Williamson sees the city as a laboratory of innovation and change.
"I think that this is a moment in time and history where we're right in the middle of a renaissance period, where the next generation of economic and civic leadership is being nurtured and cultivated here in New Orleans," Williamson said.
Entrepreneurs here say the community engagement, spurred by the Katrina and Isaac recovery efforts, is what makes New Orleans different.
It's why Jennifer Medbery chose New Orleans as home to her startup. A Connecticut native and Columbia University graduate, Medbery moved to New Orleans in 2008 and taught at a charter school for one year before launching Kickboard, software that provides a centralized location for teachers to record their students' progress. New Orleans has the largest proportion of students -- almost 80% -- attending charter schools of any city in the nation.
Medbery believes the entrepreneurial spirit in New Orleans is unique.
"The entire entrepreneurial ecosystem in New Orleans understands that when one rises, we all rise. And so as a community, business leaders here are very committed to each other's success, because it's all part of New Orleans redefining itself."