I recently received an email from Chris Heivly and Dave Neal who recently spent an hour talking about the Boulder Thesis and what it means for them in RTP/Triangle/Raleigh-Durham. I’ve gotten to know Chris and Dave through a few trips in the past to Durham along with their work at Triangle StartUp Factory, the accelerator they run in Durham. They offered an example of how a feeder – the Durham Chamber of Commerce – has effectively engaged and supported the Durham startup community. The example follows:
When you talk about the role of governments, institutions, and associations as feeders I felt like I wanted some more examples. We have a very unique Chamber of Commerce here in Durham and I think they serve as a good example.
When I first started talking to you and David Cohen in the fall of 2009 about an accelerator here in Durham – you planted the entrepreneur-led, organic/network thesis in my head. I was on a 275 person in a year tour of the area testing the accelerator thesis and one of those meetings was with the head of the Durham Chamber, Casey Steinbacher and a young associate, Adam Klein. They asked to get involved and I pushed hard on the “you can’t control this – you need to support this” thesis. We gave them a task – raise awareness. They bought it big time. They reached out to the entrepreneurial community for thoughts, advice, help and then took off. If anyone would have told me that I would be working with a Chamber of Commerce I would have told them they were crazy. They are true partners in our ecosystem today.
To date, they have spearheaded two contributing efforts that have really helped support & grow the region:
- The first was the Durham Stampede, an application based program which offered 60 days of free space in a cool downtown location for 10-15 startup (mostly around software tech). I and others supported their effort by being one of about 8-10 experienced entrepreneurs who came in to share our best practices and get these founders networked. The goal – simple – raise awareness of the scene in Durham. They have operated 3 programs in the past 18 months.
- Their 2nd offering was called the SMOffice - the world’s smallest office. An application based offering that provided free office space (80 sq feet) in the corner of the coffee shop that is the equivalent of “Buck’s” in Durham. The winning team got the space for 6 months as well as a free condo. 3 sisters from Illinois with Durham roots were selected (they are building an Etsy for just NC based artisans).
Total costs run less than $5k per Stampede session and most everything was donated for the SMOffice. I find these efforts to be totally supportive of the greater good and consistent with their strengths.
I visited Durham, NC in May and had an awesome time hanging out and talking with about 300 entrepreneurs. I encouraged the folks at CED to write up an overview of what’s going on in the Durham startup community. It’s a great example of a startup community led by entrepreneurs with support from many feeders, such as CED and Square 1 Bank. Following is a guest post from Jason Parker, Associate Director of Marketing Communications and Digital Media at CED, the Council for Entrepreneurial Development about some of the things going on in the Durham area.
Did you follow TechCrunch’s visit to the Southeast? They brought a team to Durham on July 10th for a Mini Meetup. They’ve been releasing stories from their trip all this week, showcasing some of the Research Triangle region’s startups (Organic Transit, Waterplay USA, Bound Custom Journals, CED).
This wasn’t the first time a major publication has showed up in Durham to experience the vibrant ecosystem, nor will it be the last. However, it does strike me that they showed up at an ideal time, as the ecosystem is perfectly poised for growth.
After Brad Feld visited Durham in May, I wrote about the results the Research Triangle is seeing from an increased interest in and focus on startups and the startup community. The results are promising, and there are too many success stories to share, so here are a just a few items of note:
- Successful exits – iContact, an email marketing company, was acquired by Vocus for a reported $169 million. Founders Ryan Allis and Aaron Houghton immediately made good on pledges to support the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the Research Triangle. ShareFile, a cloud-based file-sharing service, was acquired by Citrix in October of 2011. Founder Jesse Lipson remains at the company, and recently announced the intention of adding 337 new jobs to a new office location in Raleigh, NC. And this is just on the tech side of the house. Our region’s life science industry continues to boom, and many startups are being acquired by corporate partners.
- The Smoffice and Startup Stampede – Want proof that the Triangle is committed to fostering entrepreneurship? Look no further than the initiatives launched and supported by the Durham Chamber of Commerce. The Smoffice (The World’s Smallest Office) garnered Durham national attention, and also helped launch a new company on a path to success. The Durham Chamber’s other major initiative for entrepreneurs, Startup Stampede, brought 28 startups to the region, which have created more than 35 jobs in the city. Every participant indicated that they either already have, or would in the future, recommend Durham to other startups. Startup Stampede 3.0 launched earlier this summer, and is going swimmingly.
- It’s not just Durham that cares about entrepreneurship – Raleigh’s Innovation Summit is a major initiative focused on creating a central hub of startup activity in the state’s capital. With the full support of local and state government, as well as early support from entrepreneurial giants Red Hat, ShareFile / Citrix, and Progress Energy, Raleigh is poised to restructure their urban landscape to focus on high-growth entrepreneurs.
- Entrepreneur Support Organizations – The entrepreneurial community continues to expand, largely due to the supportive environment into which entrepreneurs enter. Startup accelerator Triangle Startup Factory identifies early-stage startups that are ready for growth and plugs them into a rapid-fire development cycle. NC IDEA awards grant money to entrepreneurs focused on innovative technologies and helps provide access to vital connections and mentors. ExitEvent attracts more than 150 regional entrepreneurs for a no-selling networking session every month. Many other meetup groups have formed to promote tech and life science entrepreneurs, and the region continues to attract individuals and companies interested in providing support to entrepreneurs. We’re getting all of the ESO’s into one place on August 21st for an event.
We have a lot to celebrate, and a lot to share with a wider audience. The Research Triangle has always been a home for high-growth entrepreneurs, and it’s time the world know about us. CED, the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, is one of the oldest and longest-standing entrepreneurial support organizations in the world, and is the central hub of the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the Research Triangle. We’re solely focused on training, assisting, and showcasing the best emerging companies in North Carolina.
In addition to training early-stage entrepreneurs through our FastTrac® program and matching startup founders to experienced mentors in their industry through our Venture Mentoring Service, CED offers a slate of programming that help entrepreneurs and those who care about entrepreneurship.
Preparing for a funding round? We have you covered. Want to know the latest industry news and what is happening in our region? We do that also. Need to connect with someone who has a skill set that you desperately need? Our network is deep and wide, and I’ll bet we can find you the perfect match.
To showcase our entrepreneurial ecosystem, we run two large conferences each year, the first focused on life science companies and the other focused on emerging technology companies. Each conference attracts more than 800 entrepreneurs, investors, and industry professionals, all of whom want to take an early look at the emerging companies and technologies that will transform their industries. The CED Tech Venture Conference will be held on Sept. 11-12, 2012, in Raleigh, and we’d love to see you there.
With all of the incredible growth in the Research Triangle, we are pleased to announce that we are expanding our team to include the following positions:
- Senior Programs Manager, Technology, responsible for implementing programs to meet the needs of technology entrepreneurs and assist in planning the CED Tech Venture Conference.
- Senior Programs Manager, Life Science, responsible for implementing programs to meet the needs of life science entrepreneurs and assist in planning the CED Life Science Conference.
Convinced the Research Triangle is an established entrepreneurial community that continues to grow? The Triangle is frequently rated as one of the best places to live, work, and recreate. Durham was just rated as the leading area in “creative class” workers.
CED is located in downtown Durham, with our offices located in the American Underground, an incredible workspace for entrepreneurs and those who support them. CED is an equal opportunity employer that offers a comprehensive benefits package and competitive salaries. Applications are currently being reviewed. Positions open until filled. Interested individuals may access full job descriptions and receive instructions on how to apply at http://www.cednc.org/careers.