DURHAM — As the saying goes, it all happens under the Big Top. And now for the local startup community, that’s what people in the know are trying to make happen.

Big Top, the Capitol Broadcasting-affiliated software company with American Underground, launched today a new subscription-based service that gives members access to a “hyper-focused” networking platform.

Billed as an alternative to national sites like LinkedIn, it caters instead to residents and recent transplants, providing a more direct way to plug in to a database of more than 10,000 registered members – and one of the nation’s fastest-growing startup hubs.

Among its offerings: a free company profile for startups at any stage, and unlimited job postings and coaching from industry experts for a monthly fee.

“Everyone feels the buzz and energy of what’s happening here, but there’s still a feeling of disconnect on a regional level because we’ve outgrown the infrastructure,” said Big Top’s director Molly Demarest.

Big Top Director Molly Demarest. Big Top photo.

“We’re trying to make it easier for people to connect, and we’ve come up with a model that is affordable and scalable for startups that just doesn’t exist out there.”

Three-tiered subscription model

The three-tiered subscription model is priced from a complimentary membership to $449 per month.

Using Big Top’s software, the complimentary option allows startups of any size to gain free exposure with a customizable profile to highlight awards and accomplishments, company culture and benefits.

Pay $199 per month, and Big Top throws in unlimited job postings, promotion as a hiring startup, featured listings and access to growth workshops. Go the premium route, and startups get listed on Big Top’s directory and homepage, as well as coaching and access to “influencers”.

“For less than the cost of one LinkedIn job posting, startups can market unlimited jobs on the Big Top website, in addition to accessing curated exposure and community-derived tools that national platforms can’t offer,” said Demarest.

As always, Big Top is free for individuals. To join, individuals submit a profile to gain access to a peer community, look for a job or just gain exposure to a potential startup employer.

“Startup communities can feel exclusive, a ‘who you know’ network that prohibits newcomers from breaking in. Bridging this gap creates infrastructure for inclusive community that’s open to residents and newcomers,” she added.

“Whether you’re an individual looking to connect with peers, build skills or find a job, or a startup seeking growth support or greater visibility, when you join Big Top you instantly inherit a network.”

For those who sign up before September 30, the first month is free.

Big Top’s evolution

It was little more than a year ago that The American Underground, which is owned by WRAL TechWire parent Capitol Broadcasting, acquired the local startup.

Since then, it has evolved from an events company and fledgling jobs platform, to a software company and leading online hub for local startups.

But don’t worry — one thing that hasn’t changed is Big Top’s other focus of in-person connections, too. The company is still forging ahead with its recently revamped event series, including its popular Startup Crawl, Talent Talks and growth workshops.

“Our goal is to build something that the community wants and needs,” said Demarest. “What we will continue to do is work with founders and people in startup community to figure [that] out, and how we can build it to evolve with community.”

Offline, Big Top offers in-person connection opportunities, through Startup Crawls that tour founders through startups across the region, Talent Talks and growth workshops.

“As the Triangle continues to top national lists as one of the fastest-growing startup hubs, Big Top is adding fuel to that growth by building software for startups, by startups.

Startups have limited resources, and are incentivized to prioritize product and sales growth over healthy and sustainable organizational growth. Big Top resolves the tension between cultivating growth and cultivating culture by delivering an affordable and easy-to-use platform to tell their story at scale, make curated connections and build healthy growth practices.”