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Founders League, Social Enterprise Greenhouse Awarded Grant to Integrate Students & Grads into R.I. Startup Economy

Founders League and Social Enterprise Greenhouse (SEG) have been selected by theBlackstone Foundation to receive a $200,000 grant to create a statewide platform to better integrate students into Rhode Island’s startup ecosystem, open entrepreneurship opportunities to new populations, and strengthen the flow of talent and energy that drives startup success.

Each year, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation makes a series of grants to organizations that spread the ideals of entrepreneurship and benefit local communities. Working in partnership, Founders League and SEG were one of only 20 awardees selected from a pool of 500+ applications. This is the first time Blackstone Foundation has invested in Rhode Island.

Activities supported by the grant seek to help more students launch ventures, find internships, and seek post-graduation job placement at local startups. Founders League and SEG will use existing and new programs to achieve these goals, including cross campus demo days, a student ambassador program, informal meet-ups, paid fellowships, a consolidated online dashboard for finding startup resources, and programs that make it easy for students to visit startups and meet with entrepreneurial leaders.

Startups are one of the bright spots on Rhode Island's economic landscape --ventures that are creating jobs, even in a down economy. Startups are more than an interesting outlier in our economic recovery: they are a powerful driver of job growth, a tool for retaining talent, and a magnet for attracting capital investment. Rhode Island's startup community has made great strides in the last decade and connecting students into this growing economy is the natural next step forward.

It is common today for students to express a desire to launch a business and/or work in a startup post-graduation. The most entrepreneurial students begin new ventures while still in school, and many high growth and high impact startups have launched with student founders. For startups, students and new grads are a rich pool of talent for internships and job placement, a catalyst for innovation, and an important link between the private sector and academia.

Fueled by this two-sided demand, Founders League and Social Enterprise Greenhouse have pioneered experimental programs that engage Rhode Island students in entrepreneurship on campus and in the real world. With support from Blackstone Foundation, the partnership will scale-up and expand to new audiences.

"This award from Blackstone Foundation is a powerful affirmation that the work we are doing in Rhode Island to bolster startups is truly world-class. We are a small team in the country's smallest state setting best practices for how to build a startup economy, and that's pretty cool," says Founders League co-founder Melissa Withers. "We are grateful to our partners--Brown, the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, the University of Rhode Island, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island and Verizon--for the confidence they put in us. Where we are today is only possible because of their support."

Rhode Island’s student and graduate populations reflect the diversity of the 11 universities and colleges located here, representing myriad cultural, social and academic interests. Each of Rhode Island’s colleges and universities have, in their own way and to different degrees, made entrepreneurship part of the experience they offer students. The end result is a wonderfully diverse but complex network of actors and opportunities.

"Thanks to the support of the Blackstone Foundation, SEG will be able to expand the important work it is doing with universities. This will enable us to help the many RI students are interested in launching do well do good businesses and pursuing careers where they not only make money but also also create positive impact. The recognition from Blackstone is a testament to the hard work and commitment of the growing community of SEG partners, coaches, advisors and funders," says SEG Executive Director Kelly Ramirez.

Over the next month, the partnership will roll out a series of announcements outlining upcoming activities and ways for students, partners, entrepreneurs and others to get involved. Stay tuned to the Founders League and SEG websites for updates!

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