As many of you know, the New Orleans Business Alliance recently released ProsperityNOLA, a five-year strategic plan for the city’s economic growth. To highlight the importance of this plan, we at EMH have decided to showcase a few of our city’s most promising companies in each of the 5 industry clusters featured in the plan: Advanced Manufacturing, BioInnovation and Health Services, Creative Digital Media, Sustainable Industries, and Transportation Trade & Logistics.
To kick off our series, we decided to start with a company in the Creative Digital Media cluster. Though the region is perhaps most well known for attracting film and television producers, creative digital media also refers to sound recording, advertising, software development and graphic design. To learn more, EMH Associate Alison Schmitt sat down with Denis Petrov of New Orleans-based IDScan.net, a high-growth IT startup for customer data collection, age verification, and list management. What began as just a side project of co-founders Denis Petrov and Andrey Stanovnov ten years ago has now grown into a cash-flow positive and greatly successful software company that provides the technology for scanning identification cards such as drivers licenses, frequent buyer cards, and security IDs. Clients of IDScan.net include Tesla, IBM, the Federal Reserve Bank, and Polaris Industries.
Q (Alison): Why did you decide to start your business here in New Orleans?
A (Denis): I moved here straight from Russia to attend graduate school at UNO, and have been here ever since.
Q (Alison): What advantages are there to working in New Orleans?
A (Denis): Right now I find the NOLA tech scene to be absolutely fascinating. Our office is located in the IP building which serves as a unique tech hub—the region is called “Silicon Bayou” for good reason. We benefit from the IP Building’s various seminars—where else can you see Google Glass? We selected a local company to handle our website re-design, which just a few years ago it would have been unheard of to not offshore that type of work. We are actually now starting to in-shore our development team because the cost of foreign developers has risen so much in recent years. New Orleans’s cluster of technology and marketing companies, and the growing number of young people living and working here, has allowed us to source locally.
Q (Alison): Do you see any disadvantages to locating here?
A (Denis): I don’t believe the local government appreciates small businesses and IT enough. They say they support us, but there aren’t enough concrete incentives. But I’m optimistic that the improving business climate will allow the government to take action in the near future.
Q (Alison): What do you think New Orleans needs to offer to attract future entrepreneurs to develop a sustainable digital media/software industry here?
A (Denis): The city could offer more tax incentives that are clearly marked for IT. As a different approach, perhaps the state could provide a business incubator offering free rent and support to software and digital media companies as a way to encourage young entrepreneurs to move here or stay rooted.
Q (Alison): What are you currently working on? Any exciting new accounts?
A (Denis): We recently launched a mobile scanning device for iPhones and iPads to supplement our traditional desktop and portable scanners. And we just landed a contract with the California Police Department to add to our growing list of clients such as Tesla, Murphy Oil, and the National Guard. It’s an exciting time for us!
Because of innovative companies like IDScan.net, the future for software and other digital media in New Orleans looks bright. Denis’ story is a testament to the great universities we have that attract talent to the region. However, there is a strong need for continued local support and expanded incentives to keep these budding companies here. While many tax incentives are available in the creative digital media arena, it is clear from our conversation with Denis that these tax credits should be expanded to include software developers outside of the video game and film space. Reforming incentives for this industry is a long-term goal of ProsperityNOLA, and will require collaboration between business and public interests at the local, state, and federal levels. As long as we can continue to attract and retain talented tech businesses, New Orleans will be able to truly flourish as the Silicon Bayou.