Saul Kaplan

You can’t discuss business innovation in Rhode Island over the last two decades without mentioning Saul Kaplan.

Since his days in the early 2000s at the R.I. Economic Development Corp. – the forerunner of today’s R.I. Commerce Corp., Kaplan has been a driving force in pushing companies and organizations to innovate and, when necessary, rethink their business plans.

In 2005 he turned that passion while still with the EDC into the Business Innovation Factory. His idea was to use BIF to make Rhode Island a destination for innovators and entrepreneurs. That effort included annually sold out innovation summits that did indeed attract speakers and guests from around the world.

BIF supported itself in part by taking on sponsored projects with philanthropic partners tackling program design challenges in education, health care, social services and the environment.

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In 2019 Kaplan began exploring ways for BIF to start taking on its own projects, rather than being an adviser to others. When the pandemic hit, the need for the nonprofit to pivot became clear.

“I don’t want to spend the next 10-15 years being a trusted adviser,” he told PBN in 2021. “I’d much rather be an entrepreneur and taking on a challenge.”

One of the early results of that change is LunaYou, a health care initiative aimed at empowering women through their pregnancies and after childbirth to monitor and improve their health. Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island is partnering with BIF on a program that Kaplan hopes will be successful enough to take national.