March 28, 2015
Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--Cajun Fire's Adam Dawson holds beer made by the brewery, left, as Jon Renthrope gives the companies pitch to judges including former Saints quarterback Archie Manning, artist Terence Osborne, actor Wendall Pierce, chef Susan Spicer, and Saints punter Thomas Morstead, not pictured, at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week's Big Idea pitch meeting where the winner received $50,000 for their business idea at Manning's Restaurant in New Orleans, LA. Friday, March 28, 2014. NOEW is produced by the Idea Village, a non-profit-organization with a mission to identify, support and retain entrepreneurial talent in New Orleans. Cajun Fire won the prize.
  • The Advocate
Calling all entrepreneurs.

Thousands of budding business tycoons are expected to participate in New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, which started Friday and runs through next week.

Now in its seventh year, Entrepreneur Week is the brainchild of the Idea Village, a 15-year-old nonprofit that works to identify and support local entrepreneurs.

More than 100 seminars, workshops and social gatherings are slated for the eight-day event, which seeks to promote home-grown startups as part of a larger push to diversify New Orleans' largely tourism-dependent economy.

More than 10,000 people — a mix of entrepreneurs, business executives, investors and business students — are expected to attend the events. The week is scheduled to culminate with The Big Idea, a Fulton Street event that will feature a dozen of New Orleans' most promising startups competing for thousands of dollars in prize money.

It costs $35 to attend The Big Idea. That includes a $25 chip that ticket-buyers can use to finance their favorite among the startups. The three outfits that receive the most chips will then compete in a "lightning round" for the chance to win an additional $25,000. Tickets also include food and drink specials at Fulton Street bars and restaurants.

Many of the events will be open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. To attend, register at

There will be 30 "pitch" competitions and demonstrations showcasing more than 100 entrepreneurs who will compete for more than $275,000 in cash and resources.

More than 70 workshops, panel discussions and networking events will offer tips on marketing, branding and using social media, raising capital and bolstering a sales pitch.

Headline speakers will include Beth Comstock, head of GE Business Innovations; Jim Coulter, co-founder of the global investment firm TPG; New Orleans native Walter Isaacson, head of the Aspen Institute; and USA Today columnist Rhonda Abrams.

This weekend, entrepreneurs, computer coders and developers will head to Loyola University's College of Law for "Hackcess to Justice Louisiana 2015: A Social Justice Hackathon." The event, co-sponsored by the ABA Journal and the Louisiana State Bar Association, offers prize money for technology that can increase access to the justice system for local residents who can't afford legal representation.

First-place winners will get $1,500, second place is worth $1,000 and third place will get $500.

That event is slated to run from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Loyola Law School, 526 Pine St.

Sunday's panel is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Manning's restaurant, 519 Fulton St.

Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.

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