Nieux Society: Creativity and Technology Unlocking a Renaissance in New Orleans

Nieux Society: Creativity and Technology Unlocking a Renaissance in New Orleans

Viewing Jackson Square in New Orleans through gates. Photo by Mary Hammel

Posted May 22, 2024

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Tim Williamson thinks a lot about what it would take to spawn a golden age of creativity in New Orleans.  As the founder of Nieux Society, Williamson set out to harness technology, creators and financiers to catalyze a new era of food, art, music and culture—New Orleans’ calling cards to the rest of the world—but on a technological and entrepreneurial foundation.  Nieux Society is not your typical business incubator.  It’s quirky, like New Orleans.  Almost as crazy as starting a city in a swamp and that’s exactly what Williamson did in 2022.

“I love New Orleans. We are the most creative city in the world,”  Williamson says.  “Our artists need to make more money.  We think technology can help them. Whether it’s blockchain, whether it’s NFTs, whether it’s AI—all these new tools can allow our creators to create new revenue streams,” believes Williamson. “If indeed our creators make more money. You’re going to start to see a flywheel of innovation in the city.”

New Orleans musicians playing instruments on the street at night.

New Orleans musicians playing instruments on the street at night. Photo by Robson Hatsukami Morgan

Drawing from his experience leading The New Orleans Times-Picayune—the city’s newspaper of record—into the digital age in 2016-2018 and launching Idea Village to help seed entrepreneurship in New Orleans in the early 2000s—Williamson set out to build Nieux Society on a deep sense of place—prominently on display for the world to see—with a network of creators and capital fueling entrepreneurial innovation in New Orleans.

What is Nieux Society?

“Nieux Society is actually a global collective of people who have a common connectivity to New Orleans. It’s a group looking to explore what’s next in terms of technology and innovation,” states Williamson. Whether it’s the latest iteration of the internet, blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI) or non-fungible tokens (NFTs), Williamson believes that the way to transform New Orleans is with a diverse group of entrepreneurs being out in front of these transformative technologies who understand that premise and are willing to take risk.

“New Orleans, in a sense, became a startup city the day after Katrina happened. Everyone became an entrepreneur. You had to rebuild a university, you had to rebuild businesses, you had to rebuild everything,” Williamson reflects.  A city as steeped in history as New Orleans, it can become complacent, insular and lose its way over the course of more than 300 years.

“I think there’s just a new generation where there’s a sense of possibility. But every city in America should be thinking about what they’re going to be. And I think that New Orleans can be what we think New Orleans can be,” says Williamson. “We’ve got two competitive advantages over everybody–our sense of community and our creativity. Those are two things where we are arguably the best in the world. I’ve never seen a city that connects like we do. It all year round, where they connect multi-generational for over 200 years.”

Mardi Gras masks.

Mardi Gras masks. Photo by tommao wang

A City Connected by Its Calendar

What Williamson is referring to is the cultural calendar—deeply embedded in the city’s DNA– that serves as a platform for people to connect across class, communities, cultures, economic, racial and educational lines. Williamson believes this cultural calendar serves as a platform to showcase the rhythms and rituals of a diverse New Orleans’ not only to each other but to the rest of the world.

“There’s a cadence to how we connect. January-February is Mardi Gras. March, we sort of take [time] off, and then April-May, French Quarter fest, Jazz fest–all these festivals,”  notes Williamson. “The summer comes and that’s hurricane season. Then around August-September, Saints season, and all the high school football. There’s a rhythm and a ritual to how we organize. And that rhythm of ritual is pre booked in everyone’s calendar, and it’s multi-generational.”

For the longest time, this calendar has drawn millions of people to New Orleans for the good times and sent them home with memories that last a lifetime.  According to Williamson, this has created a global community of ambassadors who love New Orleans, and he wants Nieux Society to be in the vanguard of a movement to connect people, encourage them to move to New Orleans and create a Golden Age where tourism, culture, art and entrepreneurship coalesce to build a better, even more dynamic city.

More Than A Tourist City

Williamson says:  ”This is not just a great place to visit. You can live here and you can do whatever you want. You can work here or you can have a job around the world. There’s arguably no better place to be connected to the food, the music, the culture. From a tourism standpoint, there’s more than just a party here, and I think there’s an opportunity to invite people in. Part of what Nieux Society says is come on in. It’s not just New Orleans. It’s people around the world who are part of New Orleans’s history and are now part of her movement. Once you’re part of that, you’re part of New Orleans, then you become ambassadors where it’s not just a party.”

Williamson’s  pitch is not so much a hard sell about starting and building a successful business in New Orleans.  It’s more subtle than that, relying literally and figuratively on  a bit of “Voodoo Magic” to accomplish that. One of the first projects of Nieux Society was to help bounce rap artist Big Freddia use blockchain and NFTs to promote a song called “Voodoo Magic” to 504 Nieux Society members and investors—a song that could only be purchased with a NFT from Nieux Society.  This allowed Williamson to put to the test one of the foundational principles of Nieux Society—trust and inclusion—while helping promote art and culture with one of the city’s leading musical ambassadors.

“Using an NFT as the foundation for the community, everyone has a vote. It’s inclusive because anybody can buy it or sell it. You can’t control it, right? And it’s creating a common brand that connects everybody. So, the question is, can technology create the ability for diverse folks to make a decision? And it’s on the blockchain. So, it’s transparency and decision making. You’re building trust,”  says Williamson.

A Transformation Emerged in the Wake of Katrina

“With the first 504, the goal was to build a diverse group of folks whose connectivity to New Orleans. But it is as diverse of a group as I’ve been around within the city, from all parts of the city, musicians and artists,” shares Williamson. But the seeds were sown for this transformation in the wake of Katrina, when according to Williamson, a group of home-grown entrepreneurs began clustering in New Orleans and creating a Gulf Coast version of Silicon Valley around 2010.

Since 2021, there have been $2.5 billion worth of acquisitions of tech companies born in the Crescent City. Tech companies founded in New Orleans such as Lucid, Levelset, Turbo Squid and Kickboard have been acquired and in turn, enriched their founders. With Nieux Society, Williamson looks to see more of this spread through a more diverse group of creatives and entrepreneurs.

Williamson believes tourism has helped to shift New Orleans from a “what if it fails” mindset to a “what if it works” one. Williamson says the spirit of Nieux Society that has taken hold in New Orleans is: “If it doesn’t work, we’ll keep trying it because New Orleans is a city that has survived, that has thrived. Our music, food and art is all about improvisation. Improvisation and trying over and over again. Why can’t we be that city that says, what if it works, we’re going to be out there doing it. If it doesn’t, we still love it. We still love our place.”

Learn more about Nieux Society here.


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  • Ian Fitzpatrick, Esq., is the co-founder of World Footprints, a platform dedicated to social impact travel storytelling. He is an accomplished travel and business journalist, award-winning podcaster, and public speaker. Ian contributes to DETOUR magazine and his articles have been featured in AAA World, The Lens, and The Miami Herald. An aviation and architecture enthusiast, Ian is also an avid supporter of Baltimore sports teams.