- Associated Press - Monday, November 23, 2015

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - As New Orleans becomes a hotbed for entrepreneurs, the city is pushing further to lure startups from outside areas.

Officials from the New Orleans Business Alliance, along with The Idea Village and Great New Orleans, Inc., developed IDEAtours, a new program beginning in December to inspire and recruit national entrepreneurs to move their companies to the New Orleans area.

The program includes a 24-hour curated experience exposing participants to resources, incentives, programs and an opportunity to meet with leaders of the city’s entrepreneurial scene. The first IDEAtours session will be Dec. 9 through Dec. 10.

Though officials are formalizing a relocation process, they realize that businesses have chosen to move to the city for multiple reasons, including growth opportunities, quality of life and the chance to impact the continued rebuilding of New Orleans.

CubiCasa, a technology and design company that provides the real estate market marketable 2D and 3D floor plans, opened a New Orleans office in April after the owners found that the city had a thriving rebuilding process.

Petra Söderling, one of the three owners, said New Orleans had “so much building going on” and realized so many people were moving to the city. She also credited the move to university expansions and multiple renovation projects in the city.

Söderling said her husband, Ismo Rantala, also relocated his business, Nest, to New Orleans because of the amount of startup activity taking place.

“The statistics are very impressive,” Söderling said in reference to new startups, new graduates and the city’s quality of life.

CubiCasa, which was launched in early 2014, has offices in Palo, Alto, California and Oulu, Finland. Since opening its New Orleans office, Söderling said CubiCasa has found success working with real estate companies, developers and photographers.

Nationally, New Orleans is becoming more recognized as a hub of entrepreneurship that offers resources to startups, a collaborative network and a quality of life attractive to entrepreneurs, according to The Idea Village, a 15-year-old startup incubator.

“We are experiencing tremendous entrepreneurial success, and startups outside of the city now want to move their businesses down here,” Tim Williamson, co-founder and CEO, said. “We want to provide entrepreneurs an efficient way to see the authentic, collaborative ecosystem that has developed.”

Not all startups remain in the city, however. Finding funding continues to be a challenge for some.

Derrius Quarles, founder of Million Dollar Scholar, an early stage for-profit education technology venture that teaches students how to navigate the post-secondary scholarship process, relocated his company from Atlanta to New Orleans last year. He recently moved to New York to explore more capital opportunities.

Quarles said New Orleans provided mentorship that proved extremely valuable and accelerated the growth of his company.

“It was a wonderful experience,” he said. “New Orleans is certainly a family-oriented environment. It’s a close-knit community and is passionate about building and rebuilding the city.”

The idea of being part of something that matters is popular among entrepreneurs, Quarles said.

“Rebuilding is key, that’s the reason a lot of people come back,” he said.

While in New Orleans, Quarles said his startup worked with more than 200 students.

Entrepreneurs who are looking to make a move to New Orleans have until Nov. 18 to apply for the relocation program. A selection committee from The Idea Village, GNO. Inc. and the New Orleans Business Alliance will choose participants.

“To know New Orleans is to love New Orleans,” Michael Hecht, president and CEO of GNO, Inc., said. “By giving a select group of startups a curated opportunity to come to know the ‘new’ New Orleans, IDEAtours will help bring new, growing companies - and ultimately more jobs - to greater New Orleans.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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