Raleigh-Durham Is Startup Capital of the South

The American Underground is one of eight Google for Entrepreneurs tech hubs in North America. Launched five years ago in the basement of an old tobacco warehouse at the American Tobacco Historic District, American Underground has rapidly grown into the region’s most robust entrepreneurial ecosystem, deemed by CNBC to be “the Startup Capital of the South.” The tech hub reported a record year in funding, jobs, and minority-led businesses, according to figures on diversity and funding to a crowd of investors, entrepreneurs, and political leaders.

[Related: East Coast vs. West Coast: It Matters When Pitching Your Business to Investors]

Google for Entrepreneurs partners with tech hubs around North America to help local startup communities thrive. American Underground’s founding partners include Coastal Federation Credit Union, the Research Triangle Park Foundation, Durham Chamber of Commerce, Duke University, Fidelity Labs, NC IDEA, and Capitol Broadcasting Company. American Underground now encompasses close to 100,000 square feet of space in three locations in Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina as well as a strategic partnership with open source leader Red Hat to offer an office in Silicon Valley.

“The numbers we’ve seen in 2015 show there is a lot of important startup activity originating in the Triangle from a wide range of entrepreneurs, says Adam Klein, chief strategist, American Underground. “We’ve been able to buck trends regarding diversity in tech that for many are aspirational talking points. We’re actually doing it here in Durham.”

Key findings from the report show:

  • A 40% increase in venture funding over 2014 + 83% of companies that sought funding received it. This upends conventional wisdom on the availability of funding in the southeast.
  • A 30% increase in jobs created.
  • 29% of the American Underground’s businesses are led by women, 22.4% are minority led. Nationally, approximately only 1% of startup founders are black and 8% are female (according to CB Insights).
  • Durham is hot. In just two years, seven companies have exited to the tune of $1.5 billion.

“The American Underground is pioneering not only what it looks like to bring a diverse community into tech, but how to have the capital and culture of inclusion set-up so their diverse constituency can thrive,” says Karla Monterroso, vice president of programs, CODE2040, a San Francisco nonprofit organization dedicated to closing the skills gap and opportunity divide in engineering and technology by creating programs geared towards Blacks and Latinos.

American Underground’s success can help inform the efforts of metros across the state and country. Check out this congratulatory video from AOL Founder Steve Case.