The American Underground is pivoting in its mission to provide a wider variety of services and “perks” for startups and emerging companies that occupy its spaces across the Triangle. Adam Klein, the chief strategist at the AU, spells out the new mission in a letter to the 275 companies operating in AU space.
“We think the region is in need of new work and initiatives to go to the next level,” Klein explained.
“It is not enough to be a strong downtown or region, we must be connecting you with national opportunities to gain exposure, raise new capital and find new partnerships. We must assist each startup in the American Underground in taking their next big step through direct incubation programs. And we must help you find your next great hire to take your company to new heights.”
AU is offering more benefits and opportunities. Its recent acquisition of the Big Top reverse job fairs from serial Triangle entrepreneur Chris Heivly is also part of an AU strategy to help startups find talent.
The changes are based in part by information gathered by AU’s 18-member staff as well as Google Entrepreneur-in-Residence Juan Porras.
AU also is adjusting as it faces growing competition for startups from other shared office/services providers such as HQ Raleigh.
Here’s the text of Klein’s letter:
Open Letter to the AU
We are ending HelpFest today. After reflecting as a team and seeing where the startup ecosystem is, we believe the event has outlived its purpose. When we began HelpFest, most of the companies in the AU were similar in size and scale. We’ve the good fortune that that’s no longer true today and so we want to provide broader and more tailored programs to better meet your needs. Don’t worry, there is more Mellow Mushroom and burritos in your future, read on.
Simply put, we are evolving our model to sharpen our focus on innovating AU workspace, ramping up incubation and talent development programs, community growth, and increased perks for you as an American Underground member.
For the past seven years, the drumbeat in the Durham and the Triangle startup community has been steady and loud. From hosting the editor of TechCrunch at Bay 7 with 700+ people (2012) to announcing our Google partnership (2013) to AU firms closing over $75m in funding the past few years, there is a groundswell of momentum. But, we believe the ecosystem is fundamentally different today than it was in 2010 when we opened our doors and we are evolving our model to reflect that reality.
Going forward, our team will continue to focus on supporting your growth through quality real estate.But we think the region is in need of new work and initiatives to go to the next level. It is not enough to be a strong downtown or region, we must be connecting you with national opportunities to gain exposure, raise new capital and find new partnerships. We must assist each startup in the American Underground in taking their next big step through direct incubation programs. And we must help you find your next great hire to take your company to new heights. Below are a few ‘appetizers’ to preview the bigger evolution and we invite you to share your ideas with us for more as well.
Incubation and Talent Development
- MBA-lite: In partnership with Rice University and MIT, we’re piloting a new curriculum for entrepreneurs to get the basics of running a startup and leading a business. Starting in August, 50 American Underground startups will be eligible for free curriculum and a $1,000 stipend to participate in a program that will ensure you have the fundamentals to build a great company. I’ll be in touch with more details soon.
- BRIDGE Minority Incubator: BRIDGE is a set of programs and an operational mindset that aims to facilitate access to resources for underrepresented communities interested in tech and entrepreneurship. Our new minority incubator will be the first program under the BRIDGE umbrella and is unique to the United States in that we are building core technology teams for each founder in order to help them launch a new product and generate initial cash flow. As such, we will put together programmers, designers, user-experience experts, and world-class mentors from companies like Google and IBM. This is a three month program that culminates in a venture showcase event where we will help companies sell to clients. For more information, connecting with Juan Porras (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- BigTop acquisition and future: We know finding the best talent is at the top of your list which is why we acquired BigTop–an event and technology platform to match job seekers with hiring startups. AU members will receive an exclusive 25% off discount to present at BigTop and find your next great hire. Email Michael (email@example.com) for more.
- CPG and HealthIT Meetups: For the past few months, we’ve hosted a series of meetups in new industry types–consumer product companies and healthcare IT companies. As we work to add more startups into the mix in Durham, we see major opportunities in cultivating new industries beyond software and connecting people across industry types to forge new opportunities. We’d love for you to join an upcoming meetup–RSVP now.
- CEO Roundtables: Under Juan Porras’ leadership, CEO’s of AU based companies are meeting monthly for confidential conversation about successes and struggles with their companies. This is building new community within our space and providing a smaller community within the larger AU for important conversations. Email Juan (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more.
- NYC Coworking Partnership: We are excited to announce a new partnership with Bond Collective, an NYC-based community of shared office space with 4 locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The Bond Collective team is forward-thinking in design and diversity- two vital aspects to our growth and strategic shift. Similar to the GFE Passport Program, AU and Bond Collective members will be able to use each other’s spaces for up to 3 days per month. Email Aisha Lewis (email@example.com) to get access to Bond during your next trip to NYC.
- Audi Partnership: As a continuation of the fall pilot, American Underground is continuing to partner with Audi and Silvercar on broader mobility initiatives that we believe will significantly impact members of AU, and ultimately the City of Durham, in many exciting ways. Stay tuned for more on this front in the very near future.
- Techstars: As a member of the AU, you now are able to skip the first round of the TechStars application and advance immediately to an in-person interview for this prestigious accelerator. Please email Adam (firstname.lastname@example.org) after you’ve applied so we can flag this in the Techstars system.
- Intranet: We’ve heard from many of you that you don’t know about all of the perks and membership benefits AU provides so we’re working on a simple Intranet site that will be ready this fall. Soon, you’ll be able to see all of the perks in one spot.
American Underground is owned by Capitol Broadcasting, the corporate parent of WRAL TechWire.