Raleigh, as a startup hub, has come a long way over the last two years. Back in 2011, it was still up for debate whether or not the startup renaissance that took hold in Durham would spill over to the capitol city. Then HQ Raleigh, the warehouse district, and American Underground at Raleigh all sprang up to put a roof over what was becoming a burgeoning startup scene downtown.

Raleigh has startups, and it always has, but now we know a lot more about them.

Durham’s startup spark came with the rise of the app economy, with new distribution models that allowed a giant wave of new startups to jump ever-lower barriers to entry. In 2010, a vast chunk of Durham startups, I want to say maybe 25%, were mobile apps.

The my-app-is-my-startup play didn’t go so well, but when the smoke cleared, Durham had already built out its startup infrastructure, and those startups that were using the app economy as a tool, rather than an ecosystem, found success.

In a lot of ways, the jury is still out on whether and for how long Durham can maintain its startup-fueled success, but dammit if it isn’t an exciting time to be an entrepreneur in Durham.

Three short years ago, Raleigh was known for government, a growing corporate environment, and gaming. And riding the same app distribution model wave that Durham did, new gaming companies sprung up in Raleigh overnight as console gaming moved to mobile.

There were, in 2010, at least 80 established gaming companies in the Triangle, most of them in Raleigh. However, the my-game-is-my-startup play was even less successful than the app scene going on in Durham, and when the smoke cleared in Raleigh, there was a bit of a crater.

There were, however, still feeders – government and corporate entities who were friends of startups, and were willing to help cement the foundation that was struggling to stay upright.

Red Hat moved downtown, Citrix bought ShareFile and anchored the warehouse district. There were DataPaloozas and Innovation Summits, the City of Raleigh hired Derrick Minor to help the City help startups, and within a year of opening, suddenly HQ Raleigh had to move because it grew out of its space almost immediately.

Now Raleigh is ready to resume its own startup renaissance, so to speak, and open source is just sitting there waiting to provide a new identity. That identity isn’t crucial, mind you, I believe Raleigh’s startup environment has a solid chance of surviving on its own.

“City of Open”

However, being known nationally as the “City of Open” could be just the thing that catches Raleigh up to Durham and provides two separate specialties in the overarching Triangle startup hub.

That being said, I’d keep a close eye on what happens at the All Things Open conference next week.

All Things Open consists of workshops, talks, and networking events in a 2-day conference that will kick off its inaugural version in Raleigh on October 23rd and 24th. It’s an extension of the successful Columbia, SC-based POSSCon, bringing roughly the same agenda and some of the same speakers, with some new and local faces thrown in.

Speakers include open source leaders from Google, Twitter, IBM, HP, Oracle, GitHub, Red Hat, Mozilla, Paypal, Cloudera, and Apache, we well as authors, speakers, and academics who focus on the open movement.

Why Raleigh?

“We’re long on Raleigh-Durham,” said Todd Lewis, the chair of the conference. “It just makes sense with Red Hat there and all of the surrounding supporting-partner type of businesses. Raleigh has been very effective in creating an open source cluster. It’s a concept that’s important and trending — developing businesses that are alike and positioning them in clusters. Raleigh already has a very competitive and well-developed open source cluster. It’s easy to get in front of a lot of people who are already doing business in the space and they get it.”

So see, there’s already a cluster. I believe that’s step 1, with step 2 being hub and step 3 being epicenter.

“It took us a while to educate Columbia on open source and open source trends because there weren’t a lot of open source companies here,” Lewis went on. “In Raleigh, you’ve got Red Hat and you’re dealing with a very educated population. We don’t have to educate, because not only are they aware of it, but they’re leading the efforts. The City Council and Mayor are very supportive – they get it and they’re willing to work with us.”

But if startup is hard, open source is harder. As I alluded to before, much like the app economy, open source is not a product or an industry or a vertical. It’s a movement, a means to an end, a tool. And just like those misguided souls who mistook the app movement for an industry and started calling mobile apps “startups”, there is danger in building a startup out of open source.

But building a startup WITH open source is not only much more palatable, it’s quickly becoming the norm. Raleigh is there, clustering around this norm, where others are not.

We should be the Triangle, but variety is the spice of life, and if a region needs to build around an identity, it’s the Triangle. If we can successfully sell Raleigh as the open source capitol of the world, that could raise the profile of the growing startup environments in Raleigh, Durham, and the Triangle all at the same time.

Editor’s note: Joe Procopio is a serial entrepreneur, writer, and speaker. He is VP of Product at Automated Insights and the founder of startup network and news resource ExitEvent. Follow him at @jproco or read him at http://joeprocopio.com