LEDA/Opportunity Machine

Hello, 2017! Although 2016 presented us with many challenges, it also laid the foundation for lots of exciting opportunities in the year ahead.

by Zachary Barker

Although 2016 presented us with many challenges, it also laid the foundation for lots of exciting opportunities in the year ahead.

2016 has flooding to the continued energy been a very challenging and sometimes painful year — from downturn to elections, we have faced many challenges head on in Acadiana. In our true wildcatter spirit, we’ve faced these opportunities together. In Acadiana, we’re innovators. We’re resilient. And, we’re some of the most talented individuals in the country.

From my perspective, I see that personified in the recent OM Entrepreneur Expo, which provided a showcase for more than 20 entrepreneurial companies from the area. These are the companies forging the future of economic diversification and resilience against future downturns. These are the people and companies that will be hiring our graduates and attracting new workforce to the region.

Many of the Expo participants fall into the “tech sector.” Last month, we highlighted Elliot Green and the TANTRUM team who showcased their virtual reality driving experience at the Expo. Calvin Fabre and Envoc created immersive experiences in virtual and augmented reality. We utilized Total Reboot’s Social Wi-Fi to capture critical social data from users who logged onto the system. Scott Huber’s Accolades IT group demonstrated its robust 24-hour turnaround website for startups.


Some of the participants and OM members can also be described as “innovators” or “creators.” These are people challenging the current system with new solutions, new ways and new ideas. Wayne Nix of RNVention has created a medical tool that can replace individual instruments with one product — think Swiss Army knife so nurses don’t have to search for tools before caring for patients.

Aerobotics, founded by Dacoda Bartles, has added services to its drone company and grown its team. Previously focused on feature film production, they now work with government entities and private land owners for large scale property surveys. This company, like its industry, is on a rapid growth trajectory and poised to explode into the next level.

Mike Davis founded Excellion 3D with a focus on custom 3D printers and printing solutions. His custom designed 3D printing machines allow for non-traditional printing sizes, as well as non-traditional printing outputs. “Pushing the envelope is what we do best,” says Davis. “From designs to sales pursuits, we are seeking to ruffle some feathers.”


With more than $4 million dollars in funding received by OM members in 2016, entrepreneurism continues to thrive in Acadiana. Last month, INNOV8 Acadiana announced it was the recipient of a $1.45 million grant from the Economic Development Administration. With Winrock International, INNOV8 will lead the Accelerate Acadiana program over the next 18 months, creating more opportunity for entrepreneurial growth in the region.


Today more than ever, technology and health care are leading economic drivers for diversification and prosperity. As we consider what’s in store for 2017, we look to our local entrepreneurs for inspiration.

In 2017, I believe we will see a focus on developing a workforce to fill the jobs created in these sectors. We may see coding academies arrive in an effort to supplement the needs of our rapidly growing tech community. We may see the rise of e-commerce within the local retail sector in an effort to even the playing field with national online retailers. We may see international opportunities for local service providers in Scotland, New Zealand and France. We may even see you. See you take that great idea and turn it into action. See you turn it into a business. See you turn it into the next big thing.

Yes indeed, 2016 has been humbling but exciting year. I cannot wait to see what 2017 has in store for us.

Zachary Barker is executive director of the Opportunity Machine, a LEDA backed initiative that focuses on cultivating Lafayette’s entrepreneurial and technology based industries.