Durham, N.C. — American Underground, a hub for new and emerging businesses in downtown Durham, is expanding.
The business accelerator, located in the American Tobacco Historic District, is leasing a second location, where it will offer another 22,000 square feet to house up to 50 fledgling companies.
Fifteen startups have already committed to the new space, called Underground @Main Street. The space, which will occupy two floors of the Self-Help Credit Union building at 201 W. Main St., is expected to open in April.
Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.
The American Underground is operated by Capitol Broadcasting, which is the parent of WRAL TV and WRAL.com, as well as the owner of the American Tobacco Historic District. Capitol has several partners in the project, including the Durham Chamber of Commerce and Duke University, which made "financial contributions," Adam Klein, chief strategist for the American Underground, told WRAL News.
The Underground houses a variety of new companies as well as the economic development group NC IDEA, venture capital firm IDEA Fund Partners, the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, the Triangle Startup Factory and Groundwork Labs, a new business accelerator.
The Underground, which opened two years ago, is entirely leased, thus providing some of the reasoning for the expansion, said Adam Klein, chief strategist for the American Underground.
"The Underground is full with a growing wait list," Klein said. "We see the strongest demand coming for smaller private offices, which is one of the reasons we are expanding to Main Street."
Captiol sees the expansion as part of a commitment to help Durham and the Triangle grow, Klein explained.
"Capitol Broadcasting believes its success is tied to the success of the communities in which it operates," he told WRAL News. "We see the growth of the startup community as essential to the development of a talented, creative workforce that will lead this region for the next 50 years. Our investment in the Underground allows CBC to nurture and support the transformative and disruptive technologies that will create a new and bold future for the Triangle."
Through programs such as the Bull City Startup Stampede and the Underground, Durham is already home to scores of startups. Numerous technology and other companies already are based at the Underground and across the American Tobacco campus.
Klein said the growth of the past several years shows no signs of slowing.
"Stepping back two years, we’ve seen downtown Durham grow from roughly 30 startups to 80 startups, and that pace has not slowed," Klein said. "We believe demand will continue to grow as we invest in the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and form a more prominent presence at a national level.
Klein said the accelerator is seeing a greater demand for smaller, private offices for teams that are still in the early stages of product development.
"We want to support entrepreneurs at each stage of their growth, and the @Main Street expansion allows us to nurture up-and-coming concepts in a strategic way," he said.
As part of the expansion, Capitol will rename the Underground as Underground@American Tobacco Campus.
Capitol has several partners in the project, including the Self-Help Credit Union, the Research Triangle Foundation, which oversees RTP, NC IDEA, and Bandwidth.com, which will provide communications hardware to tenants.
NC IDEA, which supports the Groundworks Labs effort, will seek to help startups through a variety of programs.
"Money alone does not drive success," said Dave Rizzo, chief executive officer of NC IDEA. "The programming at the Underground @MainStreet will help young companies network their way to important connections and navigate the challenges they'll face on their journey to success."
Committed to take space at the new Underground are:
- ArchiveSocial, a social media archiving firm
- Green Plus, which focuses on sustainable development
- HaitiHub, an online learning site for Haitian Creole
- iKlaro, a mobile marketing technology company
- Impulsonic, a developer of sound simulation software
- Mint Market, which focuses on local food purchasing for restaurants
- Pluribus, which is developing security software for mobile payments
- PlusDelta Technologies, a pharmacy technology company
- Privateer Digital, a social media firm
- SalesTags, a software developer for jobs and careers
- Song Backer, a web-based venue for musicians
- Sqord, which focuses on games and increased activity for children
- StartupSpot, a company focused on helping startups find financing
- SyncHear, which is developing technology to deliver audio to smartphones in environments such as bars and restaurants from TVs
- Thryv, an online site to track and share fitness
Noreen Allen, head of marketing for Bandwidth.com, said the Raleigh-based communications technology firm is supporting the new Underground tenants because it "believes in the revolutionary power of startups. As they grow and succeed, we want to be right there supporting them."