This article was written for our sponsor, Vaco.

The Triangle continues to make its mark both locally and nationally.

From Raleigh’s Warehouse District to Durham’s American Underground, this pocket of Central North Carolina has made a name for itself over the past few years as a national tech hub, attracting the attention of heavy-hitting companies like Apple, Amazon and Google in the process.

However, while the area is packed with a slew of tech bigwigs, its buzzing, diverse startup scene may be what helps cement its role as an East Coast Silicon Valley.

“The one thing I have seen over the last five to eight years is Raleigh-Durham continuing to fight to be recognized as a tech leader, and it’s been great to see all the organizations here together to support the startup community and be very open and inclusive in regards to mentoring, coaching, and trying to connect,” said Sid Mitchener, the senior managing partner at Raleigh-based Vaco. “That ecosystem is in large part maintained by the investors and the service organizations like Vaco, where everyone is working to support that connectivity and help put smaller companies on the map.”

At the consulting and recruitment company Vaco, professionals like Mitchener help keep the metaphorical ball of the Triangle tech scene spinning. The company does everything from turnkey software development and cybersecurity consulting to recruiting operations and executive-level coaching, investing in local talent to help foster local success.

According to Mitchener, a major motivator in the rich startup atmosphere of the Triangle is the innovation that comes from the local colleges and universities.

From the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to Duke University to North Carolina State University, each school operates some sort of innovation club or incubator that helps student startups connect with successful businesses in the community. Once students are out of school, those mentors can help them make the right connections.

“We take pride in playing the role of connector and mentor to a lot of these companies to make sure that they are getting the right timely advice and getting connected to the right people and all of those associations and services, from prospective clients to accountants,” said Mitchener. “We work hard to make sure that we can get these folks talking to the right people to get educated and to move along their startups so they can focus on their companies versus focusing on legal issues, or raising money, or whatever else it may be. Instead, they can really focus on their product or their service and making it successful.”

Oftentimes, these connections can help startups find angel investors or link up with the crowdfunding network, both of which offer significant support structures in the Triangle tech scene. In providing this vital link, there’s also a concerted effort to prevent the “brain drain” after college — when graduates take their ideas and move to larger hubs across the country instead of remaining local and investing in the Triangle area.

Joe Procopio is a perfect example of the value that comes from investing locally.

A transplant from New York who attended NCSU and stuck around after graduating, Procopio has been involved in the Triangle tech and startup scene for years, hopping from one successful venture to the next. His most recent startup, Precision Fermentation — which makes sensors that help monitor and automate the fermenting process — is preparing to go international.

For Procopio, the Triangle was the perfect place to build his resume.

“There is an independent groundswell now that signals Raleigh and Durham are entrepreneurial hotspots. That’s all the work of entrepreneurs and some of the economic developers like American Underground. People are moving here from all over to be a part of this rich entrepreneurial scene and ecosystem,” said Procopio. “When I was running ExitEvent, the thing that people would tell me most often was that everyone here was very willing to help in a way that they have not experienced. It almost became a catchphrase of the area — ‘How can I help?’ I still say that all the time. People here care about helping each other, which in turn lifts all boats and helps the overall ecosystem.”

“There’s something magical about the way people want to help, and often people attribute that to  Southern culture,” he continued. “But it’s not. It’s something rare, and it’s only here.”

That willingness to help not only creates a strong culture of collaboration within companies, but it also connects to the overall quality of life the area offers. While other major tech hubs around the country may suffer from daily traffic gridlock, long commutes and soaring housing prices, the Triangle remains approachable for people from all walks of life.

Additionally, since the startup scene here is full of up-and-coming names with a customer-first strategy, the atmosphere is free from educational pedigree or the constraints of major corporate names.

“We’re seeing more and more venture capital investment come into the area and that’s great, but it isn’t Silicon Valley, where an idea and some connections can get you a $10 to $20 million valuation. You have to have customers here. You have to have value here. You have to have a product here that people want,” said Procopio. “Anyone can do it — it’s the democratic version of startup, in my mind. It’s a lot more difficult at the outset, but it produces companies that grow steadily, sometimes quickly, and last a long time.”

While the Triangle does draw comparisons to Silicon Valley, the startup scene here doesn’t rely solely on tech. In fact, according to Mitchener, the area is becoming a hub for vertical industries, with major and minor branches in everything from agricultural sciences and pharmaceuticals to banking and finance.

With each business and startup, no matter the size, all of the elements for success can be found in the Triangle — and Mitchener hopes Vaco can help not only in making those connections, but also in growing workplace culture. One of their primary strategies in accomplishing this is training companies on the Agile mindset, which emphasizes collaboration, independence, and self-reflection.

“We want to make sure that companies have this structure to be able to support growth. Where we can, we help with figuring out how you’re growing up strategically, how you scale and get organized, and how you build good processes and procedures. We’re not just trying to get a body in a door, but we’re trying to consult with them and have the right structure, the ability, the strong foundation that helps the culture, which in turn helps their hiring,” said Mitchener. “Ultimately, where the most value comes from is getting them introduced to the right people in a timely manner to help make the right connections and the right decisions.”

This article was written for our sponsor, Vaco.