Providence, RI – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse announced today that startup collaboration The Founders League and Social Enterprise Greenhouse (SEG) have been awarded a $200,000 grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. The grant will fund Rhode Island StartZone, a statewide program to link talented students and graduates from local colleges and universities with the resources they need to start their own company or social enterprise in Rhode Island.
Whitehouse invited the Blackstone Charitable Foundation staff to visit Rhode Island in May 2014 to meet with Rhode Island stakeholders, including a roundtable co-hosted by the Providence Chamber of Commerce. After the visit, the Founders League and SEG developed a strong grant submission that was one of 20 selected from over 500 applications to Blackstone’s Innovation Grants program, which funds initiatives and entrepreneurial organizations that promote innovation and benefit local communities.
“Rhode Island has colleges and research universities that attract good students from around the country, but these bright and talented young people too often leave us after graduation. Convincing them to stay in our communities, work with our startups and social enterprises, and launch their own ventures will be a real boost to our state,” said Whitehouse. “Congratulations to The Founders League and Social Enterprise Greenhouse on a successful application, and thanks to the Blackstone Charitable Foundation for this investment in Rhode Island.”
“The Blackstone Charitable Foundation applauds Senator Whitehouse for his tireless efforts fostering entrepreneurship in Rhode Island and attracting corporate foundation support for local initiatives,” said Amy Stursberg, Executive Director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. “We are pleased to fund the promising collaboration between The Founders League and Social Enterprise Greenhouse to build Rhode Island’s StartZone. Our experience funding innovative entrepreneurship programs around the country has taught us that sowing the seeds of entrepreneurship among young people at the college level can have a profound impact on local economies.”
“We could not be more proud to partner with Senator Whitehouse and work together in support of entrepreneurship in Rhode Island,” said Blackstone President and COO Tony James. “The Founders League and Social Enterprise Greenhouse have demonstrated an impressive ability to cultivate entrepreneurs, and we look forward to supporting them as they build a robust network of entrepreneurial activity statewide through StartZone.”
StartZone will engage students through on-campus outreach, a web-based “dashboard” for collecting helpful information, visits to local ventures and entrepreneurs, conferences, mentoring and advising, and speaking programs.
“Startups are more than an interesting outlier in our economy: they are a powerful driver of job growth, a tool for retaining talent, and a magnet for attracting capital investment. With help from our partners, we’ve made great strides in reinvigorating our focus on entrepreneurship. Better integrating our state’s young people into this economy is a great opportunity to take another big leap forward. We are honored to receive this award from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation and are thrilled to expand the Founders League in new and exciting ways,” said Melissa Withers, Founders League Director.
“We are thrilled that such a highly regarded international investment firm has chosen to support social enterprise in Rhode Island. With our progressive policymakers and local universities leading the charge, Rhode Island has become a national model of the power of social enterprise. This grant will allow Social Enterprise Greenhouse to work with students to launch and grow great local companies, that will make our communities more prosperous, resilient and equitable,” said SEG CEO Kelly Ramirez.
“Thanks to the efforts of the Founders League, Social Enterprise Greenhouse, Senator Whitehouse and the Chamber’s Innovation Providence initiative, we now have an opportunity to strengthen the flow of talent and energy fueling the success of Rhode Island startups. By better connecting students and recent graduates with startups throughout the state, Rhode Island will be able to create jobs, retain a world-class workforce and grow our economy,” said Laurie White, president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce. “The Chamber is pleased that discussions begun through Innovation Providence eventually culminated in funding to establish a statewide platform for channeling students to innovation-driven ventures.”
The Founders League is one of the largest startup support platforms in Southeastern New England and the largest in Rhode Island. Started in 2012, The Founders League is a partnership between Betaspring, Brown University, the Providence Chamber of Commerce and the University of Rhode Island. It directly serves 60 startups via shared working space and resources and has hosted more than 1,200 entrepreneurs for events that range from casual programming, competition, and open events, to one-on-one mentoring and startup acceleration.
Headquartered in Providence’s Knowledge District, Social Enterprise Greenhouse provides social entrepreneurs and ventures with the services they need to move from idea to execution to scale. This includes incubation, acceleration, later stage strategy and financial services, and below market rate loan funding.