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Encouraging Business Innovation in Rhode Island

Monday, April 07, 2014


Just one week removed from a GoLocalProv article about Turning Providence Into an Exciting City to Do Business , the city’s entrepreneurs have resoundingly responded to our call and they are stepping forward to encourage innovation and expansion in the area.

Recently featured in GoLocalProv, the 2014 Rhode Island Business Plan Competition is now in its 15th year. The contest is reminiscent of the popular NBC show, “Shark Tank”, and it will take place throughout the month of April.

During this thirty day period, a panel of ten judges will evaluate the business plans of local men and women. The judges span a full spectrum of the business world, as their careers range from education to investment, and from law to technology. These accomplished professionals, with their own unique work-related experiences and their diverse backgrounds, form a comprehensive coalition of judges who are more than qualified to select the most promising proposals. Each individual who enters their name into this event hopes to receive a lucrative cash prize in order to turn his or her original idea for a start-up company into a reality. The final deadline to submit an application to this competition is at 5 PM on March 31st, and the winners will be announced on May 1st in the Providence Convention Center during a business expo called The Garage. For those interested in learning more about the contest or submitting an application, information can be found at www.ri-bizplan.com.

One Rhode Island company is devoted to helping technology and design entrepreneurs launch new companies year-round. Betaspring is one of the top mentorship-driven startup programs in the region. For the last few years, Betaspring has attracted startups from around the country to embark on an intensive 13-week accelerated program, where the participants quickly transform their already strong ideas into full-scale companies with sufficient funding to get off the ground. In just three years, Betaspring has jump-started 83 companies which have gone on to raise over $32 million in total for their personal projects. This company’s ability to network, to refine products and services, and to offer professional guidance, sets them apart as a mentorship-driven entrepreneurial springboard.

The seed capital which they provide to up-and-coming companies, as well as the access to available outside funding and their free legal counsel, is often enough to get projects off the ground and running. Betaspring’s co-founder and managing partner, Allan Tear, talked with GoLocal about the exciting startups in Rhode Island, “There are some incredible startups in Providence that most people have never heard of, that have raised significant rounds of venture capital and are in hyper-growth mode. The next generation of fast-growth companies include: Sproutel, Nalari Health, Carethread, HealthID, Voltserver, Splitwise, LocusPlay, Premama – just to name a few!”

Tear went on to talk about companies like Betaspring and how events like the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition can help businesses in the state, “The RI economy depends on new venture creation to drive growth. In fact, according to the Kauffman Foundation, all new job creation in the US since 1977 has been driven by new businesses. Betaspring, Founders League, the RI Business Plan Competition, and a host of other initiatives are focused on helping entrepreneurs find the resources they need, plugging them into a like-minding community, and celebrating their successes. Rhode Island thrives when our entrepreneurs thrive.”

Established at the dawn of the new millennium, the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition has consistently ranked in the top 40 business plan competitions in the country. This year, the judges will award prizes valued at over $200,000, which will add to the competition’s grand total of $1.4 million granted to myriad up-and-coming moguls in the past. All-inclusive entrepreneurial events like this one, which are backed by reputable sponsors, inspire innovation and encourage economic development.

In order for Providence to establish itself as exciting city in which to do business, the state’s leaders and the area’s financial frontrunners must continue to foster business-related competitions such as this. If those in control of the city desire to lower the unemployment rate and to placate the harmful effects of “brain drain”, they must encourage brave young men and women to augment commercial activity by proposing new business ventures. The Rhode Island Business Plan Competition is as good of a place as any to start.


Related Slideshow: 10 Historically Bold Moves Made By Big Companies

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10. RJ Reynolds

The Smokeless Cigarette


In 1988, long after the American public wised up to the dangers of cigarettes, RJ Reynolds launched the Premier cigarette. They called it a “smokeless nicotine delivery mechanism that looks and feels like a premium cigarette.” It didn't. Smokers said it tasted like charcoal, and drug users quickly figured out how to use it to smoke crack. It has been reported that RJ Reynolds lost $1 billion on the product.

