James Avery, CEO of Adzerk
Adzerk was one of the first startups to take residence in the newly created American Underground in Durham. The local incubator Launchbox Digital was there ~6 months before as well as the game focused incubator Joystick Labs, but it wasn’t until January that other startups started moving in. The only other startup that gets to claim they were here before us is Preation (founded by Aaron Houghton the co-founder of iContact) and that is because they were working in CEDs office way before any of the spaces were ready.
Deciding to setup Adzerk in the underground wasn’t the easiest decision. It’s a decent drive from my home in Raleigh, the parking is expensive, and it’s only ~500 square feet without any windows or natural light.
The key benefit of the American Underground is that it has become a focal point of the blossoming startup scene in Durham. When it went out on Twitter that Adzerk would be moving into the Underground - Kacy Fortner spotted it and got in touch on Twitter about working for Adzerk. I hired Kacy to start the same day our office space was available and he has been a great addition to the company.
One day Andy Schrader and Shannon Bauman were walking through the Underground (Shannon is a co-founder of Spring Metrics, one of the companies out of the last Launchbox Digital class). They asked to see a demo of Adzerk and we went to the common conference room and walked through what we had built and where we were - a couple months later Andy left Microsoft and joined Adzerk as a key member of the team.
In 5 months we added two crucial hires directly because of our location in the American Underground.
One of the major tenants of the American Undeground is the Council for Entrepenueral Development (CED) - because of their various programs and relationships with investors and entrepeneurs we have a constant flow of the most active investors and brightest advisors walking past our office. We have met Angel investors in the halls that we would have had to fight for an introduction to otherwise - we have chatted with venture capitalists in the elevator which has led to renewing talks that had otherwise cooled. This has only increased as NC IDEA (which provides grants for NC based startups) and IDEA Fund Partners have taken up residence in the underground as well.
We are growing quickly and will soon grow out of our space in the American Underground and possibly move to Main St. Durham or one of the other great areas in Durham - but I look forward to seeing what startup takes our office and what they make of the opportunities that a little bit of rent and a ton of visibility gives them.