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Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week Highlights Capital Region’s Growing Startup Culture

During his keynote address at Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week, Waitr founder and CEO Chris Meaux recounted how his 25-year journey through multiple ventures led him to one of the most successful entrepreneurial success stories in Louisiana history. His talk came two days before the food-delivery startup went public, a milestone Meaux said he would savor.

“Just think about what that means: A technology company born in Louisiana is now going to be among the best technology companies in the world on the Nasdaq stock exchange,” he told the crowd of fellow entrepreneurs who gathered at the Louisiana Emerging Technology Center on LSU’s campus.

Just over 24 hours later, as Meaux’s dream of taking a company public was nearly upon him, a group of entrepreneurs were beginning their startup journeys, pitching their business ideas to a panel of judges and vying for a $10,000 prize as part of Get Started Louisiana Pitch Night.

Both happenings were part of BREW, a series of events, panels and keynotes designed to help entrepreneurs in the capital area enhance and grow their businesses.

Entrepreneur Day

BREW kicked off Nov. 13 with festivities showcasing the tremendous innovations, products and services being created by Baton Rouge entrepreneurs. That was followed Nov. 14 by Entrepreneur Day, where entrepreneurs of all types had the opportunity to address the core challenges of their businesses, whether they are scaling up or just starting out. The event offered opportunities to connect with potential collaborators, mentors and even investors.

It also also featured insights from amazing entrepreneurs, such as Jill Nelson, who as founder and CEO of Ruby Receptionists has guided the Oregon tech company from tiny startup to thriving 500-person organization in the past 15 years.

During her keynote talk, Nelson said that while technology is of course important in her line of work, “the human side is what wins the business,” and that a focus on customer service and human connections has helped the company grow. “It is vitally important that you know what it is you're doing and hire people that are truly inspired to be there,” said Nelson, who later held a meet-and-greet with BREW attendees.

Entrepreneur Day also featured a number of fascinating panels, covering topics from entrepreneurship for creatives to angel investing to lessons learned in product/market fit. The afternoon sessions were geared more toward scale-up entrepreneurs and business owners looking to grow their companies rapidly.

Just the Beginning

BREW concluded on Nov. 15 with Get Started Louisiana Pitch Night, an annual pitch competition, sponsored by Cox Business in partnership with PitchBR and Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week.

After Baton Rouge-based biotech startup Hera Health Solutions took the $10,000 prize for its  promising biodegradable drug-delivery implant, Wendy Overton, director of programs at NexusLA, urged the crowd at The Water Campus in downtown Baton Rouge to seek out the resources available for entrepreneurs from NexusLA and the Louisiana Technology Park.

“If you’re an entrepreneur, you need to let us know what you need, because we’re going to help you,” Overton said. “If you are related to an entrepreneur, support an entrepreneur or you want to be one, you need to connect with us. We are better as a community when we all work together.”

A growing wave of talent and companies is driving a thriving entrepreneurial community in Baton Rouge — and events like BREW are facilitating the connections and ideas that will help it continue to grow. As Overton told the Pitch Night crowd, “Baton Rouge entrepreneurship is on a journey. This is just the beginning.”

Stephen Loy