The Download: Archie O’Connor, Co-Founder, Raleigh-Durham Startup Week

Archie O’Connor has been a digital technology and media innovator for 20 years. He has consistently anticipated key cultural and business trends in consumer-focused and B2B technologies. This has led to a successful history of leading rapid-growth companies to exit through acquisitions.

He served as Managing Partner at Zazmic Ventures, was a co-founder of The Scalene Group, publisher and board member for Unsaid Magazine and is an advisor and mentor to various boards and startups.

He was one of the early employees at Amazon and returned recently to work on a supply chain business, he has co-founded multiple start-ups and has had six successful exits working as a co-founder or senior executive, developing early-stage digital technology companies in the advertising, e-commerce, enterprise, digital media, AI and social media spaces. He served as a senior executive for Durham-based Digital Turbine and Appia.

1. What is in your pockets?

I have a pair of AirPods, which if they are not constantly in my pocket, then I inevitably lose them and after buying three pairs, I’ve decided they will be evergreen in my pocket.

2. What exciting thing has happened recently for you or your organization?

It’s been really interesting to see this post Covid open-up. We’re now coming out of our cocoons and watching how that’s taking place is really fascinating to me. I see a lot of positivity and productivity that’s coming out of that. I just see so much great built-up energy and productivity around people wanting to coalesce and get back together.

And out of that, I’m seeing a lot of really great ideas come and I think I think it is a direct result of people finally getting back together again. I’ve seen that pace accelerate dramatically as people come more and more out of their offices and start communing more together. And I find that fascinating.

With Raleigh-Durham Startup Week, we want to in bring founders and would-be founders and support them with our community and ecosystem.

We are a legitimate tech hub within our country, but there’s also a lot of other cultural things going on here that attract people above and beyond the tech sector. They’re moving down here because of the culture. They’re moving down here because of the landscape, and we want to highlight that.

In short, this is a super-connector event that’s incredibly accessible if you want to come out if you are entrepreneurially driven or want to be involved in that community. It is very tech-heavy. It is a walkable event. It’s not a conference at a Marriott with rubber plants and bad coffee. This is something where people are coming into; they’re going to the American Underground, they’re going to American Tobacco campus. It encourages people to network, talk, and go and support a local shop and have coffee or a beer. It has a celebratory vibe to it.

3. What is your favorite coffee spot?

It depends on my mood. If I want to fly solo and I just need to get my coffee and be hyper-focused, I’m doing an espresso machine at home. If I want to go out, generally it’s either Beyu Caffe or Oak House.

4. What keeps you up at night?

Beyond my family and children, what keeps me up at night is that I’m not pleased with the division that has happened over the last decade within our country. And I don’t care which political side you come from, it’s just this intransigent inability to get together and just be civil and human to one another. I think it’s costing us and it’s absolutely hampering our growth.

As an entrepreneur who is very much involved in wanting to see things grow, and see the best ideas come to the top, I see this division as being our biggest existential threat. I’m very data-driven. Just look at the data points. Look at how we have a mental health crisis. Look at how we are seeing a transference of wealth in a way that we’ve never seen before and it’s not equitable.

5. What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?

My favorite restaurant consistently is Rose’s in Durham. And I like the happy hour at Squids in Chapel Hill. It reminds me a lot of what my parents and grandparents would do—get really inexpensive oysters or seafood. And they have old-timey cocktails and drinks. It’s not very hip, but that’s part of the reason why I love it.

6. What is next for you or your organization?

What’s next for me personally is that I’m debating whether I want to go and work for “The Man” and still be kind of entrepreneurial within that, or continue down a path where I’m hanging out my own shingle. I’m straddling the fence right now to determine which path I want to take.

As it relates to Raleigh-Durham Startup Week, I want it to expand, to become a perennial thing. The event itself is kind of the bow on the package, if you will, and it involves a lot of other things that are much more culturally oriented that are actually driving people to move here. It’s not just the job scene, but the music and the food and the people. I want to be able to shine a light on that so that we can bring in more people who represent what makes this community unique. I think actually, if you’re able to effectively put something together like this, that can be an anchor that helps bond and keep the community solvent and not diffuse it with gentrification and other issues. So those are my high hopes for Startup Week.

About Brooks Malone 106 Articles
Brooks Malone is a NC CPA and Partner with Hughes Pittman & Gupton, LLP, and leads the Technology practice group. Brooks is also listed contributor to the National Fast Trac Tech Curriculum that was funded by the Kauffman Foundation. Brooks was named one of the 40 Under 40 in May 2005 by the TBJ, received the Outstanding service to Entrepreneurs Award in 2008 by CED, and named to the Leadership Raleigh Hall of Fame in October 2011. Brooks is a graduate of North Carolina State University and is active at American Underground and Raleigh Founded.