Remember Durham’s “Startup Stampede,” which ran from 2010-2012? Well the bulls in the form of startups – this time focused on consumer products – will soon be running Durham’s streets again.

Funding by a $100,000 grant from NC IDEA, the American Underground is rolling out a new incubation program for startups in the consumer product space. Adam Klein, chief strategist for the AU, explains what the program is all about in an exclusive Q&A.

First, Klein will be introducing the program on Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. at American Underground @Main.

It’s called Bull City Startup Stampede. (Learn more at: http://startupstampede.com )

Second, AU is launching a new meetup focusing on consumer product companies on Thursday, Oct. 20, from 5-6:30 p.m. at West End Bar in Durham. (Learn more at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/consumer-product-meetup-tickets-27760278741 )

Third, the program is aimed at growing startups across the state, not just the Triangle.

When NC IDEA awarded AU the grant, NC IDEA CEO Thom Ruhe said Stampede “has the potential to draw participation from not only within NC, but from other parts of the country as well. Focusing on consumer product companies allows the effort to better serve the unique needs of these types of startups.”

Here’s our Q&A with Klein:

  • So what is Stampede?

The Startup Stampede is a two-month competitive incubation program for consumer product companies that have successfully completed a crowdfunding campaign. The program will help create an online storefront for each consumer product company, with support and expertise in eCommerce strategy, order fulfillment and logistics, and branding/marketing.

At the end of the program, an entrepreneur will launch an online storefront to help scale sales throughout and beyond North Carolina. We are taking this approach because we believe consumer product companies in the 21st century will scale best by beginning with an online storefront, rather than a brick-and-mortar location.

The cost of customer acquisition is lower and an online-first approach taps into our region’s great strengths in software and eCommerce.

  • Why choose to focus on consumer product companies (Mati, Spoonflower as examples)?

We think that, despite minimal infrastructure, CPG companies are performing well.

Runaway Apparel, Spoonflower, Mati, Nugget Comfort, Raleigh Denim, and more. In talking with these companies, they’ve each noted there is a need in our region and state to organize the unique ecosystem for CPG companies and provide programming and support to help them scale.

  • How will the grant be spent? Are you adding any staff? What kind of support/resources?

Grant money will be spent on program execution and delivery, free space for the startups, and web development assistance to the teams. We firmly believe this program can attract startups from across the US and have a budget for a housing stipend for participating teams not based in the Triangle.

  • What are the criteria for companies to get involved?

Companies must complete a successful crowdfunding campaign to be considered. This helps us gauge customer traction and interest and calibrate the program to companies at roughly the same stage.

Our job is to help them build out a strong digital strategy to grow their customer base online.

  • Will there be a cost for companies to participate?

No, thanks to the NC IDEA grant, there is no cost to participate.

  • Anyone else involved in the program other than AU?

We are building out our roster of mentors, investors and experts, some of which are based in the AU and some are not.

We will share more details as that is confirmed.


Program outline

Here is the proposed program schedule by week:

  • Pre-program: Assessments completed on selected companies, program refined based on assessments
  • Week one: Program introduction, participant develops clear goals for incubation period, brand strategy introduction and development
  • Week two: Finalize brand document, begin meetings with web developers/photographers for site development
  • Week three: Logistics and order fulfillment strategy session, continued work on web development
  • Week four: Web site draft completed/edits suggested, digital marketing strategy session and coaching
  • Week five: Email marketing strategy session, continued work on web development
  • Week six: Web site finalized, continued work on marketing strategies and logistics/order fulfillment
  • Week seven: Final edits/tweaks, pitch practice
  • Week eight: Launch party, unveil online storefronts