Sunny days Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2009
Finalist
Technology

Kenneth E. Purcell has a New Orleans story.

It’s a story about being creative and energetic, but it is also a story about raging storms that nearly ruined everything.

Purcell founded iSeatz in 1999 as a provider of restaurant reservation interface. The original idea had some flaws, however, and, when the tech bubble crashed and Sept. 11 limited the possibilities of nearly every start-up, the young company’s outlook was bleak.

Luckily, the company struck a deal with Orbitz and was able to rebuild. With the incoming challenges that the new relationship brought about, Purcell was able to rework his business model, and eventually, iSeatz helped revolutionize the way Internet booking is used today. Soon after, other big travel companies came calling, and it seemed like a dream had been realized for Purcell.

Around that time, however, Hurricane Katrina changed everything for businesses all over New Orleans. When the storm hit, Purcell’s company was able to stay online, but its entire accounting system was destroyed and a great deal of information was lost for nearly a year. With the city itself in limbo, the home in which iSeatz was rebuilt was very nearly washed away.

The company moved to New York on an interim basis and got back to business. With more tweakings of the business model, iSeatz actually did more than live through a hardship, it grew. But when New Orleans began to rebuild itself, Purcell felt a special pull to the city. He returned his company to the city and maintains a special bond to the New Orleans community to this day. The company is devoted to giving back to the region’s re-emerging economy after the devastation of the hurricane. As the company has grown, it has helped to rebuild the city by bringing in new people, as nearly 90 percent of iSeatz employees have now relocated to New Orleans.

How to reach: iSeatz, (504) 586-1234 or www.iseatz.com