Back to the Big Easy?

Not many places in the world can compete with a New Orleans Jazz Fest weekend like this one. As the last notes of Trombone Shorty closed things out Sunday — you couldn’t help but feel fortunate to live here and enjoy our amazing natural resources of music, food, culture and people.

All this ending a week with a feather in our caps that NOLA isn’t just a place for a party, but it’s a place to build a tech company like Lucid and host a conference like Collision that is at the forefront of global innovation.

Except, I spent a lot of the weekend answering the question, “will Collision be back?”

A few years ago I had lunch with Kurt Weigle from the DDD and the CIO of CenturyLink. The agenda for the lunch was simple — for Louisiana to be considered a legitimate tech community, we needed a world-class technology conference in New Orleans. At this time, I was running TribeCon and Launch Fest, recruiting tech leaders to mentor startups, share their stories and speak at our events. I knew first-hand how hard it was to put on a conference and get support from the community.

Fast forward to today, and we’ve got just that in Collision. And as a word of warning, I’ll just leave this Cinderella song right here.

Last week I met several economic development folks including a mayor’s chief of staff from cities from all over North America — all who were here in New Orleans to recruit Collision to their city. The barbarians were at our gates.

The event was a success, great speakers, record numbers, tweets that showcased the best parts of the event and the city. The NOLA folks who helped make Collision what it it was this year — Matt Wolfe, Adele Tiblier, Gerard Ramos, Travis Laurendine, Peter Bodenheimer, GNO Inc, Lucid, the ACE Hotel, Launch Pad, Walter Isaacson, Steve Gleason, Kevin Lin and many more — you are the pillars of the community who make New Orleans the right home for Collision.

When we come together as a community for a single purpose we are unstoppable — we built a tech scene out of the ashes of Katrina in a place where the old way was the only way. We created companies like Lucid, and organizations like 4.0 Schools not to mention hundreds of new ventures that are just getting started. We need to act together and showcase all the magic New Orleans has to offer.

Our achilles heel as a city is the potential for complacency. Are we starting to reclaim the meaning of our nickname “the Big Easy?”

I’m not — so consider this my call to action.

Michael Hecht, Matt Wolfe and I are going to put together a proposal that showcases our assets and most of all, our heart — no committee meetings, no agendas, no egos — here are a few ideas to get things started.

New Orleans needs to be more than a fantastic backdrop to the world’s fastest growing tech conference.
  1. Partners — GNO Inc, NOCVB, NOLA BA, DDD, Idea Village, The City of New Orleans, LED, I’m calling on you to help recruit real sponsorship support from the business community. You want to be a leading city, then start leading; GE, CenturyLink, local startups should all be a part of Collision. The fact that the only local partners to the conference this year were Lucid, GNO Inc, and Launch Pad is simply not going to cut it. We don’t have the corporate HQ’s of a city like Atlanta and Dallas, so we’re going to have to punch above our weight class on this one.
  2. Community Attendees — Why doesn’t Shell or Entergy commit to buying blocks of tickets to hand out to high schools across New Orleans. Let’s help entrepreneurs who are pitching all year participate in the pitch tracks. Let’s give students, and young people starting their careers the opportunity to attend a conference that inspires entrepreneurship that happens to be down the block.
  3. Local Media — How often does the closing bell of the NASDAQ get rung from New Orleans? How often do you have the most important VC of our generation retire and take the stage in New Orleans to discuss it?, which has been great at covering the entrepreneurship beat, didn’t cover it. Where were the TV Cameras, the coverage, the local hero highlights? The future of this city requires a local media that exposes our fellow citizens to the promise of technology.

New Orleans, we’ve come along way since Katrina, but progress never stops — having the Collision Conference here is a gift to our community, and if we get the privilege to host them next year — I’m looking for your ideas to help make the most of this platform for the city, and to showcase to the world that good old fashioned NOLA hospitality!

If you want the answer to the other question “what do you get out of it?” — I get the privilege to represent New Orleans on the world’s stage, and to help bring opportunity to the city I love.

Ya heard?

I’m open to any and all feedback on this and welcome your experience with Collision last week and ways we can improve. Please email or tweet me @cschultz. If you’re interested in taking the lead on something, please let me know, there’s plenty to do. One way you can be helpful is by sharing this post. Thank you.