When we arrived in New Orleans after a long drive from Albuquerque, we were immediately struck by two things: the music—it’s literally on every corner—and the humidity, which is even more prevalent. Of course, the city’s culture and vibe go much deeper, and, in our down time, we were lucky to have our hosts from Idea Village introduce us to the city’s history and charm.
Idea Village is an organization dedicated to identifying, supporting, and retaining entrepreneurial talent in New Orleans and has played a major role in New Orleans’ start-up movement and post-Katrina revitalization. We worked with CEO, Tim Williamson, and Director of Product Management, Sara Thomas, (GSB ’09) to develop a strategy for supporting start-ups that have outgrown the early stages of their business and are dealing with challenges of scaling. We talked with various members of the Nola start-up ecosystem–Idea Village staff, program alumni, successful start-ups, early stage start-ups, impact investors, and the head of the Louisiana Buyout Fund. We also looked at recently released data from the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center and stats from Idea Village’s own programs. Even though businesses over the $1million revenue mark are usually beyond the scope of Idea Village’s work, we determined that providing strategic help to some of these companies is crucial both to get these businesses to the next level and to provide powerful proof points to the ecosystem that this success is possible and sustainable in New Orleans. Moreover, this supplemental programming creates a potential revenue opportunity for Idea Village that can reinforce their core programming. The programs and events we developed will be piloted at this year’s New Orleans Entrepreneur Week and developed further throughout Idea Village’s entrepreneurial season.
While in Nola, we also met up with two of our HBS classmates, Eric Sonnier and Broderick McClinton, who were passing through Idea Village as they worked on their start-up, Equity Endeavor. We had an amazing time discussing our adventures and sharing the lessons we’re learning from our entrepreneurial summers. We also talked about the challenges and opportunities of building organizations with purpose—such as explaining to investors why, if you’re building a crowdfunding platform for small, community-oriented businesses, it makes sense for you to be headquartered in somewhere like New Orleans instead of in San Francisco.
All in all it was an amazing week (and yes, we went to Café du Monde).
Cheers from the road,
Amaris + the MBAxAmerica Team, MBA 2014