American Underground

Division Profile


American UndergroundThe American Underground is the Startup Capital of the South (according to CNBC) and home to 275+ startups. American Underground builds on the legacy of Durham’s century old entrepreneurial spirit while creating the counter-story to Silicon Valley–namely, a startup scene rich in diversity, ideas, and deep city engagement. As one of twelve Google for Entrepreneurs tech hubs, American Underground helps early-stage startups grow and scale their businesses through innovative workspace options, a diverse community, top-notch business resources, and startup incubation programs. To date, two American Underground companies have won Google’s prestigious Demo Day for top startups in North America.

American Underground houses its startups at three downtown Durham locations and has a third site in Raleigh, which is home to the Iron Yard coding school. In supporting the entrepreneurial community and job talent pool, the AU’s goal is to stimulate the local economy through investment dollars, job creation, and spending at downtown establishments.


American Underground logoThe American Underground launched in 2010 in the basement of the Strickland Building on the American Tobacco Campus, North Carolina’s largest historic renovation project. This project totaled over one million square feet of space and transformed what was once an eyesore of abandoned tobacco warehouses into a bustling business and entertainment, with American Underground occupying about 30,000 square feet of that space. The American Underground draws inspiration from Durham’s entrepreneurial past, including the legacy of Durham’s “Black Wall Street,” which, in the early 1900s, had the country’s largest concentration of Black millionaires.

In 2013, American Underground expanded to its @Main location and shortly after was invited to join the Google for Entrepreneurs network. That next year, it opened a space in Raleigh’s Fayetteville street, which it later transitioned into a location for the Iron Yard coding school to train coding and software engineering talent. In early 2015, the AU’s chief strategist, Adam Klein, publicly announced the company’s bold goal to become the most diverse tech hub in the country and began aggressive efforts towards that mission, including partnering with Code2040, a San Francisco based company focused on introducing entrepreneurs of color to tech opportunities. In 2016, American Underground moved into its fourth location, @Market, and in 2017 it opened a sister space, called Gridworks, for the freelance, creative and non-profit community.


  • 1 of 12 Google For Entrepreneur Tech Hubs



Adam Klein“What started in the basement of American Tobacco in 2010 has boomed into one of the most vibrant entrepreneurial communities in the US. At the American Underground, we’re fortunate to be building one of the most diverse and inclusive startup hubs in the country, in partnership with groups like Google for Entrepreneurs and others locally. With over 1,000 jobs created in the past three years by American Underground companies, we see this work as critical to ensuring the long-term economic success of Durham and our region in the years to come.”
– Adam Klein, chief strategist, American Underground,, (919) 433-4264