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The benefits of working underground in Durham, NC (adzerk.com)
59 points by javery on June 9, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 45 comments

Cool article. Our office is down the street from the American Underground and I'm down there fairly regularly. The space is definitely starting to gain quite a bit of traction and is getting to be a popular location for small teams that need a starter office. The Underground's growth is probably due to the growth of the Durham entrepreneurial community in general. There has been a lot of startup activity in the area over the past couple of years and it doesn't show any signs of slowing.

I'd love to see Durham get a co-working space of some sort (something I've heard is in works), which might be a way for even smaller teams to meet other people and work together.

I can tell you with some certainty more co-working/collaborative space for tech startups and tweeners is coming to downtown Durham :)

Awesome. That's what I've heard. :)

Yeah, I work at Bronto, next to Tyler's. Underground is pretty awesome, plus the free arcades are solid.

I worked in the adzerk office this past weekend during Triangle Startup Weekend. At first I was a little bothered by the lack of natural light but I quickly got used to it and actually enjoyed the environment/architecture there.

Since moving to the triangle though, I think the best decision I've made is moving to Durham. It's still affordable, has a lot of character, and offers the same amenities that Raleigh and Chapel Hill offer. I think this why the startup scene in Durham is taking off.

It's awesome to see NC on the front page of HN and it not be related to how backwards our new broadband laws are. :D

I was curious if anything similar to American Underground existed in the state, glad to see it does. Thanks for writing!

Durham gets a bit of a bad rep from the rest of the state, but it's an awesome little city on the quiet - in addition to the tech startup scene, it has a blossoming food truck community, a big arts scene, tons of bars, and they didn't bat an eyelid when my wife and I applied to get married by CCB Plaza in Pac-Man outfits last year :).

(and on that note, when I finally get this damn visa, anybody in the area interested in hiring somebody with sysadmin / JavaScript/Ruby development experience? ;))

We (Spring Metrics) are indeed interested in hiring Ruby devs. http://www.springmetrics.com/jobs.html When does the visa arrive? Can you bribe someone to get it faster? ;-)

If only I knew! It should be relatively soon now (next month or so), but we've managed to hit so many bumps along the way, including a period where the visa application sat untouched in Texas for almost six months last year, that I don't want to jinx it :).

Definitely get in touch with me, we (Heroku) are hiring exactly that kind of person for the operations team that I run. The company is based in San Francisco, but my team is all remote and a couple of us live here in the triangle.

Knowit is! - knowitapp.com

"Went to Full Frame Festival? Up late again with Haskell? Looking for your Shangri-La? We want you! Homebrewed beer, 24/7 hacker house, and the great night life of Durham, NC. jobs@knowitapp.com"

shoot me an email, jeff at knowitapp.com. Full disclosure, we want your british chocolates.

ps - this is broken... http://snappishproductions.com/archives.html

Heh - thanks, a mix-up with Jekyll there. Email sent - and I'll be bringing quite a bit of chocolate over!

We (UserVoice) are also hiring and looking at setting up an office in the area (I'm originally from Raleigh/NCSU). Ping me rich AT uservoice

Durham's a great town putting a lot of effort into enticing startups to settle there. Check out Bull City Forward http://bullcityforward.org/ an incubator backed in part by the city.

More about the Durham, NC start-up scene here: http://www.downtowndurhamstartups.com/

And since we're on the subject, don't forget RTP Hackers & Founders:


And also, Triangle Tech Talk:


I grew up in Durham, NC so it's great to see startups like Adzerk doing well. It's clear that the startup scene in the Triangle (with all the tech talent, access to universities, etc.) is blowing up. Keep it up!

Durham is definitely one the fastest growing startup hubs in America. ReverbNation.com, where I work is here and it's awesome, we're also hiring :)

Hey espadagroup, I'm applying around for jobs in the Raleigh/Durham area. I just got done with my first startup and moved to the area recently. I applied to the PM position at Reverb but never heard back. If you guys are still looking for someone to fill that role, drop me a line.

For anybody "looking in from the outside" here's an article about the Startup Weekend that was held here, just last weekend. It might help you get a feel for what the startup scene here is like:


I noticed LaunchBox in the article and with all the Durham-ites replying to this post, it's a perfect time to ask: Are they still a thing? Their website shows no signs of having the program again this year and their last blog post was in February.

The rumor is that they won't be doing an incubator class anymore - they want to move up stream and do more fund style investing.

2nd-ing the rumor from James. Launchbox is supposedly changing course to invest in post-incubator, pre-Series A companies.

For what it's worth, Chris H. posted this to his blog, so we can pretty much say that it's not a "rumor" now:


He's also saying that he intends to resurrect Triangle Startup Factory, which is good news.

Thanks for the reply. That's interesting. Do you know if this was by choice or if they just couldn't make their original model work in Durham?

Pretty sure it is by choice - I know at least 4 of the last class have already secured funding.

Rumors, just rumors...

I heard the same thing, 1st hand, from one of the folks behind Launchbox Digital. As far as I can tell, it's not a rumor, it's dead-true.

But, the corollary to that, is that a different incubator program may be emerging to fill the LD gap. I'm not sure how much of what I was told was "not for public dispersal" versus "already widely known" though, so I'll defer to say any more... Just keep your eyes and ears open, I expect there will be more news in the area at some point, regarding incubator(s).

How are the Ruby, Python, Javascript and Clojure communities in the area?

What startups in the area are in the consumer tech space?

I was given the names of a bunch of people in the startup community there by Fred Hutchison, but I was very disappointed to find out that none of them were on Quora. This left me with the impression that there isn't much of a community or that the community lives in a bubble that is separate from instead of networked with the tech communities in Silicon Valley, NYC, Boulder, Austin and Boston.

