A pair of Rhode Island School of Design graduates recently completed an accelerator/incubator facility on Providence’s West Side for design professionals, a potential prototype for a similar development in the city’s nascent Knowledge District.
Matt Grigsby and Asher Dunn spent about two years working on the concept of Anchor LLC, which opened in August and is about 60 percent leased, Grigsby said.
The Providence Foundation, the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce and other stakeholders are eyeing Anchor and “other local facilities” to determine the feasibility of establishing a similar “high-service, design-focused accelerator” in the Knowledge District, the Chamber said.
The potential for such an incubator is one of several goals included in the Chamber’s latest “action agenda” for the Knowledge District. Other initiatives include creating a development framework for downtown and the Knowledge District.
Grigsby told Providence Business News he and Dunn developed their incubator on their own, with traditional funding and no government subsidies, to support the art and design community. The 13,000 square feet of space in a former factory is not an accelerator for business development in the traditional sense, Grigsby said.
“The purpose of Anchor is to create a collaborative community for entrepreneurs and startups,” he said. “Unlike an accelerator that offers an official program for tenants, we offer desk spaces, office spaces and art studios where individuals can share, not only resources, but also business contacts, knowledge and programming.”
Grigsby said he loves what is happening in the Knowledge District and would have set up Anchor there, but an extensive search for a suitable building revealed the West Side as the best option for his resources. He noted Anchor is within walking distance of the Knowledge District and offers “affordable space.”
“We spent a lot of time working on our financial model and we made sure we are providing the right amount of space at the right prices,” Grigsby said. A similar incubator/accelerator in the Knowledge District probably would be more expensive to develop and require financial subsidies.
In 2010, 4,000 square feet of incubator office space opened at the Rhode Island Center for Innovation and Enterprise (RI-CIE) at Davol Square in the Knowledge District and now houses 10 startups in individual offices and desk spaces for 12 entrepreneurs.