Major changes in store for Lafayette’s Innov8 festival _lowres

Advocate file photo by BRYAN TUCK -- The 705's Luke Sonnier helps Lafayette Chamber of Commerce Vice President Bruce Conque set up signs outside the Innov8 kick off party in 2014.

The Innov8 Lafayette festival first held three years ago to foster innovation and entrepreneurship is undergoing changes.

In addition to a change of name to Innov8 Acadiana to reflect its regional reach, the organization’s events will be spread across south Louisiana locales instead of just Lafayette.

And Innov8 also now falls under the umbrella of the Community Foundation of Acadiana — a setup that could result in more money flowing into the organization.

In perhaps the most significant change, the festival will be held on weekends throughout the year leading to a “Big Deal Weekend!” in November.

Innov8’s three festivals since its first in 2012 had all been held during the eight days leading into Lafayette’s venerable Festival International de Louisiane.

Pete Prados, director of Innov8 Acadiana, said the organization has decided to “decouple” itself from Festival International.

“It’s a real busy time,” Prados said. “We love Fest and we like to play during Fest. Fest is time for us to dance.”

The exact schedule and layout for Innov8 Acadiana has not yet been determined, but it will feature an enhanced version of one of its signature events.

The event, called “The Vault,” gave entrepreneurs with good ideas and inventions an opportunity to pitch their products to well-heeled investors during one session. This year, though, the competition will be spread out.

Contestants will meet at six “Regional Meetups” across south Louisiana, where people with ideas prepare for the “Big Deal Weekend” to be held Nov. 20-22. At the main competition, contestants will make a pitch to venture capitalists.

The first regional meet is set for May 13 at the Grand Opera House of the South in Crowley. The main event in November will be in Lafayette.

Planning Innov8 Acadiana to be held Nov. 20-22 was deliberate, Prados said: It’s the weekend before Thanksgiving, when Acadiana’s out-of-staters return home for the holidays.

Another popular Innov8 competition is being postponed until April 2016. Cajun Code Fest, which pits computer coders in a competition for the best health care programs, is taking a “sabbatical” in 2015, Prados said.

Prados said Wednesday that organizers continue to flesh out the details for Innov8 Acadiana. But he touted the work that has been done, such as changing the name to Innov8 Acadiana.

“We’re casting a much bigger vision for Acadiana and this whole ecosystem as a place for innovation to thrive,” he said.

Another change is the organization’s connection to the Community Foundation of Acadiana.

“It enhances the credibility of both organizations,” said Raymond Hebert, president and chief executive of the foundation. “Our footprints are aligned. … They are seeking a bigger impact.”

Hebert said Innov8 Acadiana’s affiliation with the foundation allows tax deductions for sponsors and contributors.

Innov8 also has been noticed by economic development agencies Winrock International and Delta Regional Authority, Prados said, which could invest money to help it grow.