The American Underground in Durham Hosts “College Night” For Students Interested in Entrepreneurship
By Ibanca Anand T’17
“This is the coolest place ever.”
As we walked into the doors of American Underground on West Main Street, all of us were whispering the same thing. Having been used to the chalkboards and white walls of university classrooms, we suddenly became young children visiting the playground after a long winter — colorfully painted rooms, glass panel walls, and even a massive slide were things none of us had expected from an “office setting.” But this was a world which fostered entrepreneurial creativity and innovative thought, and tonight, all of us were excited to get our first taste.
The American Underground, which describes itself as a “campus for entrepreneurs,” is a working space for over 150 companies and startups with three locations in the Triangle area. It is just one of seven “Google for Entrepreneurs Tech Hubs,” and promotes a Silicon-Valley-esque environment where people share ideas and make impact. Duke is a founding partner for the establishment.
This past Wednesday, AU invited over 200 ambitious students from Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, NCCU, and NCSU to visit its Durham location. The night was nothing short of a collision of innovative spirits.
Several companies currently working in the American Underground pitched their businesses and some even sought out interns. In today’s increasingly multidisciplinary world, getting experience working at a startup has become more desirable — it prepares you with a wide range of skills that you may not gain working at a large corporation. Luckily, most of us had brought our business cards.
Kasper Kubica, a second-year student at Duke University, remarked that the evening was “a great time. I’m glad I came.” He hopes that the American Underground continues to host events for students in the future. Kubica is currently working on a startup, Clutch Lotion, that manufactures anti-perspirant hand lotion. His team also includes students from UNC-Chapel Hill.
Being able to network not only with American Underground companies, but also with each other, is an opportunity tough to come by. I was able to learn so much about the entrepreneurial scenes at other colleges, and was vastly impressed with the work being done by students at other schools. By promoting conversation across universities, the event successfully strengthened the connections that exist within our already very close-knit Triangle community. More important than making “contacts,” the night allowed me to make friends.
I anticipate making several more trips to the American Underground during my time as a Duke student, and I’m sure after Wednesday night, many others were thinking the same.
Ibanca Anand is a sophomore studying Economics, Literature, and Innovation and Entrepreneurship. She is a member of the Cube and a mentor for the Compass Fellowship, and is currently working as Duke’s Correspondent for ExitEvent, an online media source for entrepreneurship news in the Triangle area.
(Photo by Duke Photo)