Density of startups. Density of innovation. Density of entrepreneurs. Density of knowledge being shared. Density of events.
Density, most entrepreneurship experts say, is key to a thriving startup community, one that is supporting and growing startups at all stages, attracting capital from inside and outside of the community and importantly, creating the collisions between community members that prompt deals to happen and connections to be made.
Today, American Underground
, the network of startup workspaces in downtown Durham and Raleigh (and parent of ExitEvent
), releases its first annual report
, revealing double the density of a year ago, 323 new jobs and more than $40 million invested in AU-based and affiliated companies. Early 2015 expansion
to two more floors on Main Street in Durham will let the network expand from 180 companies to more than 200. 680 people work in the three spaces today.
AU also hosts Code the Dream, a series of coding classes for minority populations in partnership with Uniting NC. It’s an effort to prepare more workers for careers with companies at AU and in the broader community. 16 people completed the first classes and a second round kicks off in Raleigh in January.
Klein’s team is well studied on the research. More diverse companies perform better and hire more diverse workforces, he says. And he believes the Triangle has an advantage over Silicon Valley, which is frequently criticized for its lack of diversity.
“The Silicon Valley community has calcified so much—the leadership is established,” he says. “In Durham and Raleigh, you don’t see that yet. Our entrepreneurial initiatives are still just getting started. We can broaden the leadership in the community and create a talent pipeline.”
More diversity initiatives will be announced in the new year too.
Klein says the report is a first step at tracking the performance of the companies in the underground, in hopes of better understanding how that density impacts their performance over time.
Heivly hopes it leads to even bigger goals—say 500 companies in downtown Durham and even bigger ones setting up offices, like Google or Facebook.
“I don’t think you can stop creating enough density,” he says. “I don’t know if that’s for AU or ATC, but I do think space is a piece of it. You want to be the convener, the place where people show up.”
The report also helps to show the local economic impact of startups to city and community leaders—Durham Mayor Bill Bell will attend today’s report reveal.
“What we’re really saying is this is where a lot of action is taking place, where a lot of great companies are gathered and making incredible progress,” Klein says. “We have a role in that, but by and large, we are here to support the companies, to share their stories.”