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Betaspring open house draws politicians, mentors

Senators, representatives and other government officials addressed a packed room Sept. 27 at the fall open house for Betaspring, a startup accelerator located in Providence's Knowledge District. The audience energetically welcomed the 13 new startups participating in Betaspring's fall session.
Betaspring helps fledgling startups by connecting them with mentors and resources during an intensive 12-week program. It selects about 20 companies from an applicant pool of more than 500 for sessions held in the fall and spring, said Mike Rowan, vice president of research and development for SendGrid and a mentor for Betaspring. When the 13 new startups complete the program in November, Betaspring will have served a total of 57 startups.
The companies spend their 12 weeks meeting regularly with mentors, presenting their product to customers and testing and refining their business models. At the end of the program, the companies present their product to investors to gauge interest in their product. Betaspring expects one-third of its companies to fail within two years of graduation, while the other two-thirds usually remain on fast or sustainable growth paths, according to its website.
At the event, the chief executive officers of the 13 startups gave 30-second elevator pitches about their companies. They were preceded by speeches from Betaspring's founder and managing partner, Allan Tear, as well as from sponsors and officials.   
Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., both praised Betaspring in their opening comments, heralding the organization for bringing young, ambitious CEOs to Rhode Island, especially in the current struggling economy.
"You make Rhode Island look great," Whitehouse said.
Rep. David Cicilline '83, D-R.I. also applauded Betaspring and expressed hope that the fledgling startups would keep their businesses in Rhode Island.
"You'll all stay here as you develop your companies and come to enjoy this beautiful city and state," he said.
If the companies remain in Providence for 12 months after the program's completion, they will become eligible for a $50,000 equity investment from the city of Providence, according to the Betaspring website.
The introduction also featured updates from alumni companies such as Sproutel, which developed a character called Jerry the Bear, a stuffed bear with diabetes to help diabetic children learn how to cope with their disease. Sproutel recently raised $300,000 at a fundraising drive and is currently developing a new product.
The new startups included AutoBike, which developed an automatically shifting bicycle, and Crunchbutton, a food-delivery app based on a database of the best food and restaurants in a community.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee '75 P'14 also addressed the crowd before the companies were introduced.
"With (Betaspring's) help, we'll make Rhode Island a hip, hip, happening place," he said.


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