CEOs of the Year
While greater New Orleans was fortunate to avoid any major water events in 2021, it was nevertheless a watershed year for area tech entrepreneurs. Even amid the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic, three local tech startups were purchased during the year by larger companies for eye-popping sums. These deals thrill economic development officials because they validate the local tech community, infuse cash into the local ecosystem and inspire new entrepreneurs.
In January, online image marketplace Shutterstock acquired New Orleans-based 3D image platform TurboSquid in a deal worth $75 million. Then, in September, California’s Procore Technologies Inc. signed an agreement to acquire Levelset, a New Orleans tech company that created an online platform for managing construction liens, in a deal said to be worth roughly $500 million. Later that month, a Swedish market research firm (Cint Group) bought Orleans-based analytics company Lucid for roughly $1.1 billion. The transaction’s price tag means the company founded in 2010 is the region’s first “unicorn” (a startup valued at more than $1 billion).
“These exits validate the ‘long play’ that has been made by the New Orleans entrepreneurial community since Hurricane Katrina,” said Michael Hecht, CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. “Many of these companies were supported and funded by groups like Idea Village, Launch Pad, the New Orleans Startup Fund, and GNO, Inc. – and now we can see that sustained effort pay off, literally.”
Ordinarily, Biz New Orleans features one CEO of the year. Considering the exciting developments of 2021, this issue will feature three: Patrick Comer, the founder of Lucid; Scott Wolfe Jr. of Levelset; and Turbosquid’s Matt Wisdom. Their companies may have achieved successful “exits,” but their contributions to the local economy are just beginning.
Founder and CEO | LUCID
When Lucid sold to Swedish tech firm the Cint Group in late October for $1.1 billion, the event capped an extraordinary year for the New Orleans tech scene. Following on the heels of earlier high-dollar merger/acquisitions, Lucid became the city’s first “unicorn,” the popular term for companies that sell for $1 billion or more – and attract international attention in the process.
Scott Wolfe Jr.
Founder and CEO | LEVELSET
Back in 2007, in the frontier-like landscape of post-Katrina New Orleans, construction attorney Scott Wolfe Jr. saw a big problem: Local contractors had all the work they could handle, but getting paid for that work had become a substantial issue. He began researching potential solutions to this problem, which on top of everything else was deepening economic inequities in the city, as the smaller contractors were having the biggest problems.
Founder and CEO | TURBOSQUID
While advances in 3D graphics technology in the later 1990s upgraded the quality of the various models that could be produced, getting those models into the hands of the game developers, news agencies, architects, visual effects studios, advertisers and creative professionals who might use them was close to impossible.