New website serves as a directory for anyone hoping to join local startup scene
Despite the resources available to entrepreneurs and the recent emergence of venture capital firms, the local startup community was still missing something—a central hub where professionals could access that wealth of information in one easy-to-use location.
“If you were someone with a good idea, maybe a UNO student, for example, and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a startup idea I’ve been thinking about,’ there was really no single point of contact to help you get started,” says Grady Fitzpatrick, the senior vice president of business development for GNO, Inc. “There was a lot of ‘Talk to this person; talk to that person; and a little bit of a relationship type-adventure that you’d have to partake in.”
To make the process feel less like a scavenger hunt, GNO, Inc. launched StartupNOLA — a website that serves as a directory for anyone seeking information on the region’s startup scene. The all-encompassing guide is geared towards entrepreneurs, investors and future employees living in Greater New Orleans, and beyond.
A website devoted to the city’s growing startup community proves there is more to New Orleans than simple stereotypes, such as parties on Bourbon Street, says Fitzpatrick.
Jon Atkinson, the CEO of The Idea Village, also sees the significance of such a site.
“Having a central resource to help founders navigate the local startup community will make our community stronger, by enabling people focused on building innovative companies to more efficiently find each other, and the resources they need to launch and scale,” Atkinson says. “It will also help showcase the depth of the startup movement in New Orleans and serve as a critical front door for those looking to enter or specialize. To build on the incredible momentum of 2021 for startups in New Orleans, we need better tools to increase local talent velocity, help investors find deals, and help the next generation to launch and thrive in the Greater New Orleans region.”
In March of 2021, Fitzpatrick and his team began the process of bringing StartupNOLA to life. They collaborated with Trumpet Advertising, which is based in New Orleans, and designed a “slick, brochure-type site” aimed at potential startup founders, investors and employees.
The founder may be a local university student on the brink of graduating, or a professional with a clever concept they would like to explore and build upon, Fitzpatrick explains. Meanwhile, investors are the individuals who believe the concept will take off and benefit all involved.
Addressing potential investors from coast to coast is important, says Fitzpatrick, because although the local investment community may understand the region’s market, outside investors are likely less familiar with it.
“This will be an opportunity for them to learn about some of the up-and-coming companies and resources, and learn the success stories,” Fitzpatrick says. “They can feel comfortable researching this market and potentially investing in this market.”
The third group, future employees, are people who want to work for a startup. Perhaps they have experience helping a nascent company scale —whether by serving as a chief technology officer, working in sales or focusing on project management.
“There are a lot of folks interested in being a part of startups,” Fitzpatrick says. “We want to let them explore the market and understand not only what specific jobs there are, but what are some of those growing companies that might need their knowledge and expertise.”
The website is streamlined to avoid information overload, says Fitzpatrick. The relevant information, which depends on the person, is easy to find.
“When you go to the site, it will lead you down the pathway of, ‘I want to invest in New Orleans; I want to start a company; or I want to work for a startup,” he says. “Those are the entry points into the site.”
StartupNOLA.com features an “ecosystem map,” which Fitzpatrick describes as the backbone of the website—or “the Yellow Pages for entrepreneurship in New Orleans and the New Orleans region,” if you will.
Site visitors can click the ecosystem map to search for consultants, co-working spaces, support services, government agencies and software developers, among other professionals and places who play roles in the startup scene. The information on the map is applicable to founders, investors and workers.
The “work for a startup” section connects to workNOLA.com, which lists available jobs, and highlights a variety of local industries—from tech and manufacturing to health and life sciences.
GNO, Inc. will consistently update the website with exciting business announcements, such as a company selling for a billion dollars, and other types of news-you-can-use. A staff member, whose contact information will appear the website, will serve as a “concierge and the connector within the ecosystem,” says Fitzpatrick. The concierge will offer that founder, investor or worker an opportunity to understand the market on a deeper level and will also save them time.
At the end of the day, Fitzpatrick hopes StartupNOLA makes it easier for people who are not plugged into the startup community to learn about the resources available to them, do the initial research and create connections, rather than rely on several meetings.
“Obviously, the relationships and the meetings are still going to happen, but this website can help streamline some of that,” Fitzpatrick says.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Fitzpatrick and his team recognized the importance of the startup ecosystem, possibly more than they ever had. Those businesses are responsible for growing the local economy, but the acquisitions that have happened during that timeframe also play a big role, he explains.
“We’re hoping that the money that’s flown into the economy from these acquisitions will really jumpstart the ecosystem even more,” Fitzpatrick says. “This site will be a nice complement to a lot of the activity that’s happening.”
Rob Lalka, the executive director of the Albert Lepage Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Tulane University, acknowledges that New Orleans’ startup ecosystem remains far behind the leading hotspots like Silicon Valley, Boston and New York. Emerging entrepreneurial cities like Raleigh, Durham, Miami and Nashville have also outpaced the city, he says —but he adds that there is good reason to be optimistic.
“I would never bet against New Orleans,” says Lalka. “Why am I hopeful? Well, follow the facts. We have gone beyond the overly idealistic cheerleading and the glossy, self-satisfied marketing efforts of the past. From Lucid to Levelset to Sunpro Solar, we’ve seen billions of dollars in exits by homegrown, venture-backed companies in the past year alone. We’re experiencing significant increases in venture capital coming to our region last year, too, according to data gathered by the Lepage Center for the GNO Startup Report.”
When taking these positive trends into account, StartupNOLA will become more than just a website, says Lalka.
“We are hoping it can serve as a one-stop-shop with information for entrepreneurs thinking about relocating here, top talent hoping to work for one of our growing companies, and investors hoping to become part of these ventures’ future success,” he says. “It’s a great time for innovators throughout the Greater New Orleans region, and StartupNOLA is a wonderful new resource that can help us all make the most of this moment.”