Businesses compete for cash during N.O.'s Entrepreneur Week - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Businesses compete for cash during N.O.'s Entrepreneur Week

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Entrepreneurs are being asked to show off their inventions and ideas, with the best ones winning a cash prize.

On Monday at Gallier Hall, judges of the Water Challenge were looking for ways to better use the water that surrounds New Orleans.

"Oyster shells - calcium carbonate - is the same material as limestone rock, so you are literally letting nature make you a living rock," said competitor Tyler Ortego. He hopes to win $50,000 for his business, Ora Estuaries. "We patented a method of growing oyster reefs into engineered coastal protection structures."

The silty soils near the Gulf are soft and unable to support heavy rock. Ora Estuaries builds an oyster-friendly concrete base that distributes weight more easily and is cemented together with the oysters.

The Idea Village and The Greater New Orleans Foundation sponsored the contest as part of Entrepreneur Week.

"This is the best access point for any entrepreneur in New Orleans to come and get to know some of these companies that are providing resources for you," said Victoria Adams, director of content for the event. "It's important for us to be at the forefront of the conversation that is taking place as it relates to innovation within the water space and really elevating New Orleans as a leader within that space."

David Culpepper runs Nanofex, a company that uses sugar and crawfish shells to make tiny carbon particles. Those particles get deep into the ground to decontaminate soil and ground water. It was the inaugural Water Challenge winner four years ago.

"Without the money we won through the Water Challenge, and next year the Tulane Challenge, we probably wouldn't be in business now," Culpepper said. "Our goal this year is to hopefully secure a contract with the Department of Energy."

The Water Challenge offers new companies a little financial backing and a lot of exposure in the hope of keeping Louisiana out in front in the industry. The challenge is just one event during Entrepreneur Week. Events take place daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Gallier Hall. They are free and open to the public.

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