In the nearly six months since Rhode Island Inno’s official debut, we’ve worked to showcase the people, companies and trends that are helping transform the Ocean State into a burgeoning innovation and startup hub.
And, today, we wanted to highlight 50 of them.
We are pleased to introduce our inaugural 50 on Fire, a celebration of the early-stage businesses, enterprises and innovators who are doing especial work to set the ecosystem ablaze.
We’ve written about some of them, and will continue to do so until the party we’re hosting February 8 to celebrate the finalists. (Tickets are on sale; keep your eyes peeled for the official announcement about location, too.) At the event, there will be networking, libations and bites, as well as the reveal of the seven Blazers. From now until the event, we will have a panel of judges select the “Inno Blazer” in each category (one each), which will be announced live at 50. We look forward to celebrating the entire 50 on Fire with the Providence and Rhode Island tech and startup communities on February 8. We hope to see all of you there.
And now, we’re so pleased to announce our 50 on Fire.
Brittanny Taylor Photography: Taylor’s photography work is more than just beautiful art: she uses her talents with nonprofits like The Lady Project and Crossroads Rhode Island, and her expertise as a branding coach with the startup she co-founded, The Branding Edit.
DesignxRI: This nonprofit economic development organization helps coalesce in-state design talent, and this year announced a partnership with the city of Providence, RISD and Real Jobs RI for the rebirth the Design Catalyst. It’s an application-based funding program that aims to help small, Providence-based design businesses get a leg up.
POP Uprise: Via creative social media and pop-up events, POP Uprise highlights various Rhode Island causes and enterprises with its unique marketing methods.
Tino Chow: A Rhode Island School of Design graduate (where he created the Better World by Design conference), Chow has long been an advocate for Rhode Island design entrepreneurship. His most recent venture includes founding Giant Shoulders, a studio that aims to create “unified experiences” between entrepreneurs and innovators.
Dana Borrelli-Murray: Murray is the executive director of The Highlander Institute, an education nonprofit aimed at creating and sharing innovative learning methods. Under her leadership, the Institute has grown in its reputation as a national leader for education, and as such received a $1 million grant this year from New Profit, a program created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
Ethan Binder: Both a junior at Lafayette College and a born-and-raised Rhode Islander, Binder is also the CEO of GoPeer. It’s a platform designed to connect high school students with local, college-age tutors, and it made its official debut this fall. Since then, the service has gained more than 200 college-student users from Brown and RISD.
Innovate Newport: This venture brings together the City of Newport, the Newport County Chamber of Commerce and The Economic Development Foundation of Rhode Island to rebuild the Sheffield School into an innovation center. This year, the team has brought the project to the next stage by opening construction proposals in September.
IntraCity Geeks: Under the leadership of its founder and executive director, Arnell Milhouse, ICG is group committed to computer science and entrepreneurial education. It boasts tech meetups, career development opportunities, and Providence’s first hackathon, HackPVD.
Kevin Parker: As director of government innovation, Parker leads the Rhode Island Office of Innovation as it spearheads innovative projects at the state level, such as its Open Textbooks initiative and its Digital “One Stop” project.
The Metropolitan Regional Career And Technical Center: A network of six public schools in Providence and Newport, the Met looks to use “Big Picture Learning” to better “educate and empower youth through relentless commitment to student-centered learning and personal growth.” Its South Providence campus boasts a 3,600 square-foot Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, equipped with an incubator space, student workrooms, and conference areas.
Polaris MEP: A nonprofit organization that orchestrates manufacturing business improvement programs for the state’s manufacturing industry. This year, it hosted its Rhode Island Manufacturing B2B event, a program that brought 400 attendees from over 250 companies in 15 states to an event focused on Ocean State manufacturers.
T-Time Productions: A company focused on building unique programming for various mediums that reflects the changing demographics of student populations. Some of its most recent projects include The Roger Williams Initiative and its forthcoming “Comeback” story.
T-Var EdTech: Its Read Read product looks to help streamline reading education for both the blind and the sighted, and won both the R.I. Biz Plan Competition’s Student Track, and the Cox Communications’ #GetStartedRI competition this year, among others.
YearUp: A one-year training program for low-income workers between the ages of 18-24, YearUp Providence is the company’s first site outside of its Boston hub. This year, Cate Burlington, IT Instructor at YearUp Providence, won a Tech10 Award from Rhode Island Monthly in collaboration with the Tech Collective.
Crave Food Systems: Its program, WhatsGood Marketplace, is a “virtual farmers market” app that connects casual consumers and institutions alike with local “purveyors,” and allows those same sellers to distribute their goods online. CFS has raised $1.9 million from angel investors since its inception.
