In cities with thriving startup-driven economies – Cambridge, Austin, San Diego – economic activity tends to cluster around entrepreneurship hubs and innovation centers. For example, the Cambridge Innovation Center, which launched in 1999, was a major reason why Kendall Square earned a reputation as “the most innovative square mile on the planet.”
In August, the Providence outpost of the Cambridge Innovation Center (or CIC Providence), the centerpiece of the new 195 Innovation District, opened its doors, providing a full suite of spaces and services for startups. A few months earlier, across town on College Hill, the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship at Brown University moved into its new home at the corner of Thayer Street and Euclid Avenue, a place purpose-built for launching student ventures.
Together, the two institutions represent a major step forward for entrepreneurship in the Creative Capital.
Rebecca Webber, General Manager of CIC Providence, and Danny Warshay, Executive Director of the Nelson Center, share a common goal: to create thriving, entrepreneur-driven communities around these new additions to the Providence skyline.
“Opening CIC Providence represents a culmination, but it’s also a starting point,” explains Webber. “We hope to inform larger conversations about access, community development, and opportunity by igniting economic activity and driving collaboration.”
Warshay sees Brown’s new hub as an opportunity to activate more than just College Hill. “We deliberately open our doors to the broader Rhode Island communities and partner with entrepreneurship-focused organizations,” he says. “One of the valuable outcomes of our programming is that some of the startup ventures stay in Rhode Island and contribute to its economy.”
In the coming year, Warshay will publish a book on his signature Entrepreneurial Process, on which he already teaches a course at Brown, and the Nelson Center’s Young Entrepreneurs of Providence program will send student leaders out to mentor local high school students with an interest in entrepreneurship.
“I hope CIC is seen as an important part of the community, a welcoming place for people to grow their ideas,” she says. “Much like the pedestrian bridge that connects our neighborhood to the East Side, I hope we connect a robust community of innovators, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders.”