Providence: Best City to Found a Startup and Raise Kids

Providence earned a spot in two major lists this week, including "The 10 Best Cities to Raise Kids in America" and "2015's Best Cities to Found a Startup."

So someone's having a great week… Oh wait, it's all of us! Providence was named one of the top fifteen cities to start a business in the nation, and we’re not surprised. According to DataFox Digest, Providence landed at number 15 in the list of “2015's Best Cities to Found a Startup Outside Silicon Valley and New York (and How They Did It).

DataFox had this to say about Providence:

15. Providence, RI

A 45-minute train ride from Boston, and just down the hill from Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence's downtown area hosts a number of burgeoning startups. Though Rhode Island's economy took a hit during the recession, its tech scene remains a bright spot and source of pride. The cost of living is much lower than nearby Boston, and Providence boasts intellectual and cultural capital to spare. The city stands out in our study for the rapid growth of its young startups, as well as its affordability high density of entrepreneurs.

Key strategy: Specialize around existing strengths 

Providence already had a vibrant music and arts community, anchored by RISD, one of the top design schools in the country. Add in Brown's [medical] school and bent towards social entrepreneurship, and you've got a city tailor-made for design and socially impactful companies. The city also boasts a low cost of living, so recent graduates can start ventures while still paying the bills. Providence is doubling down on young founders: Rhode Island offers loan forgiveness for entrepreneurs who start businesses in tech and design. Recognizing the specialized output of local universities, Providence has established itself as a leader in social entrepreneurship and design.

With so many business incubators and mentors available to aspiring entrepreneurs and students, the city and state is poised for growth in a big way. There’s also Rhode Island School of Design, Brown University, Johnson and Wales University and Rhode Island College located within the city with new graduates entering the job force every year.

Providence has Betaspring which has worked with eighty-nine high-growth startups and managed a portfolio of companies that has raised more than $50 million-plus in follow-on funding, and there’s the newer RevUp program, an “accelerator for ‘revenue-first’ companies — ventures where growth through revenue is the primary goal.” RevUp companies receive $75,000 in cash and immersion in a three-month program focused on increasing customer acquisition and revenue, according to the site.

There’s the Business Innovation Factory, which "aims to transform education, healthcare and government through human-centered business model innovation." There’s the Social Enterprise Greenhouse, which “creates positive social and economic impacts by supporting social entrepreneurs and enterprises with the tools and networks they need to thrive.” There's DESIGNxRI and its new Providence Design Catalyst grant program, "the first design business grant program aimed at catalyzing small design business growth in the City of Providence by providing seed capital, mentoring and technical assistance." The program is a partnership between DESIGNxRI, Rhode Island School of Design, the City of Providence and Social Enterprise Greenhouse. Then let’s not forget about Hope and Main in nearby Warren, Rhode Island’s first culinary business maker, which has helped more than fifty local food businesses get off the ground, including many businesses created by Providence residents.

Not only are there many great companies for assisting startups, but there are great workplaces, too, like the Hatch Entrepreneurial Center, with office facilities, conference rooms and meeting spaces for early-stage companies. ANCHOR is a hotspot for entrepreneurs, small companies and startups that seek shared resources and community. For many artists and other startup businesses, there is also Hope Artiste Village in nearby Pawtucket.

So let’s keep the streak going, Providence, and inspire more self-starters and more of our recent graduates to start new businesses and call Providence home.

And yes, we mean “home,” because it turns out Providence is also the number one city to raise kids in America. A Destination Tips article, “Top 10 Cities to Raise Kids in America,” had this to say about Providence:

“Home to Ivy League Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island makes a solid spot to raise a family. It has lots of big city amenities, but with a small town feel. Along with many historic attractions that celebrate the nation’s colonial past, Providence boasts many safe neighborhoods, excellent primary and secondary schools, and beautiful scenery. Seasonal events, museums, and a fun zoo add to the city’s family-friendly appeal.”