THE BLOG
02/28/2013 05:19 pm ET | Updated Apr 30, 2013

Belief: Katrina Sparks a Startup Renaissance

By Patrick Comer, CEO and Founder of Federated Sample in New Orleans

New Orleans is a city and culture rediscovering itself as a spark of unique, radiant energy to be shared with the rest of the world. The city's rising from the ashes of Katrina has not happened overnight and started as the result of pure necessity. For decades, NOLA had become stagnant and lacked opportunity and optimism. This historically creative city had grown complacent, not innovative. When Katrina hit, the city was left with nothing more than damaged infrastructure and morale.

Out of this destruction came a focused and fiery belief that New Orleans and its people can reclaim new glory. Katrina forced the city and the nation to wake up and reconsider the values, mission, and purpose of the Big Easy. We liked what we saw. We believed again. The Greater New Orleans region, once known to house pioneers and innovators, was back. Now, New Orleans is one of the fastest and most interesting startup cities because it's not limited to technology. We are rebooting everything: education, shipping, advanced manufacturing, media, and of course, fast-growing technology startups.

In entrepreneurship, belief that you could, should, and ought to do something extraordinary is the hardest and first hurdle to success. No one holds your hand in a startup. The environment is fast paced, uncertain, and ever-changing. You must find internal resilience and continual self-worth. One lesson we learned with Katrina, is that no one is going to hold our hand either. The hurricane has created a culture of required entrepreneurship. It inspired the belief and the necessity to pick up the proverbial bootstraps and make things happen, anyway.

When I first arrived in Louisiana in 2008 after living in Los Angeles, I quickly noticed that I couldn't just tap into the VC community or jump into the next start-up. I was one of the first crop of experienced business executives that came to NOLA post-Katrina, only to realize that the city didn't have the professional infrastructure to pay our salaries and provide exceptional career growth. Rather than look for work elsewhere, I started Federated Sample, one of many new ventures created out of belief, necessity, and opportunity.

Venture for America fundamentally stands for the belief that the road less traveled makes all the difference. Why sell your soul for a paycheck and well-trodden path in investment banking, private equity, or consulting? Sure, you may add a "zero" to your annual salary, but are you really invested in what you are doing beyond the monetary compensation? VFA is impactful to its cities and companies because it instills the belief in our country's top young talent that they can and will make a difference. That is entrepreneurship at its core. That is New Orleans at its core. And making a difference is exactly what the New Orleans VFA Fellows are doing. Not only are the Fellows contributing immensely to their placement companies, they are also adding value to the city. Mike Mayer and Billy Schrero, two 2012 VFA Fellows in NOLA, co-founded Startup Effect, an enrichment program that teaches entrepreneurship in middle schools.

As the CEO of Federated Sample, the fastest growing tech startup in NOLA, I see how the city and region is changing and believing. Federated Sample aims to completely automate and streamline the online market research process. If you asked people 5 years ago if a market research technology company would find a home in New Orleans, they would have laughed. And to be honest, some did. But, I saw how the city was evolving and believed whole-heartedly in what I was doing. Now, Federated Sample is at 40 employees and skyrocketing, and the city is blossoming. From Katrina, to the Super Bowl, to our 300-year anniversary in 2018, New Orleans is alive, and its renaissance is now.

Rejoice! Here comes the band! WHO DAT!

Patrick Comer is CEO and founder of Federated Sample, a firm founded in 2010 dedicated to bringing efficiency and automation to the market research sampling industry. Patrick has ten years of experience with start-ups as a founder, investor, and executive with over seven years experience in the market research industry. As a Venture for America partner company, Federated Sample employs 2012 VFA Fellow Mike Mayer, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012 with a degree in Finance. To support Venture for America as part of the JobRaising Challenge, please visit our page and make a contribution today.