Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: Providence, RI

Providence, RI

Founded in 1636, Providence is one of the oldest cities in the USA and the third-largest city in New England.

Providence, RI, is the state’s capital and largest city, as well as the third-largest city in all of New England. Founded in 1636, it’s one of the oldest cities in the country. While Providence isn’t necessarily the same manufacturing powerhouse that it was in its early days, but it still has a healthy economic environment. That’s especially true for business owners and entrepreneurs, who can find a variety of resources designed to support them.

Back in 2017, a list published on Inc.com named Providence the third-best city in the country to start a business. More recently, Business.org listed the city 36th on its list of the best cities for women to start a business. Similarly, Forbes released a study in 2019 of the top 5 cities with the most female entrepreneurs, with Providence in third place. Finally, while Providence didn’t appear on WalletHub’s list of the best small cities to start a business, East Providence was 290th on the list, with a ranking of 76th in the “Business Environment” category.

Based on these rankings, FundingSage has reviewed the resources that make up Providence’s entrepreneurial ecosystem:

Entrepreneurial Meetups:

Providence is home to one location of Network After Work, an organization that hosts monthly networking events in cities all across the country.

As its name suggests, the meetup group that works specifically to support local entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs and business owners in the area can attend the Rhode Island Business Networking group’s weekly networking meetings.

The Women’s Business Networking Meetup group provides an opportunity for area women to meet one another, make connections and work together.


Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

Hosted just down the road in Warwick, the Ocean State Business Expo is an annual networking opportunity and showcase for Rhode Island-based small businesses.

Every year, Brown University hosts Startup@Brown, a day-long conference celebrating and supporting startups and entrepreneurship.

Venture Café hosts weekly Thursday Café Nights, combinations of networking opportunities, educational workshops, advising opportunities and more.


Startup Competitions:

Students at Brown University can compete in the school’s Brown Venture Prize competition, with a chance to win $50,000.

Organized by Cox Business, Get Started Rhode Island is an annual startup competition, with the 2020 edition promising $50,000 in prizes.

High school students throughout Rhode Island have the opportunity to win thousands of dollars in scholarships in the Lt. Governor’s Entrepreneurship Challenge.

Founded in 2000, this is an annual opportunity for entrepreneurs in the state to compete for cash and services worth at least $150,000.

February 2020 marked Venture Café’s first Pitch Night contest, a small pitch competition that offers a prize of $1,000.


Co-working Spaces:

Located in the Pawtuxet Village area of nearby Cranston, CoLab offers several co-working memberships and hosts regular events for members.

Hatch Entrepreneurial Center is a coworking space that offers a traditional membership plan as well as an entrepreneurial suite membership level.

Sprout CoWorking is a coworking space with two locations in Providence and Warren that provides several membership levels with different price levels and perks.



Brown University organizes several “makerspaces” for its students, including physical workshops, multimedia labs and more.

Down the road in South Kingstown, the University of Rhode Island offers an “academically-focused” makerspace for use by the school’s students and faculty.

Ocean State Maker Mill is a makerspace located in Pawtucket that provides members access to a large workshop and hosts regular events and classes.



Located in Warren, Hope & Main is an incubator program that works to develop promising early-stage food businesses located in the area.

The University of Rhode Island runs the Rhode Island Small Business Development Center, which provides startups with support services to help them grow.

The Social Enterprise Greenhouse runs an incubator program with the goal of supporting startups that make a positive social impact.



Founded in 2018, MassChallenge’s Rhode Island accelerator program that provides unique training for each member and up to $100,000 in cash.

NEMIC is a program based in Providence that works to support and accelerate Med Tech startups throughout the state and New England as a whole.

In addition to an incubator program, the Social Enterprise Greenhouse also runs an accelerator program to support social-impact startups.



Brown University organizes a wide variety of resources for entrepreneurial students, ranging from classes to competitions to lectures and more.

Students at Johnson & Wales University have the opportunity to earn a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration with a focus on entrepreneurship.

Providence College provides students interested in entrepreneurship with a minor program in Business and Innovation as well as other resources and opportunities.

Down the road a bit outside of Providence, the University of Rhode Island offers a major in Innovation and Entrepreneurship.


Angel Groups/VCs:

Based in Providence, Cherrystone Angel Group invests in early-stage startup companies, primarily those located throughout New England.

The goal of RevUp Capital is to invest in B2B and B2C companies, usually investing between $100,000 and $250,000 in them.

The Slater Technology Fund invests in promising early-stage technology startups located throughout the state of Rhode Island.


Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

The Brown Entrepreneurship Program offers a newsletter focusing on entrepreneurship news at the university and the surrounding region.

Providence Business News offers its readers digital subscriptions as well as two newsletters, Morning Call and Daily Edition.

Rhode Island Small Business Journal, which covers business and entrepreneurship news throughout the state, offers email updates for those interested.


Are you familiar with the entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in Providence, RI not included in the article above?  If so, let us know via a comment below and we will add it to the article. 

Interested in Ecosystem Spotlights of other cities in the USA?

Lansing, MI, Worcester, MA, New York, NY

Quinn Pilkey

Quinn is a journalism major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also serves as a freelance author for Hashtag Basketball where he writes about the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and at FundingSage where he researches and writes about entrepreneurial ecosystems.