Innovation Blog

The Power of a Village: Catalyzing Rhode Island’s Startup Ecosystem with riHub


Looking to the Future: Impact Through Collaboration

Entrepreneurship has gained recognition as a major economic driver and growth strategy, with multiple parties—such as leaders from various sectors, governments, corporates, and universities—working to support entrepreneurship in their communities.

It takes a village — no one can do this alone. For true success, we need a diverse and engaged community from multiple sectors to work together and build a more secure and sustainable future.

MassChallenge is so proud to play a role in bringing Rhode Island’s nascent ecosystem to life and could not do so without the support from extraordinary partners, as well as the collaboration and dedication from the state of Rhode Island, Brown, URI, and IBM.

Siobhan Dullea, CEO, MassChallenge shares her thoughts on MassChallenge’s position in building out startup ecosystems globally, as well as right here in Rhode Island:

Over the past 10 years, MassChallenge has worked around the world to build and connect international innovation ecosystems. Here in Rhode Island, we’re proud to create change by strengthening public-private partnerships that drive innovation and by developing and strengthening an emerging culture that helps entrepreneurs flourish.

riHub: The Fruits of Collaboration

The calls for collaboration and the need for building a startup ecosystem that lowers the barriers of success did not fall upon deaf ears. With a partnership between the state of Rhode Island, URI, Brown, IBM and MassChallenge that seeks to bridge the idea to impact gap, we got to riHub.

riHub was conceived in response to the state’s call for Innovation Campus Bond proposals: transformational centers that will stimulate commercial activity and economic resiliency.


Source: CIC

“The launch of riHub complements an expanding series of investments in the Jewelry District by Brown and our academic, industry and government partners that are transforming this former manufacturing neighborhood into a nexus for technology transfer, entrepreneurship and economic innovation,” said Jill Pipher, Brown’s vice president for research. “Turning innovations, ideas and research discoveries into successful commercial ventures promises to catalyze economic growth in ways that will ultimately benefit every Rhode Islander.”

What Is riHub?

Put simply, riHub is a startup hatchery and incubator that fills a critical gap in Rhode Island’s innovation ecosystem. It is the world’s first idea germinator and startup incubator combining best-in-class co-working facilities of CIC with the power of two world-class accelerators: IBM and MassChallenge.

The goal is to generate pipeline and service innovation and entrepreneurs in Rhode Island.

Idea-to-Impact: A Shared Vision


Source: Kaufman Foundation

Ultimately, we all have one mission: help turn ideas into startups and then viable, stand-alone enterprises that will address high-impact market needs. To fulfill this mission, riHub will:

  • catalyze fruitful collaboration between entrepreneurs, companies, academic researchers, students, investors, and business support organizations.
  • provide entrepreneurs and their startups with the best-in-class facilities.
  • power startup acceleration through world-class programmatic support.

Who Is riHub for?

  • Entrepreneurs with startup ideas and early-stage startups without funding or pre-seed/seed.
  • Rhode Island academic institutions, including students, faculty, and alumni interested in entrepreneurship and innovation.
  • The broader ecosystem from companies looking for partnership and acquisition to investors.

Katharine Flynn, executive director, URI Business Engagement Center shares her excitement:

“University of Rhode Island is thrilled to be part of riHub at CIC. This will be a great opportunity for engagement for our students and faculty who are entrepreneurs and who want to be part of the bigger Rhode Island entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Not only will it empower startups and entrepreneurs to succeed, riHub will also benefit Rhode Island’s community and economy. Stephen Piper, vice president of global business analytics design & delivery at IBM shares his excitement about riHub and all that will follow:

IBM is excited to continue our long tradition of leading in innovation with riHub. We look forward to helping new companies grow with IBM’s technology at their core…and to seeing these same companies grow into thriving contributors to the state of Rhode Island.

What Does It Do?

riHub will support near 60 startups annually by offering workshops and boot camps, networking events, pitch nights and competitions, partnering events, and much more.

Innovation Ecosystem Building Details:

At a closer look, riHub will provide much value to startups. It will accelerate a minimum of 30 startups yearly through its 16-week programs by IBM and MassChallenge. Additionally, riHub will engage and support another 25 startups yearly through other programming such as: office hours, workshops, boot camps, dev jams, design sprints, and more.

Moreover, riHub will also provide temporary workspace for 6-month to startups with priority given to students and faculty of Brown and URI and provide Brown & URI with an appealing platform to partner with corporates.

The benefit extends beyond just local startups; foreign startups will receive a “soft landing” space in Rhode Island.

How It Works

There are four main parts of riHub’s operations: programming, space, resources, and fellowships:

MassChallenge is the general contractor for programming, particularly the accelerators and additional content such as workshops and events. In terms of space, there are currently 3 offices and 56 work stations. Brown and URI will have priority in providing undergraduate and graduate startups with working space.

Furthermore, riHub will have a number of resources that make partnerships more compelling and attainable for universities. Finally, undergraduate URI and Brown students will be accepted as fellows to take part in accelerator programming

Collaboration Is the Way Forward

Truly, this project is a testament to the rewards of collaboration and the benefits of an engaged and committed ecosystem. But, the work is never finished. To see positive results and have a lasting impact — economically, societally, and environmentally — a community effort is necessary.

Interested in learning more? Find out what MassChallenge has to offer:

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