From Storage Basement to Startup Hub: American Underground's Journey

Posted in: City Reports, american underground, durham, Entrepreneurship, research triangle

As we reported in our Best Cities to Found a Company study, Durham, NC is a thriving entrepreneurial area, in no small part because of the American Underground. AU, a huge complex built out of an old tobacco company's basement, has made itself into a pillar of the Durham startup community in just six years. After an investment in the building by Capitol Broadcasting, the Underground provided everything early-stage startups need: coworking spaces, entrepreneurial networks, and through a partnership with the search engine company, Google products.

With support from the city of Durham, American Underground committed to increasing opportunities and funding for its resident companies. Yesterday, the Underground released its funding report for 2014-2015, with exciting findings for both AU and the surrounding area:

  • Employees of AU companies spent over $1.3 million on food, beverages and other items within two miles of AU locations, showing an impressive impact on the local economy.
  • 227 companies are housed in the organization's three locations, up 21% from the previous year.
  • Those companies raised nearly $30 million in total funding and created over 400 jobs.
  • 22% of companies are minority-led, and 29% are led by women.

To that last point, Adam Klein, chief strategist at AU, said, "“We know diverse leadership in companies makes for more successful businesses--and building successful companies is core to the American Underground. This year was an important year for AU companies as they attracted new investment and attention from angels and VCs, and we're ready to capitalize on that momentum in 2016."

"Through the combined efforts and support of this entire community," continued Ellie Gamache, director of communications and member experience, we’ve seen a significant increase in funding for minority and women-led companies at the American Underground.  Together, we’re telling a different story around diversity and funding."

By creating a strong network of entrepreneurs and drawing on nearby universities' talent, American Underground has built its place in the Research Triangle startup community and in the local economy.