Ruby - Raleigh.rb was one of the first and largest Ruby user groups, we have some of the best Ruby developers in the country. Relevance, Viget, and Terralien (gone now) are all based in the Triangle.

Clojure - Relevance employs most of the Clojure core team and the Clojure conference is held here each year.

Javascript - Good local developers and groups.

Python - no clue.

How are the Ruby, Python, Javascript and Clojure communities in the area?

There's a very strong Ruby community here... Lots of companies using Ruby, and a very active Ruby user's group with multiple hack-night events throughout the month, at different parts of the Triangle.

The Clojure community is pretty strong as well, due to the presence of Relevance, Inc. in Durham. Relevance seems to employ almost everybody that's anybody in the Clojure world (ok, maybe a little bit of hyperbole, but it feels that way sometimes) and there's an active Triangle Clojure Meetup. Not sure what other companies in the area are using Clojure though.

There are active user groups for both Javascript and Python as well, in addition to .Net, PHP, Java, a "JVM Languages" hack-night group (for Scala, JRuby, Jython, Groovy, etc. folks), and a number more than I'm sure I'm forgetting.

We also have a very active Lean Startup group.

What startups in the area are in the consumer tech space?

For a list of area startups, see:


I was given the names of a bunch of people in the startup community there by Fred Hutchison, but I was very disappointed to find out that none of them were on Quora.

Hmm... there are definitely some Triangle area startup folks on Quora. I know a few of them offhand:

http://www.quora.com/Phillip-Rhodes (that's me)

http://www.quora.com/Nathaniel-Talbott (runs Spreedly and organizes the Lean Startup Circle and the Ruby Meetup)

http://www.quora.com/Jimmy-Thrasher (another Ruby guy)

http://www.quora.com/James-Avery (founder of AdZerk, is posting on this thread, I believe)

http://www.quora.com/Chris-Redinger (organizes the Clojure Meetup)

http://www.quora.com/Kacy-Fortner-1 (works for AdZerk)

http://www.quora.com/Wayne-Sutton (co-founder of TriOut)






etc., etc...

The disappointing thing is that the only person on that list with any real activity was you and many of the others only have activity related to their startup. Which RTP startup people are active HNers besides you and javery?

What about interface and ux design talent in the area? Anyone notable?

When is the next decent event between now and the 21st? I'll be in Raleigh until then before I fly back to São Paulo and then move to SF in August. I'd like to get an idea of what is going on here before I go.

Which RTP startup people are active HNers besides you and javery?

I know there are more of us here, but I don't know everyone's HN username. Offhand I can think of kacyf (works with javery at AdZerk) http://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=kacy

and Corey from Blinkness: http://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=Cblinks

I know there are others, I just can't tell you who they are on here, from memory.

What about interface and ux design talent in the area? Anyone notable?

A lot of the folks that work at Viget Labs are pretty sharp on UI and UX. We had a great UX team assembled at Lulu.com at one time, but unfortunately that team got broken up, some people moved away, some people went to other companies, and some people I just plain lost touch with. But yeah, there are some UI/UX people here who do some nice work.


When is the next decent event between now and the 21st?

Hmmm... we've had a flurry of stuff just in the last few days, so I'm not sure what else is going on this month. Let me glance at some calendars and I'll post an update later. Or maybe somebody else will have something "on the tip of their tongue" so to speak.

I second what everyone's saying about the the underground. My company scoped out an office down there, but we opted for the Snow Building on Main Street. I think not having natural light would have bothered me, but the trade off is having good companies very near by. Either way, there's lots of affordable office space in Durham and the business community (particularly the start-up community) is strong and getting stronger.

I hear you man, snow building is where it's at.

The Snow Building is extra cool, just because of the presence of SplatSpace![1]

[1]: http://www.splatspace.org

I'm happy to see NC even mentioned in the startup world. I'm tired of people raising an eyebrow at the 919 area code on my business cards. D-TOWN, STAY DOWN.

American Underground is very nice. I was there for the first time a week or so ago for the Triangle Cocoaheads meet up and was very impressed with the space!

I live a couple of hours away from Durham and might be interested in coming down and staying in some temporary housing while trying out the startup scene there. But what's the deal with Underground? Is it an incubator? An office? I went to the site and I was unable to determine if I was looking at office space or applying to be accepted somewhere.

For the most part, it's more of a fraternity for geeks. You get to know other companies and their employees a lot more than a traditional office park. Every office has a huge glass wall that faces the hallway, so you get to see the same people every day as they pass by your office. You'll often find local angels and VC's in the hallways and conference rooms. The space is designed for startups. Small spaces for early stage companies, at a decent rate, with short lease terms.

As far as housing goes, I /think/ West Village in downtown Durham does 3 month leases, but I would check on that. Of few of my friends from the last Launchbox class stayed there. It's a bit expensive relative to the area though, so I would look around if you're on a budget.

The American Underground is a bunch of relatively small offices. There was/is an incubator down there as well called Launchbox Digital, but it's unclear if that's continuing or not (see the discussion in this thread). Because of the layout of the Underground and the type of companies that have been down there, the companies down there seem to be closer than your average office neighbors are as far as I know and have heard.

Wait a sec, weren't you the same guys that told me you started to go stir crazy working in an office with no natural light? :)

It's a really cool place. I love a dark room to work in but I worry about the long term effect of working in a basement (bunker).

The title of this link is confusing. The place referenced is the American Underground. It's not actually subterranean or below ground. Confusing to an outsider.

It's in the basement of the building, I think that's where they derived the name.

No, it is underground. You have to take an elevator and go one floor down from the ground floor. There are no windows in any of the offices.

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