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Shared space draws entrepreneurial council, startups to American Tobacco complex

Posted July 20, 2010

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— Two entrepreneurial businesses and the start-up organization long dedicated to helping entrepreneurs find paths to success will soon have a new home in Durham.

Other business are expected to join them, too.

The Council for Entrepreneurial Development is moving to new space at the American Tobacco Historic District in downtown Durham. Located across the street from the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, the “American Underground” is set to open this October.

Joining the CED as initial tenants are LaunchBox Digital, which works with entrepreneurs launching new businesses, and Joystick Labs, which is focused on gaming companies.

The joint moves and the launching of the project geared to provide space for start-up companies was formally announced Tuesday morning at the American Tobacco Campus.

American Underground is being converted from about 26,000 square feet of basement space in the campus' Strickland and Crowe buildings that is currently used for storage. The facility will include a 60-person classroom and a break room and arcade in addition to offices and conference rooms.

The move is the latest expansion at the sprawling former tobacco complex that is owned and operated by Capitol Broadcasting Company, which owns WRAL, the Durham Bulls and the nearby Diamond View office buildings.

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The CED is moving from space it has occupied for the last four years at the Alexandria Technology Center.

“We really like the idea of shared facilities,” CED President Joan Siefert Rose said. “The ATC is exactly the place for us to be. We love the whole concept of an entrepreneurial center, and there are so many technology-related companies already located in the complex.”

Rose is already familiar with the ATC, having worked at WUNC-FM, which maintains its studio there.

By being part of the ATC, the CED also will “generate more foot traffic” and give the organization “more opportunities to be engaged” with other entrepreneurs and companies, Rose said.

The CED will utilize some 2,400 square feet for its nine employees, she said.

Other tech tenants at the site include venture capital firm Intersouth Partners and Bronto Mail.

The ATC is losing GlaxoSmithKline as a tenant as the drug giant moves to consolidate space for its U.S. headquarters operations.

American Underground, however, is geared to attract smaller companies that can benefit from shared facilities, such as conference and training rooms.

Joystick Labs, which recently launched with more than $500,000 in backing from several investors, including Capitol Broadcasting, sees the site as “exciting space,” according to Juan Benito, one of the firm’s founders.

The four partners in Joystick currently “operate virtually” but plan to move into about 2,000 square feet of space, Benito said.

By being near so many other firms and amenities like restaurants, Benito said, American Underground promises “a lot of cross-pollination opportunities.”

Chris Heivly, a founder of LaunchBox Digital, noted that locating at ATC positions the firm at what he calls “the evolving creative hub” of the Triangle.

LaunchBox works with start-ups, providing $20,000 in funding as well as mentoring and support from other entrepreneurs, in exchange for 6 percent equity in the fledgling firms.

Many of the executives LaunchBox works with are young, and Heivly said, “They like to be surrounded with their kin, and the ATC is already a focus for many of those in that age group.”

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  • withnailharrison Jul 20, 2010

    And don't forget the classic, "I don't go do Durham unless I'm carrying". Hillarious stuff Durham-phobes. We're better off without you.

  • davido Jul 20, 2010

    Also, Burt's Bees is right up the hill, but they need to have a little retail (where by retail I really mean everything's free!!) outlet.

  • jahausa Jul 20, 2010

    Good for Durham!

    Now, let's wait for all the naysayers around here to start with their "downtown revitalization is worthless" rants.