Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week, known as BREW, is revamping the annual event to entice more attendees from business owners to potential investors to mingle and learn.
Last year, about 500 people attended. This year it is expected to run from Nov. 12-15 inside the The Raising Cane's River Center.
NexusLA organizes the event, which began in 2011. This year plans include a series of panel discussions and small group sessions over several days. The goal is for every event to be relevant to running a high-growth business, which may be a technology startup or even a food-related enterprise.
NexusLA has plans to host a semi-final round of its pitch competition that's a closed-door session with judges, some of whom are investors, to better prepare entrepreneurs and give the individuals more time to hone business plans.
The pitch competition prize has not yet been disclosed; in prior years it was $10,000. The final pitches will be open to the public.
"Too often pitch events can be just a big show. Our hope is that we are doing something more powerful and effective by giving a chance for entrepreneurs to get feedback from the judges and dig into their financials and business model," said Wendy Overton, director of programs for NexusLA. "The value (of the event) comes from the connections with passionate entrepreneurs so they can learn from their peers."
This year, winners of the pitch competition may also see commitment from angel investors alongside the cash, she said. There have been renewed efforts to stand up an angel investor network in Louisiana in recent months.
The state even has an economic incentive program that offers a 25% tax credit to accredited investors who chip in equity stakes to startups certified by Louisiana Economic Development as entrepreneurial businesses. The limit is up to $720,000 each year and no more than $1.44 million total.
"We really need an active angel investor network," Overton said. "Our hope is that there will be investors in the crowd"of the pitch competition.
The organization is currently taking nominations for speakers this year and the hope is that the event "reflects our community" in terms of diversity of gender and race — not only those who are most networked or high-profile, she said.
The annual Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week kicks off next week with programming tailored to the needs of "entrepreneurs on the rise."