John Austin Groundwork Labs 2014

{{ story.headline }}

{{ story.subheading }}

{{ story.timestamp }}

In national startup news today, Techstars, the globally-recognized venture firm that runs the popular chain of accelerator programs, announced it has acquired the nonprofit UP Global and all of its programs—Startup Weekend, NEXT, Startup Week and Startup Digest.

While it might not seem like the hugest news for the Triangle—Techstars says all UP Global programs will continue to operate independently (though they will now be for-profit, which begs the question of cost or sponsorship changes? Update: no cost changes, as per Techstars CEO David Cohen)—one guarantee in the announcement is that the UP Global Summit planned to happen September 16-19 in Raleigh and Durham is still on. More than 200 startup community leaders from across the Americas are expected to travel to our region for the annual event. 

Here's local co-organizer Mital Patel's response to the news:

I am excited because this will be the first of its kind in the world under the Techstars banner. The Summit will draw from the extended Techstars network and will be even bigger and better. Locally, it presents an opportunity for the Triangle to showcase our diverse, vibrant and growing startup community to an even bigger audience in the Techstars network. 
Personally, UP Global has afforded me some of the most rewarding experiences in my life – an opportunity to present to Cabinet officials at the White House, to ring the Nasdaq closing bell, and most importantly, meet an extended network of friends across the world that have become family. With the Techstars acquisition, I expect those types of experiences to continue to reward the hard work of all of the Triangle’s leaders that have helped grow our startup community.
The organizations are planning a noon Google Hangout with reporters and local event organizers to share more details of the acquisition and field any questions. We plan to listen in to see if we can get details on the fall event. Stay tuned for updates.

As a sidenote, I can't help but see the similarities in this merged organization to the Triangle's own NC IDEA, Groundwork Labs and Idea Fund Partners ecosystem within American Underground. The organizations' joint vision is to provide resources to entrepreneurs at any point in their growth—from surrounding them with mentors at the idea or prototype stage (Groundwork) to providing funding for specific projects aimed to accelerate a startup's growth (NC IDEA grants) to venture investment and board of advisor help (Idea Fund Partners) to space and proximity to other startups as they grow (American Underground). 

Groundwork is also involved in SoarTriangle, the mentorship organization for female-led startups hoping to raise funds, and it provides help and mentorship to top student-led startups from local universities each summer. Executive Director John Austin (pictured above) is a frequent judge and organizer for Startup Weekend events and in 2014 absorbed UP Global's local NEXT program to serve as curriculum for Groundwork teams. Idea Fund Partners hosts quarterly pitch events, in which entrepreneurs can get free feedback on their pitches and presentations. 

It's a model that seems to be working in the Triangle, as many companies who've been through one or multiple of these programs have gone on to raise funds, hire teams and raise large sums of venture capital. Others were able to quickly vet their ideas, and then decide to move on.

Though Techstars is much larger and global in scope, as are the UP Global programs, it's pretty evident that an organization providing various ways for aspiring, early-stage and growth-stage entrepreneurs to connect is good business. And it's good news that our local organizations are so connected to this increasingly growing, global ecosystem.