The Festival of Startups

NOEW returns March 19-24.

For anyone interested in any aspect of entrepreneurism, the Idea Village’s New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW) is better than Mardi Gras. Taking place March 19-24, virtually all of NOEW is open to the entire community, free of charge.

This year the program features nine keynote speakers and more than 100 sessions, ranging from panel discussions to workshops. While the largest focus is on the myriad aspects of starting a business, there are plenty of interfaces with nonprofit and government sectors as well.

In addition, networking and social events provide great opportunities for casual information-sharing, connection-making and ad hoc brainstorming.

Looking over the 2017 schedule, it is clear that Entrepreneur Week is working to be more inclusive and more interactive. Many sessions include both expert panels and opportunities for participants to have small-group working conversations about how they might implement concepts they have heard in their businesses or nonprofit organization.

Also, while there is plenty of focus on technology applications and tech sector opportunities, the program is by no means limited to this aspect of entrepreneurism. Indeed, the Idea Village has put a lot of effort into selecting topics with broad application to any type of entrepreneurial setting, whether it is private, public or nonprofit.

A quick cross-section of NOEW sessions shows the diversity of the programming: Women in Technology, Entrepreneurial Approaches to Nonprofit Sustainability, the Latino Business Summit, Raising Capital on Your Own Terms, Innovation and Social Good, and — don’t ask, this writer has no idea — Embracing Your Inner Pigeon.

Exemplifying the cross-sector nature of NOEW is the Civic Innovation Summit. According to information from the Idea Village, the summit invites “the private sector to add perspective and partner with the public sector to address three of the most significant risks to the future of New Orleans.” These are identified as resilience, equity, and crime and murder reduction (and presumably the nonprofit sector is also welcome).

Startups looking for financial support also have plenty of opportunities. There are sessions on how to attract investors and several different pitch opportunities. These culminate with “The Big Idea,” which is billed as the largest community-driven pitch contest in the world. The winner of the contest is selected by audience vote; some of the other pitch contests during the week also include an audience participation component.

NOEW will have a new home this year: the Contemporary Arts Center and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, both on Camp Street. The Idea Village itself will be moving to the CAC in 2017, and basing Entrepreneur Week there is a first step in that direction.

One particularly interesting adjunct to NOEW is the IDEAtour, which made its debut during last year’s event. Designed by the Idea Village in collaboration with GNO, Inc., and the Business Alliance, IDEAtour is “designed to inspire and recruit national entrepreneurs to move their companies to the New Orleans region,” according to Idea Village’s Molly Horton. High-potential, early-stage startups can apply to be considered for various resources and incentives, and “preference will be given to entrepreneurs whose startups fit within New Orleans’s industry trends and culture.”

NOEW Executive Producer, Victoria Adams Phipps, emphasized that “Entrepreneur Week truly is for everyone, even if the thought of starting your own business has never crossed your mind. The spirit of innovation is so New Orleans, and there are many opportunities to be entrepreneurial in your workplace, or where you volunteer, or in many other aspects of your daily life.”

Entrepreneur Week is free, but registration is required. Sign up at

The Breakdown

Don’t Miss at NOEW This Year

Mark your calendar now for these two events:

City as a Startup – Monday, March 20. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Library at the Ogden
A one-day summit orchestrated by New Orleans Venture for America fellows will include presentations and working sessions about how the city can drive inclusive growth.

The Big Idea – Friday, March 24. 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. The CAC Warehouse
The world’s largest crowd-driven pitch extravaganza. Ten startups compete for a $25,000 prize.

Keith Twitchell spent 16 years running his own business before becoming president of the Committee for a Better New Orleans. He has observed, supported and participated in entrepreneurial ventures at the street, neighborhood, nonprofit, micro- and macro-business levels.

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