Content shared through an agreement between WRAL TechWire and ExitEvent.

By Rick Smith, WRAL TechWire Editor

Among all the efforts focusing on boosting startups in the Triangle these days, Groundwork Labs is unique.

It’s free.

And now the three-month mentoring program, which is funded by economic development group NC IDEA, is reaching beyond the Triangle to help startups by the offering of a housing stipend. Groundwork is based at The American Underground in Durham’s American Tobacco Historic District.

John Austin, director of Groundwork Labs since its launch in 2012, talked with WRAL TechWire about the new program, how Groundwork is different, and the success it has had so far in helping grow new businesses from the ground up.

The stipend will be based on the needs of the startup teams and will cover the cost of a short-term apartment in Durham, Austin explains. An application period for the fall program, which begins Oct. 6, is now open.

Our Q&A:

What were the key factors in driving the stipend decision?

We spoke during the last year with folks in Charlotte, Winston Salem, Wilmington, and Greenville about the possibility of creating Groundwork Labs locations around the state – they had all approached us at one time or another. But we found it just wasn’t feasible – either the cost, logistics, or density of startups made it difficult.

Since NC IDEA’s mission is statewide, we did want to find a way to make it easier for those teams to participate.

Then we got to thinking, why not just NC, why not try and attract teams from outside the area, bring them here, show them our great community and maybe they’d stay.

Which is a little different than the NC companies – with them we are not trying to lure them here to stay but after 2-4 months carry back to their community expertise and connections that they can share with other startups in their area.

Read the rest on TechWire.