Eat Drink RI: Created to help foster, connect and cheerlead this local culinary community, Eat Drink RI’s yearly events, such as its annual festival, have become a staple for the state’s food and drink industry. Currently, the organization is running a campaign to bring a food hall to Providence.
Hope & Main: Since its debut three years ago, Hope & Main has worked to provide resources, community and guidance to food entrepreneurs. It has succeeded, with more than 100 companies connected to its facility, and a far-reaching impact as a leader in the local culinary community.
Isle Brewers Guild: The Isle Brewers Guild works with mid- to large-sized craft breweries, allowing them to increase their reach on their own terms. Of their many accomplishments this year, perhaps the most buzzed about was getting Narragansett Beer back to being brewed in the Ocean State.
BetaXAnalytics: A translator-turned-storyteller between what the health data says and what it actually means for employers, payers and providers, BetaXAnalytics has had a big year. It participated in the MassChallenge Bridge to RI, TECHquality and Health 2.0, with its CEO, Shannon Shallcross, speaking at TEDxProvidence.
Dioscaris R. Garcia: A dual-appointment assistant professor of Orthopaedics and Molecular Pharmacology at Brown University, Garcia seems to do it all. He serves as co-director of the Weiss Center for Orthopaedic Trauma Research of Rhode Island Hospital, is affiliated with Materials Science Associates and BioIntraface Inc., and serves on Biosci Laboratories’ Board of Advisors. This year, he was named a Wavemaker Fellow by the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation and won the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition under the BI Medical banner.
Elizabeth Stone: Stone wears many hats. She was one of the integral components to the creation of BI Medical; cofounder of Pepper’s Closet, Kiosk PVD, and Mint Leaf Media; a Wavemaker Fellow, and won the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition as part of BI Medical. Additionally, she’s deeply involved with BioSci Coventry and BioSci Labs, the state’s largest STEAM incubator and shared workspace.
EpiVax: This company works to use its tools (in-silico, in-vitro and in-vivo) to re-build therapeutic proteins and create new vaccines. EpiVax won a $50,000 Innovation Voucher to continue its work Rhode Island Hospital earlier this year.
Johnny Luo: President of Doctor’s Choice, Luo has guided the startup (aimed at helping its clients better understand Medicare) to a powerhouse company that does business in 14 states — with a goal to cover the entire country in five years. Additionally, Luo authored the book, “Retiree’s Guide to Medicare: The Book Your Insurance Company Does Not Want You to Read.”
Luna Pharmaceuticals Inc.: The company behind the popular prenatal vitamin Premama. LP closed a Series B round this year, and has plans to expand its online presence as it increases its offerings. Currently, its products are sold in 8,000 stores in the U.S. and China.
Medley Genomics: Patrice Milos’ startup is looking to make cancer a chronic illness by taking a closer look at the “molecular fingerprints” of a patient’s cancer, therefore providing a more specific and customized treatment plan. This year, the company received a $50,000 Innovation Voucher to continue its work with Rhode Island Hospital.
MindImmune: A pharmaceutical company looking to develop drugs that treat central nervous system diseases, it closed its second seed round led by Slater Technology Fund. The round raised $500,000, with half from STF and the other half from private investment.
Sproutel: This startup teaches children how to cope with disease through a smartphone-connected, interactive toy called Jerry the Bear. Sproutel received a $50,000 Innovation Voucher to continue its work early this year.
AS220: This “unjuried, uncensored” space looks to be an outlet for the general public to make or enjoy innovative art — especially those who are struggling to find a place due to financial limitations.
Kiara Butler: CEO and founder of Diversity Talks, a Providence-based startup focused on giving K-12 school districts and other educational institutions “student-led professional development” mired in concepts of equity, diversity and inclusion, which is expanding to Kansas City, Mo. Butler received the Generation Citizen’s Community Partnership Award at the Rhode Island State House this year, and is participating in The Lean Lab’s Incubator Fellowship.
Millennial Rhode Island: An organization with more than 200 paying members, MRI looks to create a community for the Ocean State’s millennials to connect and grow. Its signature event, #ChooseRI week, boasts a host of programs created with young professionals in mind.
Rhode Island Foundation: The Rhode Island Foundation looks to make a “better Rhode Island” through a suite of grants, fellowships and other initiatives. Its Carter Fellowship for Entrepreneurial Innovation specifically looks to “stimulate solutions to Rhode Island challenges.”
Sierra Barter: Barter is the founder and CEO of The Lady Project, a nonprofit membership organization based in Providence that fosters community with women in 15 different chapters across the country. The organization hosts The Lady Project Summit each spring, its flagship event.
