PowerPlayer: Betaspring’s Allan Tear

Monday, May 07, 2012


This week’s PowerPlayer is Betaspring co-founder Allan Tear. Mr. Tear was kind enough to chat with GoLocalProv about what Rhode Island is doing right and how the state can continue to embrace entrepreneurship.

1) Too often we focus on all that is going wrong with Rhode Island. Tell us about what's we're doing right.

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We have some really great, unique talent here and our entrepreneurial community is among the most accessible I have ever seen. The startups I work with genuinely like to help each other--there is a strong recognition among the CEOs that our strength as individuals and as companies is tied to our collective wellbeing. The New England entrepreneurial community is hardwired into that idea and that's something we do right. Also, we are beginning to see leadership coalesce around good, big ideas that stretch across traditional partisan and political boundaries. I have a lot of respect for how hard it is to govern in these difficult times and I do not take the support we receive for granted.

2) Providence has been known as an artist's hub for a while, but you're working to make it a place that welcomes entrepreneurs. What makes Providence a great place for startups?

I'd start by saying artists are very entrepreneurial and certainly among the cohort of entrepreneurs Rhode Island must recruit and retain. Imagine if we can help more of our artists and designers create scaleable businesses--think of Alex and Ani as a prime example. It's a mistake to think that when we talk about entrepreneurs we are talking only about information technology geeks. The startup landscape is far more diverse than that. That's one of the things that makes Providence such a vibrant place to work and live. We have a world class creatives side-by-side with engineers, computer geeks, social entrepreneurs, scientists, and so on. Providence is a beautiful city with a cultural vibe that is attractive to startups. Plus, we have personality in spades. This is why 15 of the 16 companies that completed the Betaspring accelerator in April have decided to stay in Providence (and only four of them were from Rhode Island to begin with).

3) Take us through a day in your life.

I try to get up before my kids and putter around, catch up on news for an hour or so before the day gets going. I get the kids to school and dive into a full day. I love my job and the people I work with. We all share a passion for building things and deeply believe in Providence's potential. I try to spend some time helping our current portfolio of 44 startups, recruiting new talent to our next session, and building the Betaspring buzz with our community partners and investors. I like to end the day eating and drinking something great (thank you Rhode Island culinary heroes!) or hanging out with my kids.

4) You recently won an innovation fellowship from the RI Foundation. Tell us about what you plan to do with your $300,000.

Entrepreneurs have always defined Rhode Island and startups are the way that our state will recover to build a prosperous future. Enabling a startup economy will also nable us to play a different economic “game” where we compete by using the unique assets that we have all around us. With my fellowship I will create a platform for high-growth entrepreneurship in Rhode Island’s unique but currently under-leveraged economic clusters, including art and design, food and beverage, advanced manufacturing, and social impact ventures. My project will energize these emerging clusters, create accelerator models that match their needs, and connect these expanded communities of entrepreneurship to a broader ecosystem of scalable startups that will create new jobs. My 2015 goal is to have three emergent startup clusters with energized leaders, generating scalable new companies at a continuous pace, finding the resources that they need, and plugging into a supportive community.

To accomplish this, I will broadly follow the pattern that drove the growth of Rhode Island’s Internet and digital media cluster. In the mid 2000’s, this cluster was a disconnected group of individual companies that were not recognized as a force in the state's economy. Over several years and through phases, Rhode Island’s technology cluster grew to become organized and effective, even through the Great Recession. We are now “punching above our weight class,” with a nationally known startup accelerator program, a group of well-funded and recognized high growth startups, and a tightly integrated community of entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, and community players. The time is now to take what we have learned and expand this work to other high-potential clusters of our economy. I am very grateful for this opportunity and sincerely thank the Carter family and the Rhode Island Foundation for launching the program. It's such a positive step forward in encouraging people to explore big ideas.

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5) Tell us something nobody knows about you.

My first entrepreneurial venture was a paper route empire. I was great at delivery, but not so good at collecting the money. My mom was my first CFO. She wouldn’t let me go hang out with my friends until I went door to door and got my accounts current. I shouldn’t reveal this, because it will give my business partners new ways to keep me in line...

Quick Hitters

Role Model: Lots. I meet entrepreneurs every day that inspire me.
Favorite Restaurant: La Laiterie
Best Beach: Horseneck or East Matunuck
Best Book You've Read in the Last Year: Game of Thrones
Advice for the next Allan Tear: Just start something.


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