When you hear ‘startup accelerator,’ do you think of Providence, Rhode Island? Maybe you should. Betaspring is an accelerator program based out of the “Creative Capital,” as the city of Providence has branded itself.
Whether or not you’ve even ever been to Providence, consider taking a look at Betaspring. Melissa Withers, the accelerator’s chief of staff and ‘nerd whisperer’, says, “Thus far, about two thirds of our companies are from the East Coast (Boston, New York, Philly, New Jersey, etc). About a third have come from other parts of the country. Fifteen of the sixteen companies from the spring session, which wrapped in April, have decided to stay in Providence, but the number of companies that stay varies from session to session. What matters most to us is that a company locate where they can be successful. If that’s in Providence, all the better!”
The city has proven to be a particularly good location for startups, as Withers points out. “Aside from being a great place to live, the entrepreneurial community is close knit and very supportive, making it easy for our companies to quickly connect with advisors, customers, partners, etc. As part of the larger East Coast ecosystem, we’re less than an hour from Boston and a short train ride from NYC, but startup costs are lower here.” Betaspring has had to work hard to promote Providence, but it’s hard to argue with access to Boston and New York at a fraction of the cost of living in either of those cities.
For startups that join Betaspring, there’s a little less of an emphasis on cash than there is for some of the other accelerators out there. While the accelerator provides up to $20,000 in startup capital, there’s even more value in terms of mentorship — entrepreneurs, industry experts, investors, lawyers and design experts are all available for advice through the accelerator. As Withers explains, “Our job is to help each company get to where they want to be, as quickly as possible. A strong network of mentors and advisors enables companies to do in twelve weeks what might otherwise take a year. For startups, being able to tap into resources and learn from others is priceless.”
Betaspring holds fall and spring sessions, lasting twelve weeks each. “We work with companies in three clusters: internet/mobile, gaming and physical technology. We select for companies can businesses that can scale nationally or globally. We also look closely at team dynamic. Is a team mentorable? Is the co-founder dynamic healthy? Will the company be a good fit with the larger cohort? These factors are important to success in the accelerator and beyond,” says Withers. “There’s no substitute for a strong team that has the right balance of skills and a healthy dynamic. Starting a company is a roller coaster–the highs are really high and the lows are really low. It takes commitment, strength of character and a whole lotta hustle to make it though. Teams that are imbalanced or rife with internal conflict have a long road ahead of them.”