The American Underground@Raleigh officially opens its doors tonight with a launch party that means more than just another coworking space in the Triangle. The third American Underground location is perhaps the most unique of the trio and its opening is a meaningful milestone for the Triangle entrepreneurial community.
I have to admit, one of AU@Raleigh’s selling points starts before you even walk in. It’s literally above one of Raleigh’s favorite bars, Foundation.
For years, we’ve known our entrepreneurial community is based on our region, larger than any single city or university affiliation. For the first time, there’s a common thread in the physical hubs across the Triangle.
And that’s exactly what Adam Klein, American Underground’s Chief Strategy Officer, is so excited about with their first presence in Raleigh. In Adam’s eye, the new space will foster new energy and connectivity between the various parts of the Triangle, and that translates to practical benefits for startups.
For example, Fugitive Labs has most of its employees at AU@Main in Durham, but chose to lease a small office for one of its developers that lives in Raleigh. When American Underground tenants have meetings across town, they now have access to space to get some work done — and the collisions and connections with other entrepreneurs to boot.
The space itself is very unique. At three levels high, it’s actually the smallest American Underground space in terms of square footage, but possibly the most efficiently designed of the three. By focusing more on dedicated offices of small teams and less on open coworking, AU@Raleigh maximizes the number of startup teams it can house.
Another element of AU@Raleigh is Bandwidth Labs, the Bandwidth incubator designed to drive innovation at Bandwidth. I caught up with Scott Barstow, head of Bandwidth Labs, and he sees Bandwidth Labs’ role as one that “demonstrates Bandwidth’s commitment to disruptive innovation and supporting our employees’ big ideas as well as up and coming companies in the area.” It’s a way to support young companies that could become the next Bandwidth.
With a significant monetary investment and an office separate from the Bandwidth office on NCSU’s Centennial Campus, Bandwidth is committed to helping build a culture where its employees are rewarded for being entrepreneurial.
Over time, I’d expect to see a lot of broader benefits to the entire Triangle. Adam told me he’s had great meetings with NC State that will likely bear benefits to startups across the AU network. American Underground’s designation as a Google Tech Hub will span the Raleigh location. In fact, the AU@Raleigh opening party will host Mary Grove, director of Google for Entrepreneurs.
This may not be the last AU space to open in the Triangle, but it’s the beginning of tangible connections that will strengthen the entire Triangle entrepreneurial community. And that’s worth a trip to Foundation to celebrate.