Lafayette, LA – Today, representatives from the Lafayette Economic Development Authority (LEDA), Opportunity Machine (OM), Downtown Development Authority (DDA), and elected officials gathered to celebrate the grand opening of Opportunity Machine’s new downtown location at 314 Jefferson St.
The building, which was historically Knight’s/Lee’s Furniture Store and then Karma Nightclub, is now a newly renovated 22,000 square foot state-of-the-art office building offering community workspace, private desk space, private office spaces ranging from 100 to 900 square feet, conference and training rooms, 24-hour key card access, high-speed fiber internet, use of whiteboards and AV equipment, and other amenities all centrally located in Downtown Lafayette.
“This state-of-the-art facility will support the Opportunity Machine’s goal of establishing itself as one of the best business incubators in the South,” said Mandi D. Mitchell, LEDA President and CEO. “Being located in Downtown Lafayette will benefit OM members and existing businesses by strengthening downtown’s vibrant ecosystem and igniting business growth potential.”
With the move into this space, Opportunity Machine will continue to provide small business support and resources and will expand programming to reach the high growth startup community. Even with the numerous resources available to small businesses in Acadiana, a gap exists in the resources and support provided to high growth startups, especially those in tech and STEM focused areas. This expansion in programming will bridge that gap and help create momentum for startups in Lafayette Parish.
“The total economic impact of the Opportunity Machine is over $164 million,” Tom Cox, President & Chairman of the OM Board of Directors, said. “Impressive impact, but we are still in the early innings of this effort. This grand opening today establishes a permanent home for OM that will help chart our course to become one of the most impactful economic development-based startup centers in the south.”
Opportunity Machine offers consulting for entrepreneurs— guiding them from the idea stage to the creation of commercially viable products, businesses, and cross-functional founding teams. OM plans to expand this work into more structured programs this year. The OM team is working closely with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Office of Innovation Management as the combined organizations host a National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps program, instructed by LSU commercialization experts, which guides participants through the business model canvas and customer discovery process to help early-stage startups find product-market fit. The spring cohort kicked off in March with 11 teams working on an array of STEM related projects.
Complementary to the National Science Foundation I-Corps program, Opportunity Machine plans to host its own Customer Discovery Program for early-stage businesses that do not qualify for the NSF program but still need the business education and support to find product-market fit and gain momentum quickly. This program is set to welcome its first cohort later this year and run multiple times a year following its launch.
Destin Ortego, Executive Director at Opportunity Machine, commented “Our goal in expanding programming in this direction is to encourage people with ideas to explore those ideas from a business and startup perspective. Research shows that to get 20 fundable startup ideas, on average a community needs to generate 1,000 ideas and narrow the list from there. Our goal is to help people develop and navigate through ideas to reach a fundable high growth startup idea as quickly as possible.”
For those looking to explore their business ideas, applications to become an Opportunity Machine Incubated Member can be found at opportunitymachine.org/membership. Applicants accepted into the incubator program can receive access to additional office space, programming (including the Customer Discovery Program), perks, discounts, mentorship, and waived membership fees.
In recent years, several OM members have graduated and established operations in Lafayette, serving customers across the U.S., including Rader Solutions, Digital Twin Studios, and FlyGuys. With these and other OM alumni operating across Acadiana, OM looks forward to continuing the work of helping its current and future member companies scale and add to that list. One notable current OM member is Hampr, a Techstars-backed, on-demand laundry solution that delivers fresh, folded laundry within 24 hours. The service has thousands of users, has scaled to over seven states in under two years, and continues to scale rapidly. Hampr is a fantastic example of the type of rapid growth and momentum Opportunity Machine aims to facilitate for startups with its strategic new programming.
“The relocation of the Opportunity Machine to Jefferson Street in Downtown Lafayette will inject even more entrepreneurial and creative energy to our central business district due to the 80+ OM member businesses who will show up downtown every day focused on strengthening their business and creating jobs,” said Anita Begnaud, CEO of Downtown Development Authority (DDA). “Numerous OM graduates, representing several hundred employees, have made the decision to locate their permanent offices downtown after graduating from the OM. We look forward to this trend continuing, and the OM being a major driver in downtown’s job growth, development, and revitalization efforts for years to come.”
“Opportunity Machine is another critical tool in our arsenal to help incubate small business growth, entrepreneurship, and attract diverse business in Lafayette,” said Josh Guillory, Lafayette Mayor-President. “Relocating and expanding downtown further expands our economy, which, in turn, improves quality of life, making Lafayette a premiere business destination.”