DURHAM –  It was a chilly evening at the American Tobacco Campus on Monday – but a hot night for jobs – as hundreds of students, job seekers and tech professionals mingled with some of the most innovative start-ups in the Triangle.

The event, organized by Big Top, featured one-minute talks from six technology-focused companies selling themselves as a place to work. The concept  is called the Big Top Bash which is a chance for startups to make connections, share their stories and grow their teams.  (Read more about what companies had to say in WRAL TechWire’s additional reporting online.)

“This is one of the many changes that is part of our shift away from being solely focusing on jobs and more about building a trusted network in the Triangle,” said Big Top Director Molly Demarest. And the recruiters drew a big crowd despite the weather.

Among the firms were Bee Downtown, which installs beehives in cities to rebuild a healthy honeybee population, and K4 Connect, which uses technology to help older adults and people with disabilities better connect with the world. Also there: Automated Insights, Pendo, SugarCRM and Teamworks.

Nobu Yoshida

“There are so many companies and people out here,” said Nobu Yoshida, a student at UNC. “This is going really well.”

Irene Serrano Alvarado came to familiarize herself with tech companies, big and small, in the area, and to her, the goodness of the start-ups didn’t go unnoticed. “These companies reflect a lot of the hardcore values of our community,” she said. “Everyone is so approachable – they give you a smile that seems to say, ‘Come on, we want to share what we do with you!’ I was really impressed with everybody, but I was mostly impressed with peoples’ attitudes.”

The speeches were short and sweet, giving attendees ample time to check out the companies they most related to, and Big Top organizers said they purposely keep their events engaging, purposeful and exciting.

“I really want people to leave knowing that we are building a trusted network of talent start-ups in the region. We’re trying to make it easier for people to grow their networks and make connections,” said Demarest.  The event also served as a reboot for BigTop, which is moving beyond the reverse job fairs to also include a broader talent recruiting database and other networking events in order to build a “recruiting and career management community.”

Mike Hayes, Big Top representative

“I think this is a big resource for people who are new to the area,” added Mike Hayes, who works with Big Top and appreciated the event’s comfortable – and sociable – vibe. “I think people are excited about it. If it’s all talking, you lose people. I happen to be a start-up founder myself, and what I’d want is an event where you come in not looking to be sold to.

“It’s important for people to make connections, but it’s really cool that people can come here to have a good time — eat, drink and just hang out.”

Attendees seemed to feel the same way. “Yeah, this is where it’s happening,” said Nathan Steele, the co-founder of Flow Globe, a local digital product and development agency.

“This is where the start-ups are going to be, and it’s nice to network and see friends and meet new faces. It’s a good time.”

Nathan Steele (left) and John Ramsey (right)

Next to Steele, John Ramsey from Patagonia Health said he goes to these events to stay up-to-date on everything that’s going on in the area.

“Personally, I like to be involved in whatever is going on in the Triangle to see what other people are doing, and this is the perfect example of that kind of thing,” said Ramsey. “It’s getting harder to keep up with everything. Ten years ago, you could go go just a couple of events and keep up with what’s going on, and now if you don’t go to something every day you are not keeping up.”

The event was also filled with students who will be seeking jobs after they graduate this year, like Marcus Jones and John Leftwich, who are both graduate students at North Carolina Central University. Both men agreed that they came to the event to meet potential employers.

John Leftwich (left) and Marcus Jones (right) are students at NC Central

“Basically, I am here to network and look for a job,” said Shakira Campbell, who will graduate from N.C. Central in two weeks. “I want to establish my name. All the companies impressed me tonight with their pitches.”

Shakira Campbell (far right), a student at NCCU, stands with a group.

Even professionals who aren’t currently seeking a job came out to support Big Top’s efforts to better connect the business community.

“I’m interested in seeing all the different teams that are here and what they are looking for,” said Justin Laidlaw, a marketing professional at Runaway, a clothing and apparel brand in downtown Durham. “The community is growing around entrepreneurship, and I want to support those people.”

Justin Laidlaw (left) and Grant Fowler (right) are technology professionals who want to support Durham

“I really just want to support Durham and RTP are as a whole,” added Grant Fowler, CTO at Fugitive Labs. “I am also here to support my wife, who is looking for a job right now.”

Want to learn more? BigTop.jobs is your source to stay up-to-date with Big Top happenings, create a skill set profile and search for jobs.