Louisiana’s Tech Industry Is Buzzing
New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW) has a program called “Startup Alley” where there are many entrepreneurs pitching their businesses.
New Orleans is also known as “Silicon Bayou” which is a term created by J. Robert Wooley who was once Louisiana’s Assistant Secretary of State in 1984. He created the term when speaking about potential legislation to help enforce company’s software copyrights.
Louisiana has lucrative tax credits which have helped to bring more companies, venture capital firms and entrepreneurs to the state.
New Orleans in specific, has received lots of great press as it’s been described as “the coolest start up city in America” and the “biggest brain market” as well as “the next great tech city”.
CEO and President of the Regional Economic Development Alliance Greater New Orleans Inc., Michael Hecht, said, “We are the most cost-attractive place in America” for the tech industry.
He said the reasons have to do with labor rates as well as real estate costs and several tax breaks.
New Orleans has a very distinct culture which also helps excite businesses about setting up in the city.
Hecht said, “Austin has created an image of itself as a cultural destination. The culture in New Orleans is historic and indigenous. It’s not created. You will never see a ‘Keep New Orleans Weird’ campaign. That would be like having a ‘Keep Water Wet’ campaign.”
If you want to see “the physical and symbolic heart for tech in New Orleans” (as Hecht says), then you should go to the Intellectual Property (IP) Building that’s located in the Warehouse District. It’s an 80,000 square foot building that’s very tech friendly and at one point was where TurboSquid, a 3D model marketplace, was located. The Idea Village and LaunchPad are some of the other companies that have been in the IP Building as well.
There are several more locations throughout New Orleans as well, that tech employees and businesses like to work. One of those places is the New Orleans Exchange Centre, where if you go to a nearby bar, you’re sure to see people working on their laptops while drinking a beer. The IP Building, however, remains the center of “Silicon Bayou”.
Hecht says, “It was then that we began to develop the brand of New Orleans as an emerging hub for technology. We often say that New Orleans is Austin 20 years ago. We’re going to be the new Austin.”
Collision is another sign that the tech world is becoming more prevalent in New Orleans these days. Collision is a big tech conference that continues to grow fast. It was founded in 2014 and at their next event on April 26th through April 28th, 10,000 people are expected to attend. One of the days at the event will be featuring programming as it relates to the music industry and technology.
Collision’s Richard Forde, said, ”Collision is growing at a greater scale and this requires a much larger community and ecosystem. Working with the local tech community and Collision co-host Chris Schultz [CEO of Launchpad] has shown that New Orleans is the perfect destination.”
The Computer Industry Trade Association (CompTIA) said that Louisiana produced 2,892 tech jobs throughout 2014 and 2015. Unfortunately, the state is undergoing a big budget crisis, but while there are some skeptics, it’s widely thought that the tech industry in Louisiana and specifically New Orleans is going to continue to grow. Virtual reality and augmented reality will be more factors that help the tech industry in Louisiana continue its growth.
Boileau, the founder of the app Pupular, said, “For the size of the city, the fact that there are multiple accelerators, co-working spaces and mentorship opportunities is really great. The community believes in what’s going on very strongly.”