You’ve heard a lot about Google events in the Triangle over the last several months.
Yeah. You have. You just may not know it.
Google for Entrepreneurs is a sort of ad-hoc collection of programs and resources supported by Google in its various forms.
- Most recently, I told you about NEXT, the series of classes for reality-stage startups that focuses on customer acquisition. It’s a Steve Blank methodology, powered by Google for Entrepreneurs. It was actually right there in the logo, so you only have yourself to blame if you missed the connection to big search. NEXT is currently underway in the American Underground, run by Groundwork Labs’ John Austin and organized by Startup Weekend/Startup North Carolina/ExitEvent’s Mital Patel (Dude stays busy).
- Before that, there was Archive Social’s Anil Chawla getting accepted into the prestigious Code for America accelerator, a private, non-profit civic startup accelerator funded by Google and the Kaufman Foundation. Archive Social is a Startup Factory (located in the American Underground) graduate now housed at Underground @Main.
- And sort of before that but now coming up (event was rescheduled to November 9th), is the NewMe Accelerator PopUp, a three-day run-through of advice and education focused toward underserved groups in startup. The pop-up will be held on the American Underground classroom and sponsored, in part, by Google.
So there are two common threads here.
I think it’s great that Google does this. As startup as I like to think of myself, I’m no corporate hate-monger. And not too many corps are going to the extent that Google is to get their hands into any entrepreneurial pursuit that may one day bear fruit in terms of incorporation of Google software or devices or some kind of future acquisition.
I know it’s not all benevolent, there are forces at work here. But this isn’t a pat-on-the-back and an oversized-check grand prize for a deep-dive look at dozens of early stage business models. It’s smart business, and it’s a line of business that this entrepreneurial ecosystem needs more of.
The other refrain is that of American Underground, which is quickly making a play to evolve from startup real estate hub to startup hub. Much like Google, AU is dipping its toe into a lot of entrepreneurial support waters and, much like Google, has found a solid pipeline of new business spring out of it.
I brought this to AU Chief Strategist Adam Klein who, for the record, is a friend of mine of several years. That way I know I’m getting the straight story. I caught him yesterday as he was getting ready to get on a plane to Chicago for the announcement, along with representatives from other selected cities, seven in all, including Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Nashville, Minneapolis, and one in Canada.
Klein made no bones about the fact that this is just as good for Google as it is for the entrepreneurs here.
“They’re going to be able to see interesting innovations across the tech hub network, and they’ll prove that they can support innovation outside of the Valley. I want to emphasize that — as much as this partnership is about the Underground, it’s a reflection on the quality of the companies that are here — the talent, the people.”
So yeah, putting Google product and platform into those talented hands can’t hurt. In return, the entrepreneurs get first crack at those products and platforms, and they get help.
“You’ll see more frequent events with Google – developer meetings and Google hangouts with developers to talk about the new products and platforms. Underground teams will get Google Startup Packs, product credits and free software.”
But the real opportunity is what this two-year commitment can bring in terms of validation for the region. This type of corporate investment should suggest to VCs and others that there is something here worth looking into at a deeper level.
“Innovation is happening in a lot of places outside of Silicon Valley,” he said. “This is validation for the region that we’re on the right path, not just Durham, but the whole Triangle region.”
And American Underground can back that regional claim up. With two locations in Durham and a third opening in Raleigh later this year, AU is uniquely positioned to turn this opportunity into a regional play.
With startups now able to advertise their fundraising, crowdfunding legitimacy on the horizon, and interest from corporate players, the Triangle should be able to backfill VC dollars and at the same time promote VC interest. If it works, it makes the Triangle a non-traditional kind of startup hub, but just as vital.
Which is where I’ve always thought we should be anyway.