RI Turns To Innovation Economy in Face of Record Job Losses; A List of Tech and Life Sciences Firms in the State to Watch

Xconomy Boston — 

We at Xconomy Boston, despite focusing much of our coverage on business and innovation in Massachusetts, cover stories on companies from all over New England—understanding that there is a regional innovation ecosystem. (Plus, there are some great stories to be told outside of the tech-rich Route 128 corridor.)

Rhode Island, for one, is producing some interesting companies with interesting stories. But the nationwide economic downturn has been especially acute in the Ocean State. As many are aware, Rhode Island reported an 8.8 percent unemployment rate for September—giving the smallest state dubious recognition for having the highest jobless rate in the country. With many of those job losses coming from industries such as construction, retail, and hospitality, the state hopes for growth among firms in innovation sectors such as life sciences and IT to stabilize the broader economy.

“These companies represent our new economy,” says Saul Kaplan, executive director of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, a quasi-public agency. “These companies have really strong growth potential and they represent industry sectors that are more resilient to economic downturns.”

Of which companies does Kaplan speak? Xconomy has compiled a list of several of the firms leading the expansion of Rhode Island’s innovation economy, including biotech outfits, software developers, and Web-based firms. The state is seeding many of these companies through the Slater Technology Fund, a publicly funded venture firm based in Providence, RI.

Here are the companies:

Andera (Providence)

If you’ve ever opened a bank account online, there’s a solid chance that the Web-based software supporting your transaction came from Andera. Founded in 2000 by Brown University graduate and CEO Charlie Kroll, privately held Andera has emerged as one of the top firms in the nascent online account opening and funding business, with more than 200 institutional customers.

Employees: 50

Recent news: Andera revealed last month that Umpqua Bank, an Oregon-based bank with 148 branches, had launched Andera’s software platform on its Web site.

EpiVax (Providence)

EpiVax uses an informatics system developed by founder and CEO Annie De Groot to discover how certain drugs
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