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9. McDonald's

The McLobster


The alleged lobster roll – no one's sure there was ever any real lobster in there – from McDonald's was about as successful in New England as their McCrabcake was in Maryland. It looked bad, tasted worse, and was shunned by even the most die hard Golden Arches fans. (Unlike the McRib, which continues to have a bewildering trance on McDonald's fans.) The sandwich is still available in some Canadian franchises and occasionally in Maine.

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8. Yahoo

Bans Employees From Working at Home


When Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer became the company’s chief executive, she instated Google-like food options, offered new benefits, and insisted full-time employees work in the office. The tech world was shocked, and Mayer admitted the mandate could diminish productivity. However, she saw an up side.
"People are more productive when they’re alone,” she said at the time. “But they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together. Some of the best ideas come from pulling two different ideas together.”
Now that Yahoo's future looks far brighter than when Mayer started, it seems she was onto something all along.
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7. Sony

Backs Betamax


Sony was right to support Blu-ray over the failed HD DVD, probably because they learned their lesson with the Betamax experience in 1975. That's the year the Betamax video recorder hit stores shelves. A year later, the VHS format hit the market. Sony never licensed its Betamax technology, and the two formats were not compatible. Consumers had to choose between the two. You know how that story ended.
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6. Tesla

Enters the Auto Market with High End Electric


Whoever killed the electric car must not have been looking when the first Tesla Model S cars were sold at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California. The Silicon Valley electric carmaker took the idea of eco-friendly vehicles and turned it into a blueprint for lead-footed success. Tesla's first made-from-scratch car, the electric Model S sedan, received a rare near-perfect score from Consumer Reports. At the time, Bill Ford, the executive chairman of Ford Motor Co., said "My hat's off to them." Tesla has since transformed America's image of electric cars. 
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5. Apple

Fires Steve Jobs


One of the world's most famous college drop outs, Steve Jobs founded Apple, helped it grow into a billion-plus public company, and launched the Macintosh. He was also ousted by Apple's Board of Directors in 1985. The popular take is that the board was stupid to fire Jobs as the leader of the Mac division, because Apple would have more quickly become the company it is today. A new take on the decision posits that the then-30-year old  Jobs was disruptive and incompetent in that role. After 12 years away from the company he founded, he learned the skills and discipline required for Apple's rebirth.

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4. Microsoft

Takes on Sony + Nintendo in the Console Gaming Market


Microsoft has one person to thank for its console gaming success, and that person isn't even real. Master Chief is the hero of the insanely popular "Halo" franchise, which was first released was a launch title with the original Xbox. The game revolutionized First Person Shooters on consoles, and sold millions of consoles along the way. At the time, Microsoft was known as primarily a software company. They may have took a bath on those early consoles, but they now join Sony as one of the two major console makers left standing. (Sorry, Nintendo. The Wii U is going to sink you.)  

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3. Netflix

Changes Pricing Plan


Netflix is back on top now, but it almost went under in 2011 when it mishandled its pricing changes and attempted to slice off it DVD business under the name Qwikster. As they did with the New Coke launch, customers responded with immediate anger, leading Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to apologize. The company reverted to its $7.99 streaming plan and has never looked back.

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2. Ford

Opts out of Government Loans


After Detroit’s automakers went to Washington in 2008 asking for emergency loans to keep their enterprises afloat, the big bus oval was the only one to opt out of the bailout. Ford decided to mortgage all of its assets to raise operating funds instead. Taxpayers eventually spent $80 billion to rescue General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Corp. Ford focused on efficiency and increasing sales without using government bailout  money - thus avoiding the federal tinkering that Chrysler and GM  had to accept as a part of their deals. The company has since kept pace with GM, the country's largest automaker.

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1. Coke

New Coke


Perhaps the most famous brand misstep since Ford's Edsel, New Coke is the Titanic of corporate miscalculation. In the 1970s and early 80s, the soft drink giant faced increased competition from Pepsi and other products. To stay on top, Coke executives stopped production of the classic formula and introduced New Coke with tremendous fanfare. The public's responded with immediate outrage. Coca-Cola re-launched its original formula – called Coca-Cola Classic – almost immediately. Today, unopened cans of New Coke go for hundreds on eBay.


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