10 to Watch

Dan Gertrudes

Founder of GrowthLab


• 39 years old
• Pawtucket native and first generation Portuguese-American
• Lives on the East Side with his wife and children, who attend public school
• Is on the Parent Advisory Council for the Providence Public School Department and an advisor to the Providence Children & Youth Cabinet

• Serves as treasurer for the Portuguese School at the Portuguese Social Club of Pawtucket

How He Got Our Attention
By living the dream. Gertrudes left behind corporate life to strike out on his own as an entrepreneur. He spent nine years at Textron, doing work that varied from finance to investor relations to corporate development. “I’ve gone through this 10-15 year career development, always having an entrepreneurial twist to what I was doing,” he explains. “I’m going to use this as an opportunity to do something for me – something ‘start-uppy.’” That something is GrowthLab, a consultancy that helps small, entrepreneur-driven start-ups in Providence, Cambridge and New York learn to play in bigger sandboxes. This means helping them articulate business strategies, write executive summaries, craft investor pitch decks – essentially creating the marketing materials to convince investors and venture capitalists that a company is for real. He also functions as an interim chief financial officer, allowing small companies to outsource an executive leadership position on a temporary basis. Gertrudes sums up the idea behind GrowthLab simply: “I have these skills and start-ups need this help.”

Why He Might Scare You
Because, in a post-38 Studios world, he’s clamoring for state government to aggressively advocate in the private sector. He sees great potential for economic revival in Rhode Island’s entrepreneurship community, and calls on the government to nurture that not only through policy and financial support, but also by drawing attention to it. “It’s not that we’re that bad. We just need help bringing it all together,” he maintains. “What we need is a cheerleader because people don’t know about it.” What’s missing, he says, is “long-term, sustainable policy that’s not driven by who’s in office or perceived performance.” He adds, “You can’t measure policy the same way you measure financial performance.” He worries that that kind of simple return-on-investment mentality, coupled with a post-38 Studio gun-shyness about government investment in the private sector, could take the heat off of what’s beginning to percolate in the start-up community. “The number one pillar of any economy is confidence,” he declares. “38 Studios is not the reality. That’s an anomaly. Every state has its 38 Studios. I’ll be mad as hell if what we have today [in the start-up community] goes away because we weren’t willing to support it.”

How He Will Do His Part
By trying to help small, often unstable start-ups mature into the next Swipely, Ximedica or Teespring. He refers to GrowthLab as an experiment, and notes that what sets him apart is not his skills, but rather his dedication to nurturing entrepreneurial spirit. “There are millions of people who know how to do what I do – spreadsheet jockeys,” he jokes. “We need people, community, and government to help propel that spirit. It starts by saying, ‘It’s okay to graduate college and go start a business.’ There’s never a bad time to start up. People just need to feel like it’s okay to take on that risk.”


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