Regardless of what specific benefits in terms of discounts, software or whatever that entrepreneurs in the Triangle receive from Google, the Internet giant’s selection of Durham as one of the hubs for its new entrepreneurial network is a tremendous boost to the credibility of the region’s growing reputation as a center of innovation.

Jimmy Goodmon, vice president of CBC New Media and part of the Capitol Broadcasting management team that operates the American Underground, described Google’s decision to partner with the Underground as “the next stage of progress” for Durham.

Google representatives showed up along with two food trucks for a free lunch provided to invited guests – about 100 turned out, according to WRALTechWire’s Jason Parker who covered the event – to announce the launch of its Tech Hub Network. Various benefits were outlined for startups and emerging ventures.

But the fact that Google has added its own credibility to the Underground as a place for meaningful startups is something that can’t be calculated in just dollars and cents.

Investors will hear more about Durham and the Triangle at large.

Entrepreneurs looking for a place to launch a business will see Durham as a bigger blip on their radar screen.

Specific benefits beyond publicity remain to be seen. As Parker noted, “Entrepreneurs seem to think the news is positive, but they’re not sure quite how Google will impact their businesses.”

But Anil Chawla, the founder and CEO of ArchiveSocial which is one of the region’s best hopes for an emerging big success, told Parker that he sees meaningful benefits beyond some software and perhaps a Google Android-equipped tablet or PC. 

“The real power of the community is coming together and having a common thread. I think that the Google partnership demonstrates that we have come together,” Chawla explained. “The fact that Google is focusing energy and attention to us, in itself, is wonderful.”

ArchiveSocial has clawed its way upward as a company from a humble start, receiving plenty of support from such organizations as NC IDEA and The Startup Factory – two of the Triangle’s best drivers for funding and launching new businesses. The company calls The Underground home. The Underground itself at just three years of age already has expanded in Durham (to Underground @Main) and soon will have an office in Raleigh.Meanwhile, Cary, Morrisville, and other entities in Raleigh as well as Durham have focused on startup efforts.

Not to be forgotten is the First Flight Venture Center in RTP (the oldest of all the entrepreneurial hubs) where more than 30 companies – many with a life science focus –  are being incubated toward success.

Speaking of The Startup Factory, co-partner Chris Heivly says in his blog that the Google announcement is important for three major reasons:

“One of the Top companies in the world recognize our area as worthy of their attention. Google. Durham. Triangle. Tech. I love those words in the same sentence. Its validation.

“Second – every startup needs help. Google is a talent machine. Even a minimal amount of interaction between a TSF startup team and a Google person can create amazing lift. I can’t wait to watch it happen.

“Lastly, it’s another step in the crawl-walk-run rubric. We are definitely out of crawl phase and building momentum in the walk phase. National awareness and validation goes a long way towards building momentum.”

Adding Google to the mix is icing on the baking cake of entrepreneurship efforts, Chawla told Parker.

“The drumbeat of entrepreneurship is just getting louder in this region,” he said.

Google’s Pledge

John Lyman, head of Partnerships, Google for Entrepreneurs, wrote in a blog announcing the network that startup hubs such as the Underground are demonstrating how new ventures can be grown outside of the Valley.

“Over the past few years, tech hubs have sprung up in cities across the globe, making it possible to start a high-growth company from almost anywhere, not just London or Silicon Valley. Tech hubs help make that happen—providing desks for entrepreneurs who are chasing their dreams, mentorship and educational opportunities for talented developers, and a vibrant community for innovative startups,” he wrote.

“We started Google for Entrepreneurs to help foster entrepreneurship in communities around the world. Through our work in more than 100 countries, we’ve been incredibly impressed with the catalyzing impact that tech hubs have had: helping startups grow, and creating jobs in local communities in the process. So today we’re announcing a Tech Hub Network with seven partners, initially located in North America. 1871 (Chicago), American Underground (Durham), Coco (Minneapolis), Communitech (Waterloo), Galvanize (Denver), Grand Circus (Detroit) and Nashville Entrepreneur Center (Nashville) are all top notch spaces fueling entrepreneurship. We believe these hubs have pioneered a new approach to launching a business, and it’s our mission to help support them.”

Google plans to make meaningful contributions to network members, he pledged.

“We’re partnering to create a strong network, providing each hub with financial support alongside access to Google technology, platforms and mentors, and ensuring that entrepreneurs at these hubs have access to an even larger network of startups. We’re excited to exchange ideas and connect hubs with each other and with Google to have an even bigger economic impact on local communities.”

Chawla told Parker he sees many benefits from Durham becoming part of that network. 

“I think network plays a crucial role in entrepreneurship,” he explained. “The fact that we now have a common thread and direct line to entrepreneurs in other cities and to Google itself is powerful.”

(Note: Capitol Broadcasting is the parent company of WRALTechWire.)