Friday, September 17, 2010

The Latest Iteration of Being a Startup Hub

Durham has always been a hub for startups...even before 1865 when Washington Duke came home after the Civil War and started in the tobacco business.  Seems to have worked out for him since with that modest start, Durham proceeded to lead the industrial revolution in the south with both tobacco and textile empires thriving here for the century to follow.

Now, in some of the very same buildings that housed those former manufacturing giants, Durham is again expressing its entrepreneurial nature as a massive influx of creative and business minded people come here to get their ideas off the ground.

The last several years have seen the startup landscape flourish in Durham, and the future is looking more lush every day.  With the recent opening of Bull City Forward as an incubator for social enterprises, and the impending opening of American Underground as a similar environment for tech companies, Durham is fast-tracking its growth in this direction.  Click here for a recent article on the subject.  Even the local blog Bull City Rising now has an editorial series devoted to this subject and a new correspondent focused on this beat.

"To call it exciting is an understatement.  We've always been a technology and innovation hub--after all RTP started here in 1959--but now we're seeing opportunities for small operations to call Durham home in a new way," said Shelly Green, President and CEO of the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau.  "The fact is that more than 80% of relocating executives come to Durham as visitors first and then decide to move here.  We're now seeing the natural evolution of that with a previous generation setting the stage for newcomers to get their concepts off the ground here.  Durham is a place where great things happen, and we're hoping these businesses will stay in Durham," she added.

BCF and AU are only part of the picture.  There is a startup subculture in Durham, a place that often wins accolades for various aspects of its population.  See a searchable database of those here.  A new website,, sponsored by, is a great clearing house for information on new businesses getting underway in Durham, but also in the surrounding area.  Their blog can be seen here.

Pursuant to being attractive to a younger demographic, Durham has an exciting dining scene with more than three dozen nationally celebrated restaurants, bakeries and food trucks for near round the clock options.  There is even a website devoted entirely to coffee shops and bakeries that rates them based on various criteria.  There is also a fare-free bus, The Bull City Connector, that services downtown Durham as some immediately adjacent parts of town including Duke and North Carolina Central Universities.

A visit to the official website for Durham's marketing agency sums up the current culture pretty well, "Durham is a colorful, creative, and entrepreneurial community and is the proud home of Research Triangle Park, Duke and North Carolina Central universities."  Sounds like startup mecca.

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