Triangle Startup Guide exclusive: Inside the American Underground

American Underground entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs gather for a chat inside The American Underground.

WRAL-TV Streaming Anchor/Producer Editor Meghan Glova penned this piece about one of CBC’s Durham divisions, American Underground, for WRAL TechWire.

In an exclusive interview with WRAL Techwire, American Underground’s Executive Director Tim Scales shares what’s different about American Underground. 

“The AU leads with a mission that all members should be welcomed, known, and involved,” said Scales. “In practice, this means that the AU team is focused not only on delivering a productive workspace and engaging programs, but in meeting and supporting each member as an individual. This level of intentional engagement is a key differentiator — one that leads to stronger outcomes for our entrepreneurs plus a more connected and sustainable community.”

American Underground Management
American Underground leadership, from left: Gary Lyon, Tim Scales, Laura Zabinski, Steve Bullock.

A lightly edited transcript of the interview with Scales appears below.

WRAL TechWire (TW): What are you seeing in terms of demand?

Tim Scales (Scales): We recently opened applications for a new program called Idea to Entrepreneur, and have been blown away by the number of applicants. The program is geared towards aspiring entrepreneurs at the ‘idea stage’, with the goal to provide the skills and mindset to help them confidently take the initial steps in validating their venture idea. 

It’s clear that there are many people in the Triangle who have been kicking around an entrepreneurial idea, and are looking for a little support and guidance to get started.


FACT BOX – AMERICAN UNDERGROUND 

Address:  201 W Main Street, Durham

Contact information: 

  • Twitter: @amerunderground
  • LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/amerunderground
  • Email: info@americanunderground.com
  • Website: www.americanunderground.com 

Owner: Capitol Broadcasting Company (corporate parent of WRAL TechWire) 

Mission statement: American Underground believes startups increase and diversify economic opportunity, but require cultivation. Through a connected community, curated content and workspace that tap the region’s ecosystem of experts, American Underground is the Triangle’s front door to the resources startups, their founders and employees need. Atlas was founded in the American Underground, and supports their mission to make AU the most diverse community of Startups in the country.

Availability:  Offers Coworking Memberships from $149–$199/month and offices starting at $449/month. 

Best way to learn more:  Visit during a free coworking day, or visit www.americanunderground.com to learn more and schedule a tour.


TW: NC is reporting a continuing surge in new businesses—what are you seeing in terms of demand?

Scales: We have seen sustained demand for small private offices over the past year, and have consistently stayed at or near capacity on that front. Our highest growth area is in Coworking memberships, and we’ve seen a diverse mix of entrepreneurs, freelancers, creatives, and remote workers seeking to join.

While many of our new members have the option or ability to work from home, they choose the AU as their professional home in order to engage with the community and events in addition to regular workspace.

TW: How much space does your facility have? Are there any plans for expansion?

Scales: The AU currently runs three locations in downtown Durham, with 100+ private offices and multiple coworking areas. While we run near full capacity, we have no immediate plans to add new locations — instead, we’re investing in our programs and events to continue to strengthen our community and provide resources and opportunities to our members.

TW: What entrepreneurship programs are available?

Scales: We run several incubator-style programs for founders, such as our flagship Black Founders Exchange and Idea to Entrepreneur. Plus, we offer members a regular schedule of educational workshops, office hours, social events, and networking opportunities to help support their personal and professional growth. 

In addition, a key service is the high-touch networking provided by the AU staff and community — particularly for early stage entrepreneurs, these warm intros and thoughtful connections can help accelerate growth and build a professional network.

TW: Do you have any programs that focus on women entrepreneurs, minority-owned businesses, or veteran-owned businesses?

Scales: We run the annual Black Founders Exchange in partnership with Google for Startups. This immersion program brings a cohort of Black founders to Durham for a week of hands-on training and engaging speakers, and is designed to move companies with a high-growth model from initial product to a successful seed round.

TW: How are you funded?

Scales: Corporate sponsors play a key role in underwriting the programs and events that support our members. These sponsors include Google for Startups and their ongoing support of the Black Founders Exchange, plus current partners like The Diversity Movement, Hutchison Law, Google Fiber, Delta Airlines, and others.

TW: What is the organization’s philosophy about helping startups and small/emerging companies to grow?Scales: The AU is owned by Raleigh-based Capitol Broadcasting Company, which believes that entrepreneurship is a key driver of economic growth and opportunity in the Triangle. [Capitol is also the corporate parent of WRAL TechWire.] The success of the AU community over the past decade has validated the belief that hands-on support at both the founder and the ecosystem level will position a region for sustained — and sustainable — growth.

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of in-depth  reports from WRAL TechWire about startup-focused hubs across the Triangle region. The Startup Guide is an exclusive feature from WRAL TechWire designed to help entrepreneurs launch and grow entrepreneurial companies. These reports are being written by WRAL TechWire contributor Sarah Glova. Watch for more reports in coming weeks on WRAL TechWire as part of their Startup Monday packages.

Thanks to WRAL-TV’s Meghan Glova for this Capcom story & for these Capcom photos.

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