Editor’s note: Billy Warden and Greg Behr are Triangle-based marketers who also work with the American Tobacco District where the American Underground is located.

DURHAM, N.C. – The startups in the American Underground have been busy making deals and hosting special guests.

On July 10, TechCrunch is slated to visit for a networking “Meetup” event that has drawn more than 500 sign ups. Last month, Time Magazine columnist and bestselling author Joe Klein toured the Underground and met with many of its CEOs. Of the vibe at the Underground and the surrounding campus, Klein wrote, “There’s a jauntiness and an optimism to the place …”

Based on the news items below, the Underground squad has reason to be optimistic:

Triangle Startup Factory

Triangle Startup Factory, the most highly capitalized technology accelerator in the southeast, runs an intensive, three-month program customized for early stage companies. Startups receive $50,000 in seed capital, hands-on mentorship, and access to an ever-widening network of active angels, veteran startup founders, and experienced technology experts. All companies that successfully complete the program receive a convertible note of $20,000 to $150,000.

TSF’s Spring session recently graduated these companies::

• Arcametrics provides business intelligence solutions for privacy-regulated industries like healthcare, financial services, and insurance.
• ArchiveSocial enables businesses to automatically preserve records of their social media activity for legal and compliance needs.
• Berst is a mobile app that makes it really easy to connect around a moment, a time, and a place.
• Entasso is a talent market platform that matches recent college graduates with entry-level positions.
• Ruzuku makes it ridiculously easy for bloggers, authors, coaches, speakers, and other passionate experts to create engaging online courses and learning communities.
• RxAnalytics identifies distinct drivers of health and fitness in individuals and provides them an actionable blueprint to achieve their goals.

Groundwork Labs

Groundwork Labs has been instrumental in helping several of its companies reach significant milestones:

• Three companies won NC IDEA Grants:

o GEMAtouch, a manufacturer of touch-activated RFID tags
o Impulsonic, a developer of audio content creation tools
o Motavi, a stock market for startups

• Sqord, developer of an incentive-based game that sparks kids’ exercise, has won a $50,000 grant from Active Schools Acceleration Project and is a finalist for Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Innovation Challenge
• Rheti, a developer of an app to build apps, closed a seed round of funding.
Groundwork Labs is a community-supported, “no-strings attached” accelerator funded by NC IDEA and Capitol Broadcasting Company.


INRFOOD is a revolutionary platform that provides a new way to view what’s in your food, allowing users to scan bar codes of products and immediately view the nutritional data on their phones in a color coded format.
• INRFOOD — developed by Jaargon — has made it into the final round of the BCBS Challenge and will be presenting in mid September.
• Preparing to come out of Beta for a full scale launch mid July on the Web, iPhone and Android devices.
• Will participate in the CED Tech Venture Conference in September.


BoostSuite — a software innovator focused on “web marketing optimization” for small businesses — has acquired around 1,000 users in the first three weeks of its public beta phase. Founder Aaron Houghton — ranked by Reuters as one of the most influential business leaders under 30 for his work with iContact — recently spoke to the Entrepreneurial Masters Program at MIT in Cambridge, MA about the highs and lows of startup life.

SIS (Sustainable Industry Solutions)

Jason Massey, CEO: “Summer is full effect for SIS. Our peak shaving service uses weather data to give our customers advance notice of electrical utilities peak demand calls. After a successful trial we’re preparing the launch of our first standalone SaaS product at www.coincidentpeak.com so others can subscribe to our notification service. SIS is proud to now be an EPA WasteWise Endorser helping our clients drive toward zero waste. And while the sun is beating down this summer, look for some solar panels in our near future.”

Bull City Startup Stampede

The Bull City Startup Stampede, a 60-day initiative that gives entrepreneurs free space, a powerful network, and startup experts, kicked off on June 1 in the American Underground. This third session of the Stampede brought a new partner to the game, Pruvop, a digital products lab which announced the ‘Bull Pen’ at the end of June. The Bull Pen is a competitive pitch contest for the nine Stampede participants with $5,000 in software development and go-to-market services (and potentially another $50,000 in follow-on services) from Pruvop on the line. The contest was held at the end of June in a Shark Tank style format and the winner will be announced at the Stampede closing party on July 30.

CED (Council for Entrepreneurial Development)

CED identifies, enables, and promotes high-growth, high-impact companies and accelerates the entrepreneurial culture of the Research Triangle and North Carolina.

• CED recently welcomed 114 new members into the entrepreneurial network, bringing total membership to more than 1,000 companies, representing more than 5,500 individuals working within the startup ecosystem of the Research Triangle and North Carolina.
• The CED Venture Mentoring Service, a program that matches top-level mentors with startup founders and teams preparing for growth, has grown to 57 companies.
• CED will showcase North Carolina’s best emerging and growth-stage technology companies at the CED Tech Venture Conference on Sept. 11-12, 2012, in Raleigh, NC. The conference features more than 80 companies demoing or launching new products in front of an investor-filled audience. You’re invited to join as we celebrate all things tech in September.


NC IDEA, an organization committed to supporting business innovation and economic advancement in North Carolina, recently awarded over $201,000 in grants to five North Carolina startups in its largest and most competitive grant cycle to-date. Four of the five winners are located right across the hall from NC IDEA in the American Underground residing at either Triangle Startup Factory or Groundwork Labs: Archive Social, Gema Touch, Impulsonic and Motaavi. DealCloud, located at Packard Place in Charlotte, was also a recipient. Since its inception in 2006, NC IDEA’s grants program has awarded over $2.5M to 67 companies across the state.

IDEA Fund Partners

IDEA Fund Partners, a venture capital firm providing seed and early stage financing to technology companies throughout the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, is pleased to announce its recent investment in Sarda Technologies, Inc. Based in Durham, NC , Sarda is a fabless semiconductor company focused on reducing power loss in DC-DC voltage converters. The Sarda team is led by semiconductor industry veterans Bob Conner and Jim Vorhaus, both of whom have significant Fortune 500 and startup experience.

Smashing Boxes

Nick Jordan, CEO: “Smashing Boxes (software designed to solve complex business problems) is expanding, in more ways than one. We have grown our team from eight ruby, iOS, and android developers to 12 in the last few months, with more help on the way. Also expanding is our geographic client footprint, as we’ve recently brought on clients from New York City, Silicon Valley, and even Nairobi. Of course, we’re still thrilled to be part of the innovation that is happening in Durham, helping organizations like Quintiles, NC State, and CFNC.org, as well as local based startups like Student ID, BuyStand, and InMotionNow, and Airport Shuttles.”

(C) Billy Warden, Greg Behr

(Editor’s note: The American Tobacco Historic District is operated by Capitol Broadcasting, which is the parent form of CBC New Media of which WRAL Tech Wire is part.)