-kind support for the winner, eventually leading to a grand prize worth over $125,000 to a local entrepreneur. The group’s mission soon became clear – transform New Orleans by stimulating entrepreneurial growth. This organic coming together of like-minded individuals in an implementation-oriented manner ignited a movement that eventually gave rise to The Idea Village.
The Idea Village formalized in 2002 as an independent 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. The Idea Village embraced the philosophy that many other cities had already discovered - the best avenue to economic growth was nurturing homegrown entrepreneurs, as all net new jobs are created by companies less than 5 years old. Since its inception, The Idea Village has implemented a long-range plan to build a vibrant entrepreneur ecosystem that fuels economic development through entrepreneurship. The Idea Village achieves its mission to identify, support and retain entrepreneurial talent in New Orleans by supporting the start-up of new entrepreneurial ventures throughIDEAxcelerator™, IDEAinstitute™, IDEAcorps™ and New Orleans Entrepreneur Week™.
The Idea Village has solidified its position as a leading driver of entrepreneurship by developing infrastructure, networks, and capital to foster an entrepreneurial ecosystem in New Orleans. To date, Idea Village has supported 1,101 local entrepreneurs by engaging 1,746 professionals and allocating over 42,000 consulting hours and $2.7 million in capital. This portfolio generates over $82million in annual revenue and has created nearly 1,006 jobs for our community. Strategic partners include the Economic Development Administration, Tulane University, City of New Orleans, Downtown Development District, GNO inc, Stanford, University of Chicago, Northwestern University, University of California-Berkeley, Cornell University, Google, Cisco, saleforce.com and over 800 professionals.
Ten years since those initial meetings at Loa, New Orleans has developed a vibrant, interconnected entrepreneurial ecosystem that includes professionals, non-profits, universities, government, CEOs, investors, and entrepreneurs who collaborate to make New Orleans a place for people with big ideas, grand dreams, and the passion to build, grow, and execute.
Recently, New Orleans has become nationally recognized as significant center of entrepreneurship: Forbes named New Orleans the “Biggest Brain Magnet” of 2011 as well as the No. 2 “Best City for Jobs.” A July 2010 Brookings Institute “Katrina After 5” report states that New Orleans entrepreneurial activity is 40% above the national average. Inc. Magazine called New Orleans the “Coolest Startup City in America.” And an August 2009 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine cited New Orleans as a blueprint of economic recovery through entrepreneurship: “in the midst of one of the worst national economies in decades, New Orleans is recreating itself as a hive of entrepreneurial initiative and demonstrating to other cities how to recover from even the worst disaster.”
The Brain Drain has turned into the Brain Gain as inspired individuals have flocked to the city and new entrepreneurial hubs are sprouting up throughout the community driven by passionate, committed entrepreneurs. Capital is being invested in new ventures and entrepreneurial leaders are evolving from education, community development and the creative industries to solve critical issues with innovative solutions. New models for health care, public education, physical infrastructure, food and creative media are being incubated and developed.
Though the Idea Village has a solid track record of providing technical assistance to local entrepreneurs, the organization’s greatest accomplishment is its success at defining, creating and sustaining an entrepreneurial movement that has accelerated commercialization practices across industrial sectors. This commitment and investment has helped reposition New Orleans as a frontier for entrepreneurship and a gateway of opportunity.
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