Thirteen years ago a group of New Orleans entrepreneurs calling themselves The Idea Village asked a very important question: What if?
What if you could create economic and social change in New Orleans?
What if you could do it in a way that not only inspired entrepreneurs, but those who believed in them as well?
What if you could generate jobs for many and optimism for all?
These questions were the result of many conversations between five local entrepreneurs at the Loa Bar in downtown New Orleans on how to reverse the last 40 years of fundamental economic and social decline. New Orleans was in a downward spiral and concerned civic leaders and entrepreneurs wanted to create an environment that would allow emerging talent to stay in New Orleans, grow businesses and create quality jobs. The core problem was the exodus of the best and brightest from the community; from 1990-2000, there was a net loss of over 41,000 23-35 year olds from the State of Louisiana. This brain drain created a vacuum of innovative individuals to provide new thinking to grow the economy and to address pressing social issues such as crime and education.
The collective answer to this problem was to attract and retain entrepreneurial talent that 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 to discuss how the group would execute this vision. Action was needed, not another plan. In August 2000, each of them 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. The group’s mission 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.
Twelve years later, New Orleans has developed a vibrant, interconnected entrepreneurial ecosystem that includes corporations, non-profits, universities, and government who collaborate to make New Orleans a place for people with big ideas, grand dreams, and the passion to build, grow, and execute. New Orleans is becoming a globally recognized ecosystem: 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, while Inc. called New Orleans the “Coolest Startup City in America.”
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 to solve critical issues with innovative solutions. New models for health care, education, physical infrastructure, food, and creative media are being incubated and developed.
What’s Next? We are just getting started. Join us.