Innovate South: Fostering Lafayette’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Destin Ortego, Director of the Opportunity Machine, and Rodney Hess, Vice President of Rally Marketing, joined Discover Lafayette to discuss Innovate South, which will take place November 13 – 15, 2019 during National Entrepreneur Month. It’s all about building entrepreneurship in Lafayette!

Entrepreneurs, startup founders and small business owners from all over the Gulf South will come together to learn and share innovative best practices in business and marketing. The event is organized by the Opportunity Machine, an initiative of Lafayette Economic Development Authority.

“There are people coming to this event who have ideas but can’t execute upon those ideas until they have investors backing that idea. This is not just an event about learning, it’s an event about networking with other people who you could eventually create something with. We’re going to kick off the event with “What value are you creating for your customers? A lot of companies seem to forget over time that they went into business to solve problems that their customers experience.” Destin Ortego

Lafayette has historically had a “wildcatter mentality” in the oil and gas sector, and today an entrepreneurial ecosystem is also flourishing in its healthcare and technology sectors. How do you build a culture that works for the initial five employees and sustain it for the 5000 people you eventually employ? Whether you are an accountant, attorney, techie, or healthcare employer, how do you grow your business in a way that sustains your vision for helping your clients?

This inaugural Innovate South aims to build upon the creative momentum being experienced in the region and will offer a diverse array of local and national speakers addressing the key issues facing start-ups as well as experienced businesses. Destin Ortego’s vision for the event is to be a catalyst for a “melting pot of innovation,” and create synergy by bringing in outside ideas and combining them with the rich talent already based here.

The event kicks off with networking Wednesday evening at Rock’n’Bowl de Lafayette. Startup and Small Business Day on Thursday, November 14, will provide opportunities to foster networking, exchange ideas peer-to-peer, and present ways to identify and create solutions for problems your customers may have. The overriding question should always be “What value am I bringing to my customers and how can I best solve their problems,” according to Ortego. Participants are guaranteed to walk away from each presentation with at least three to five concrete ideas on how to execute ideas shared by the speakers.


The Get Started Medical Pitch Competition is a live forum and pitch competition open to the public and presented by Cox Business in partnership with Lafayette General Health and the Opportunity Machine on November 14 at 6:30 pm at the Acadiana Center for the Arts. Register here.

The Get Started Medical Pitch Competition is being sponsored by Cox Business, and conducted in partnership with Lafayette General Health. Cox is underwriting a $20,000 cash prize to be awarded at the Thursday evening event. Forty medical start-ups from around the country applied and the eight finalists will compete in Shark Tank-style by presenting their idea in two-and-a-half-minutes before a live audience. The top candidates were selected based upon the stage of development of the idea being pitched, the potential viability of what Lafayette has to offer the company, how much money the company has raised, and the company’s growth potential. The hope is that the companies will locate their headquarters in Lafayette as a couple of other past Medical Pitch contestants have done. Admission is free but you must pre-register here.

Digital Marketing Day on November 15 will appeal to any size organization or individual interested in growing their business or personal “brand”. Brand is not just a logo but is defined as “whatever the public says about you,” according to Hess. The day will provide guidance on best digital marketing techniques, relationship building in the digital age, and “winning the inbox.”

Registration is affordable and tickets for Startup Day or Digital Marketing Day may be purchased individually for $40, or an Innovate Pass may be purchased to cover both days for $60. Interested in attending? Sign-up on Eventbrite here.

Discover Lafayette’s sponsor and chief supporter, Chris Rader of Rader Solutions, was one of the first graduates of the Opportunity Machine and is a big proponent of fostering the growth of other start-ups and creating wealth in our community. The work of the OM in mentoring the creation of Discover Lafayette’s podcast is also greatly appreciated. In particular, we’d like to give a shout out to the OM’s past Director, Zachary Barker, for his creative guidance in navigating the startup process!

Discover Lafayette is grateful for the following sponsors of this podcast: