Local startups thriving underground
Durham, NC is a short drive from our office. In this region known as the Triangle, Durham and Chapel Hill/Carrboro are the two closest points in distance and often in culture. The same entrepreneurial fertility that brought Blogads to Carrboro six years ago has now spread to Durham in a big way.
Workspace is bountiful and cheap in downtown “Bull City.” Brick warehouses from the city’s tobacco days have been converted to modern lofts and offices, and in the case of the American Underground, a windowless bunker of technological innovation.
You get to know other companies and their employees a lot more than a traditional office park. Every office has a huge glass wall that faces the hallway, so you get to see the same people every day as they pass by your office.
Ad server Adzerk is just one of the startups making huge strides underground. As founder James Avery explained in his post about the American Underground, the conveniently located office of the Council for Entrepenueral Development (CED) is a huge advantage of the space:
We have met Angel investors in the halls that we would have had to fight for an introduction to otherwise – we have chatted with venture capitalists in the elevator which has led to renewing talks that had otherwise cooled.
The original Underground tenant was LaunchBox Digital, an incubator program that helped launch several startups through its accelerator program. While LaunchBox’s future is unclear, there’s another incubator program in Durham, Bull City Forward, which likens itself to nearby RTP 50 years ago:
Much like Research Triangle Park half-a-century before, Durham’s Bull City Forward is studied as a global model of economic and community development and the city is recognized as a global leader of social innovation and entrepreneurship.
More Startup Action in Durham
The Bull City Startup Stampede just wrapped up its 60-day initiative to give a dozen small businesses a chance to launch in downtown Durham for free. Now, four of the Stampeders have headed down to Bull City Forward for another two months of free space.
Last weekend, 190 entrepreneurs formed 18 teams and spent 54 grueling hours innovating for Triangle Startup Weekend in Durham’s American Tobacco Campus. Triangle Business Journal has an excellent wrap-up of the event, which included pitches from two local 11-year-old entrepreneurs.
As we know, the Triangle start-up scene isn’t limited to Durham and the American Underground. A site called Dowtown Durham Startups put together this directory of local startups, including Triangle companies innovating outside of Durham.