The Idea Village

2014 Water Challenge


The nationally award-winning Water Challenge is a collaborative initiative of The Idea Village and the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF) that aims to identify and support entrepreneurial solutions that apply innovative approaches to how we live with water. Now in its fourth year, the 2014 Water Challenge will harness the entrepreneurial expertise found within our dynamic delta system to address flooding, water quality, and coastal restoration.

The Water Challenge will culminate in a daylong event on Monday, March 24th, which will highlight the momentum and opportunities driving entrepreneurial activity, creating jobs, inspiring research, and attracting dollars for our globally significant water sector. In the morning, attendees will learn about investment and collaboration uniting international resources, turning innovation into action. In the afternoon, Louisiana’s momentum and opportunities shine as we showcase leaders and programs fueling our water economy, and shaping our future. The day culminates with entrepreneurs EcoUrban, iSeeChange, ORA Estuaries, and Riverview Construction pitching for their ideas for $50,000 in seed funding.

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Meet the 2014 Water Challenge Finalists:

EcoUrban: Demetria Christo
EcoUrban is the only local, full-service landscaping company specializing in sustainable products and eco-friendly practices. From cisterns and rainwater irrigation to decks, pervious patios and LED lighting, to native and edible plants, we install and maintain the garden you’ve always dreamed of while cultivating a greener New Orleans.

iSeeChange: Julia Kumari Drapkin
iSeeChange is a climate almanac and information service for the 21st century. Their aggregated analysis helps clients make informed business decisions and save money by staying ahead of potential climate and weather risks in the marketplace weeks or months ahead of the mainstream news.

ORA Estuaries: Tyler Ortego
ORA Estuaries’ mission is to drive the state of practice in estuarine sustainability. Their vision is to be a small, but global provider of products and services that helps their clients build and maintain the ecological infrastructure that allows our estuaries to remain abundant and productive in conjunction with ever increasing human presence. ORA Estuaries’ flagship product, the OysterBreak, uses the gregarious, shell building nature of the oyster to create living, engineered infrastructure. ORA Estuaries works with the manufacturer to generate sales, plus provides services related to OysterBreak installation. ORA Estuaries also offers engineering consulting services related to estuarine sustainability.

RiverView Construction: Wayne Erdman
RiverView Construction, LLC designs and markets an innovative flood barrier product called the Aqua Flood Barrier™, the fastest deploying water barrier system in the New Orleans area.

Program Resources

  • Targeted needs assessments, strategy sessions, and business development from experts in business and the water sector.
  • Access to business mentors and an expanded network within the water sector.
  • Exposure for your company during New Orleans Entrepreneur Week.
  • Potential to pitch for $50,000 in seed capital.

  • Ready to get involved?

    Applications for the 2014 Water Challenge are now closed.

    Water Challenge Qualification Criteria

    In order to apply, entrepreneurs must:

  • Be a for-profit business venture or idea that addresses flooding, water quality, or coastal restoration.
  • Be located in Southeast Louisiana (eligible regions: Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, Lafourche, Terrebonne, Tangipahoa, or Washington).
  • Generate less than $1M in annual revenue.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of water sector.
  • Have the ability to participate in program events between October 2013 and March 24, 2014.

  • Water Challenge Assessment Criteria

    Entrepreneurs who meet all qualification criteria above will be evaluated according to the following assessment criteria. Priority is given to those applications that demonstrate the strongest combination of the following:

    Solution & Expertise

    • Presents viable solution for flooding, water quality, and/or coastal restoration.
    • Demonstrated understanding of the scope of problem.
    • Solution will improve existing conditions.
    • Applicant has necessary expertise.


    • Identified customer base.
    • Identified technology/service is more efficient, cost-effective, and/or sustainable.
    • Presents scalable business opportunity.


    • Water Challenge will have significant impact on company.
    • Business is at right stage to benefit from Water Challenge/Idea Village resources.
    • Applicant is invested and dedicated.

    Past Winners

    Last year’s Water Challenge winner, Webster Pierce of Pierce Industries, has invented, produced, and tested a patented modular shoreline protection and sediment retention system known as the Wave Suppression Sediment Collection (WSSC) System – or, The Wave Robber.

    2012 Water Challenge winner, Dr. Sarah Mack of Tierra Resources, is a leader in the research, development, and monetization of blue carbon contained in coastal wetland ecosystems. Her methodology will monetize the value of Louisiana wetlands and enable funding for their restoration.

    The inaugural Water Challenge winner, David Culpepper of NanoFex, has developed a product that decontaminates groundwater polluted by industrial solvents using natural, regional by-products.