Private funds should support startups

Helping talented local entrepreneurs succeed is a good economic-development strategy. More

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PBN Editorial

Private funds should support startups

Posted 3/17/14

Helping talented local entrepreneurs succeed is a good economic-development strategy.

One tool to do that is the accelerator, and Rhode Island has two that have good records in their short histories. Betaspring was named the 11th-best startup accelerator in the United States at the most recent South by Southwest Interactive conference and has graduated 83 companies since its founding in 2009. Social Enterprise Greenhouse (formerly Social Venture Partners Rhode Island) supports more than 150 social ventures, many of them graduates of its own 12-week accelerator program.

So when Providence’s design and startup community announced it was spearheading the formation of a new accelerator to support commercial design entrepreneurs, there was no doubt it was good news. Design is one of the region’s true competitive advantages, and anything that builds on that should be encouraged.

But the issue now is funding. While there is some public funding available to help the project get off the ground, what is really needed is private capital.

Reticence to spend public money is not just about being gun-shy after the 38 Studios LLC debacle. Rather, there are enough infrastructure and education investments Rhode Island needs and not enough capital to cover them. And if the public sector wants to help the business sector, it should spend more energy (and money) on improving the state’s regulatory regime. That will accelerate a lot of businesses. •

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