Next Tuesday through Friday (April 19-22), members of the Triangle tech startup ecosystem can experience four days of free events at select venues in Durham in celebration of the inaugural Raleigh-Durham Startup Week.
These events include panels like “Building Diversity Into Your Startup,” “How to Transition From College Life to Startup Life,” “Is Bootstrapping Your Startup Still an Option?”, and much more. All events fall into one of four main themes for the week-long celebration: Startup 101, Legal/Finance, Design and Development, and Emerging Technologies. The Raleigh-Durham Startup Week will also hold a morning of investor office hours and two networking Happy Hours. You can register for the week here.
(One of the Happy Hours will be hosted by yours truly, GrepBeat, on Thursday, April 22, at Bull McCabe’s in downtown Durham. You can register for our Happy Hour here, and your first drink will be courtesy of our sponsor, Davis Moore real estate.)
With all of the venues located in downtown Durham—including American Underground, CloudFactory and Teamworks—the four-day event was designed to resemble a walkable festival, distinguishing itself from more traditional conferences or networking meetups, said Archie O’Connor, Startup Week’s co-chair organizer.
“I’ve noticed some events that are perfectly fine, but let’s set something up a bit different,” O’Connor said. “Something that, yes, is learning, networking, but it’s also part of community development, and it’s also a celebration.”
A special evening keynote will be held at the Carolina Theatre on Wednesday, April 20, at 7 p.m. The keynote includes speakers Scot Wingo, CEO of Spiffy and the Founder of the Tweener Fund; Cindy Eckert of Sprout Pharmaceuticals and The Pink Ceiling; and David Hall, a Managing Partner at Revolution’s Rise of the Rest seed fund. (Due to capacity restrictions at the theater, please register separately for this event here.)
O’Connor—who describes himself as a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur—said the weeklong event has been two years in the making because of the pandemic. O’Connor cooked up the event with Heivly, currently the Managing Director of Build The Fort and formerly the wearer of multiple hats including as the Co-Founder of Durham-based accelerator The Startup Factory, which we wrote about in 2019.
When O’Connor and Heivly developed the idea for Startup Week, they became determined not to have a virtual event, so they backed off from the originally planned date in 2020 and waited for the coast to be clearer.
Of course, in some ways, it will still be a Covid-era occasion: masks will be available for all attendees who wish to wear them, and the majority of the venues allow for ample spacing between attendees.
But the energy for in-person events is back, and O’Connor said he wants Startup Week to be a regional movement that proliferates and evolves far beyond this year. The region has experienced significant startup growth over the last decade, he said, especially in terms of funding and an increasing presence of “Tweeners.” (The latter is the term that Wingo has coined for startups with at least $1 million in annual revenue or 10 employees, but not more than $85 million in annual recurring revenue.)
Speakers include many familiar names
O’Connor said the lineup of speakers represents a cross section of luminaries from all walks that can speak to the four main themes and drive greater growth within the region. The speakers include GrepBeat Godfather Joe Colopy, who is hosting a panel titled “Is Bootstrapping Your Startup Still an Option?” alongside Levitate’s Jes Lipson next Thursday at 4 p.m., leading into the GrepBeat Happy Hour; and GrepBeat Managing Editor Pete McEntegart, who is on a panel titled “Why Us?” at 2 p.m. next Wednesday.
“We want people walking away going ‘Wow, I learned a lot from that. I feel energized. I’ve now made a lot more connections,’” O’Connor said. “Now those connections create a flywheel where more and more people become connected and more and more people start interacting and talking together and trying to find maybe some green fields and fertile soil for them to ideate and create new ideas and hopefully birth new companies.”
O’Connor said all of the sponsors for Raleigh-Durham Startup Week also represent the unique talent residing in our own region. It’s a lineup of companies such as ChannelAdvisor, Dualboot Partners, Hughes Pittman & Gupton, Digital Turbine and the Durham Chamber of Commerce.
“Even our sponsors are part of the community and the energy,” O’Connor said. “We don’t want to just take money from anyone.”
What ultimately sets the Triangle apart from other growing tech hubs, O’Connor said, is the level of accessibility from founders and investors. And that’s what the event hopes to bring full circle.
“What we want to show to people is just how accessible it is,” O’Connor said. “I think there are many people out there who are suffering in silence. They see the growth. They see there’s lots of things out there, but they don’t necessarily know who to go and talk to.”