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Opportunity Machine 2019 in Review

Opportunity Machine 2019 in Review

2019 was a remarkable year for the Opportunity Machine. We experienced strident growth in many areas – including a 33% jump in membership – and kicked off the inaugural Innovate South conference, a three-day event that welcomed entrepreneurs from across the country.

The OM, with the support of our parent organization, the Lafayette Economic Development Authority, laid plans for 2020 and beyond for an innovation center in downtown Lafayette. The OM’s future home will provide more space and state-of-the-art technology for our members in an urban environment. We expect December 2020 to be the move-in period at 314 Jefferson St. The multistory building at one time housed the Knight’s and Lee’s furniture stores but had fallen into a state of disrepair before LEDA purchased it. Architects are finalizing the plans for construction that’s set to begin this spring.

We reached our goals in 2019 by adhering to a 21st century business tenant: collaboration. Cox Business joined the OM as the presenting sponsor for Innovate South in downtown Lafayette. Our partners in innovation included LEDA, Rally Marketing, and Downtown Lafayette Unlimited. Almost 600 attendees flowed through the Acadiana Center for the Arts to network and take part in discussions on venture capital, marketing, business culture, getting their businesses name in front of potential customers, and other business essentials.

  One startup profited immediately. Knoxville, Tennessee-based Winter Innovations deposited $20,000 after winning the Shark Tank-style Get Started Medical Pitch that closed out the second day of the conference.

“Having a conference like this is important to the city of Lafayette as we continue to diversify the number and type of businesses that are here,” Laurel Hess, CEO of hampr, told the Lafayette news affiliate of CBS. “Knowing it’s only going to grow in the next year is really important to the growth of the city.”

Other 2019 OM highlights:

Company graduations: Four companies at the OM struck out on their own.

  • Aerobotics founders DaCoda Bartels and Eric Langlinais moved their offshore drone inspection company out of the OM to an office in River Ranch after being acquired by Grand Isle Shipyard. The company is now called the Aerobotics Drone Division of Grand Isle Shipyard.
  • NeuroRescue, which won the 2018 Get Started Medical pitch competition, moved their medical device company out of the OM in June and into offices in Lafayette’s Oil Center. Co-founder Robert Maher and others at the company developed the therapeutic cooling collar to be a fast-acting blood cooler for trauma victims.
  • ThinkGenetic also graduated from the OM in 2019. The company uses genetic sampling to test for diseases, find causes for symptoms, and to answer questions customers might have about their genetic origins.
  • Touchstone ABA left the OM in August and set up shop near the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The company specializes in helping children and adults diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and individuals with learning and language differences and other behavioral challenges. Credentialed staff provides research driven therapy using applied behavior analysis.
The OM also grew in terms of membership, going from 64 companies at the start of last year to 85 to closeout 2019, a 33 percent boost. We expect that number to continue to climb, especially when we move into the downtown Innovation Center.
  And the OM forged partnerships with worthwhile organizations, including Junior Achievement of Acadiana, which won the statewide Trust Your Crazy Idea Challengecompetition for the second year in a row. Lafayette will be the host city for both the local and state competitions in 2020.

New partners include the 24 Hour Citizen Project, which connects people with community-focused ideas with expertise and financial backers to better the Lafayette community; Cox Business and Rally Marketing, both of which were vital in the creation of Innovate South; and InvestAcadiana, which will bring investors, developers, community partners, and OZ project pitchers together at OZ Pitch Fest 2020. The OM and LEDA continued our partnership with the AcA for ArtSpark, a stipend and education program for Acadiana artists.

OM offered three, nine-week Small Business Boot Camps in 2019 at no cost to the public. Some 617 entrepreneurs attended a total of 28 sessions on topics such as branding, pricing, business law, accounting and legal taught by volunteer trainers.

The first Small Business Boot Camp of 2020 begins on February 11 at the LITE. We will host our summer boot camp in South Lafayette and fall boot camp in North Lafayette, dates and locations TBD.