In March of 2013, Jeff Pulver and I were invited to a reception at the New Orleans home of Bill Hines, Managing Partner with the Jones Walker law firm on the eve of the beginning of “The Big Idea,” part of the New Orleans Entrepreneur Week 2013, produced by The Idea Village.
Upon our arrival, we were warmly greeted and it immediately struck me that we in for a very unique and special experience in the days to come.
Aside from his leadership role at Jones Walker, Hines has been a key player in the rebuilding of New Orleans business community after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He, along with Jones Walker Partner, Asher Friend, had their sites set on looking at how to connect New Orleans and the State of Louisiana’s entrepreneur ecosystem with that of Israel’s.
Friend had put together a seminar coinciding with New Orleans Entrepreneur Week entitled “Nurturing the Evolving Partnership Between Israeli and New Orleans Entrepreneurial Ecosystems.” Jeff and I, along with Eyal Lifschitz, General Partner and Co-Founder of Peregrine Ventures and Richard Montgomery, Managing Director at Enhanced Capital Partners, were on a panel to discuss what was possible how New Orleans could capitalize on its strengths to make the city attractive as a place to partner, and do business with Israel’s startup and innovation economy.
In the week that ensued, it became more and more clear about what could be possible. It was not just the New Orleans startup ecosystem that was getting national and international media attention, but the in the background, the region’s stature in medical devices, healthcare, water, clean-tech and agricultural technology was attracting new investments and startups. In December 2013, the New Orleans/Israel Partnership on Emergency Response and Medicine was held – an example of growing collaboration.
Fast forward to New Orleans Entrepreneur Week 2014, Jeff and I returned again to connect and engage with the community. There, I made it a point to dig a bit deeper in to what I thought would be possible in terms of further collaboration with New Orleans and Israel.
While every U.S. city, including where I am based in San Antonio, can make a compelling case for aligning with Israel’s startup economy, New Orleans has some key distinguishing strengths – and very unique assets that you can’t replicate in any other region of the country: particularly in water and energy – two areas where Israel is also experiencing an increasing leadership role in the global economy. New Orleans has also made significant investments over the past several years in core infrastructure to support its feverously growing entrepreneurial ecosystem, such as the New Orleans BioInnovation Center and the emergence of its corresponding BioFund. Additionally, on the horizon is BioDistrict New Orleans, a 1,500 acre development currently underway in the Downtown and Mid-City areas of New Orleans, focused on the development of a biosciences industry in New Orleans that will provide world-class biosciences research and development.
Like Israel, there is an incredible sense of community in New Orleans, with an equally passionate and eclectic mix of people – all seemingly bought into the idea of supporting the prosperity of those communities in any way they can. The New Orleans area and the State of Louisiana also have something deeply ingrained in their ethos of how things get done and an expression of the creative spirit: music and food, both unique forms of code which merit paying attention to.