Catalytic Innovations: This Adamsville-based startup has created what they call a proprietary catalyst and reactor design that transforms turns air, sunlight and water into a pure ethanol product that can be used in consumer products. This year, it was named a top 10 startup in MassChallenge Israel.
Datarista: This company facilitates introductions between sales and marketing data providers to CRM and marketing automation clouds. It has been named the most innovative company in Providence, and this year announced a partnership with MCH Strategic Data.
Droners: Dubbed the “Uber for drones,” Droners connects users with drone pilots. The site has been successful with users and the media alike, finding itself featured in ProjectHunt, WIRED and Forbes. TV shows and networks like HGTV and the History Channel (among others) have used Droners, too.
Finnest: An app-connected, prepaid debit card that looks to teach kids about money, Finnest is a startup created by two Brown University graduates, Clemens Grave and Richard McDonald. The company is about to close their first round of seed funding and has secured a banking partnership. Additionally, it is a part of the Financial Empowerment Roundtable led by State Treasurer Magaziner.
Innovation Scout: CEO and co-founder of the Innovation Scout, Annette Tonti, likens the dance between startups and the corporations who want to work with them to dating. As such, the Innovation Scout utilizes machine learning to foster those connections, much like a dating app. The company debuted in May of this year at the Chief Innovation Summit in San Francisco.
Mighty Well: CEO Emily Levy is looking to “transform the patient experience” by creating a line of accessories meant to stylishly conceal treatment apparatuses. Her startup Mighty Well has won a host of awards, like the Draper University Pitch Day, and Levy and her team participated in the MassChallenge last year.
SirenMarine: This Newport-based company brings the Internet of Things to the marine industry via its “Connected Boat” technology, a type that the company calls akin to Nest or OnStar for boats. The company received a $50,000 Innovation Voucher in April this year.
SquadLocker: This Warwick-based jack-of-all trades company ultimately streamlines youth athletic apparel design and purchase via an instantly created online store, using popular athletic brands like Nike and Under Armour; it then produces and fulfills orders from its Rhode Island facility. This year, the company completed a $7 million Series B round led by Causeway Media Partners.
Splitwise: This app wants to make splitting bills less of a hassle, and as such, the Providence-based company developed a tool that organizes shared expenses in such a way that all users can better see what they owe.
Tech Against Assault: TAA looks to use technology to develop the “next generation of rape kits” by allowing the initial forensic analysis to occur during the survivor’s hospital analysis.
Upserve: Restaurant analytics software company Upserve is the top-funded startup in the state, and this July announced that Vista Equity Partners had made an undisclosed investment into the enterprise. It had already secured $40.5 million in funds from backers like LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman.
Jared Furtado: COO and co-founder of executive search solutions provider Towerhill Associates, Furtado also co-founded Middletown-based coworking spot, Spire Space.
Joe Nagle and Blaine Carroll: The CEO and vice president of Strategic Initiatives at Delta Dental of Rhode Island, respectively, Nagle and Carroll are considered steadfast corporate leaders in the Rhode Island ecosystem, helping establish MassChallenge’s Rhode Island expansion at its inception.
Nick Inglis: Executive director of RIForward, co-founder of the Innovation Governance Conference and president and the Information Coalition, Inglis is a busy man. Additionally, he established a group of tech leaders this year to advocate for the Rhode Island Promise scholarship program.
Pat Sabatino: CEO of Datarista, Sabatino has additionally led the charge with the Rhode Island Coalition of Entrepreneurs, a new group for founders and leaders of high-growth startups in the Ocean State.
Paul Olean: After closing the funding this year, Olean has launched the Rhode Island Venture Mentoring Services, a spin out of MIT Venture Mentoring Services, where he was one of the initial mentors.
Práctico Innovation: This Providence-based enterprise looks to “advise, mentor and invest” in underserved or underrepresented communities and entrepreneurs. Investments include Savvy Girl, Purifad and PetRover.
RedDWG Library: The Pawtucket-based coworking spot launched earlier in 2017, and since then hosts a variety of events and networking opportunities. In November, the RDL announced it would open an accelerator with a $125,000 seed fund in 2018.
Social Enterprise Greenhouse: If you talk to business-inclined folk in Rhode Island long enough, the Social Enterprise Greenhouse is sure to come up. It’s a veritable titan of an entity, and describing it as just an accelerator or an incubator or a coworking spot or what-have-you would be much too exclusive. It hosts demo days, networking events and workshops, and has a host of offerings on the calendar for 2018.