A co-founder of Startup Rhode Island, Danny Angeli has more than 15 years of business-development experience. He is the president of Smartbus Live! And of Wave Technologies, an industry leader of custom designed technology solutions for businesses, homes and government needs in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
PBN: What is Startup RI and how did you get involved?
ANGELI: Startup Rhode Island is a regional initial of the Startup America Partnership. The Startup America Partnership was launched at the White House in 2011 in response to President Barack Obama’s call to celebrate, inspire, and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship throughout the nation. The Partnership is gathering an alliance of major corporations, funders, service providers, mentors and advisors, all working to dramatically increase the prevalence and success of high-growth enterprises in the U.S.
We began contacting the Startup America office last September and have been in touch regularly since then. We saw an opportunity to bring something to Rhode Island that would help strengthen the small business community and work closely with the Startup America team until we were officially given approval to launch on Jan. 31.
PBN: Can you give us an update on what's been going on?
ANGELI: We officially launched Startup Rhode Island on Jan. 31 along with seven other regions. Our event was held at Aspire in Providence and more than 250 people attended to network and hear from our amazing lineup of speakers: Mark Hayward, John Robitaille, Jim Bennett, Josh Fenton and Buddy Cianci. The purpose of the event was to celebrate Rhode Island’s involvement with the partnership. Since then, Gil Lantini and myself travelled to Miami for the regional leaders conference to learn from the successes of other regions and determine what initiatives would be the most beneficial to Rhode Island. The conference was incredibly motivating and inspirational. We’re now almost through the planning stages of the initiative and are ready to officially begin implementing programs into the community.
PBN: Do you have any future events planned?
ANGELI: We will definitely be working on a series of events as part of the Startup Rhode Island initiative. Currently we have two events scheduled. On Wednesday April 4, at 10 a.m., we will be hosting an open discussion forum at the R.I. Convention Center that will serve as a kickoff for the region. Startup America managing director Donna Harris will be joining us from D.C. along with several influential business professionals, educators and startup companies from across our state. We also have an event planned for May 10 at Sons of Liberty Whiskey Distillery in South Kingstown that will feature Scott Case, founding CTO of Priceline and current Startup America CEO.
PBN: How will Startup create jobs?
ANGELI: Anytime you have the chance to help small businesses you increase the opportunity for job creation. Every Startup America region has the ability to take its own unique approach based on the needs of that specific community. One of the most successful programs we have seen is at the University of Miami. They’ve launched a program called Launch Pad that teaches entrepreneurship as a career path to university students and alumni. With the launch of the program, the university has seen an increase in startup activity, job creation and retention of students after graduation. In the past three years over 2,000 students have signed up for the program, making it the most active extracurricular activity on campus outside of sports. We believe a modified version of this program would be a great fit for Rhode Island, which has the benefit of having some of the top schools in the country.
PBN: What type of assistance will you provide?
ANGELI: So far, Startup America assembled more than $1 billion worth of commitments from dozens of partners to support the growth of startups in five key areas: expertise, services, talent, customers and capital. Once startups apply, they can access and manage these resources through a personalized dashboard.
In addition to the product and service focused offerings, Startup America firms gain access to Connection Programs which provide unique opportunities to connect with thought leaders, major corporations (as partners or customers), customers and more.