University News

Founders League to foster R.I. startup community

Contributing Writer
Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Betaspring, an accelerator program for startup entrepreneurs, announced a partnership Oct. 16 with Brown, the University of Rhode Island and the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce to promote entrepreneurship for students and the larger Rhode Island community. This new program, the Founders League, will foster a startup community in Rhode Island and will host networking and educational events.

“The Founders League is meant to be a resource to enable a high growth of entrepreneurs across their life cycles,” said Allan Tear, co-founder and managing partner of Betaspring

The program will include all types of startups, whether they are in the early stages of development or are more experienced, Tear said. It will support student startups at Brown and URI, and organizers hope to partner with other Rhode Island universities in the future, Tear said. 

In the short term, the Founders League hopes to launch an incubation and “co-working” facility, Tear said. There will also be events to foster an entrepreneurial community, which will be announced next month. 

“We’d really like to create an entrepreneurial campus that draws from the energy of the multiple universities that we have, as well as the growing base of hybrid entrepreneurs in Rhode Island,” Tear said. The objective is “to be the place where entrepreneurs come to for space, for community, for mentorship and for networking,” he said. 

“(The league’s) intention is to serve the Brown community and the community at large,” said Alan Harlam, director of social entrepreneurship at the Swearer Center for Public Service. “It stays true to the notion that what we need is a vibrant entrepreneurial community in Rhode Island that is inclusive of Brown and the other universities but is also rooted in the community.” 

The Founders League is modeled on the Rhode Island Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which started in 2009 and closed its doors this past year. The center ran approximately 40 programs in promotion of entrepreneurship in Rhode Island, said Brendan McNally, associate director of Business, Entrepreneurship and Organizations at Brown and past director of Rhode Island Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. 

“It started with a goal to provide an ecosystem for technology startups for the community in Rhode Island,” McNally said. “Brown was the lead partner both administratively and also financially.” The center was funded by Brown and the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, among others. It closed due to inadequate funding.

Supporting student startups was not a main focus of the center, a fact that differentiates it from the Founders League. McNally said University officials believed there were sufficient programs for entrepreneurship already provided on campus and mainly supported the startups of faculty members, graduates and members of the Rhode Island community. 

“When (the center) shut its doors earlier this year, there was, at the time, discussion that it would continue in some other form,” Harlam said. “Brown has always been involved in trying to foster entrepreneurial community on campus and in the community of Rhode Island.”

Founders League officials want the University to understand that connecting students with professional entrepreneurs “is going to make them more successful and make their experience as entrepreneurs more enriching,” Tear said.

Katherine Gordon, managing director of the Technology Ventures Office, will serve on the steering committee as the University’s representative. 

“It is great that this initiative, started as (the center), has been launched,” Gordon said. “The entrepreneurial community at Brown stands to benefit tremendously by enhanced networking, mentoring, expansion of the ecosystem (and) educational initiatives for fundraising for companies.” 

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