Rise of the Rest – Spring 2015 Edition: Bobby Ocampo on Raleigh-Durham

I love the Raleigh-Durham ecosystem. There are a number of characteristics this area has that make it a fantastic place for entrepreneurs, but it’s the tightness of the community that excites me the most – everyone is invested in everyone else’s success. When you combine this with strong academic institutions, an active angel and early-stage investor community, and a high quality of life (with a relatively low cost of living), it’s a powerful combination that I believe will be a recipe for success for years to come.

I try to visit the Raleigh-Durham region at least once a month, whether it’s a TSF demo day, CED event or Internet Summit, I like to think I’m familiar with the ecosystem and it’s been great to see the progress the region has made over the last few years.

I was part of our third Rise of the Rest Road Trip in May, and one of our stops was in the Raleigh-Durham region. During our day-long visit, we were able to visit the Governor’s mansion to meet with Governor Pat McCrory and other local government and business leaders that are working to shine a spotlight on the entrepreneurial activity in the region. We also toured American Underground in Durham and HQ Raleigh and hosted a pitch competition the featured eight local startups. Ultimately, Archive Social was the winner of the competition, and their team received a $100,000 investment from Steve Case for either their previous or next round of funding.

During our tour, I couldn’t believe the large turnout everywhere we went – American Underground, HQ Raleigh, Carolina Theater – I was told we visited with over one thousand people throughout the day; what a number and a testament to the region’s growth and interest in entrepreneurship.

Here are some other observations I made during our visit:

  1. Raleigh-Durham is no longer a secret; real estate is booming, more and more people are moving into the area, and I still think we are only in the early innings here.
  2. Everyone knows everyone. Startups buy products from each other, and the entrepreneurs running these startups are advisors and/or investors in the startups they buy product from. I do not see the same dynamic in many ecosystems outside of Silicon Valley.
  3. Angel investors, accelerators, and early-stage investors all work together and frequently co-invest in the same companies. No one is directly competitive with one another which makes for a cooperative environment.
  4. Back to the people, everyone is incredibly welcoming, and information is not siloed. I see too often great ecosystems where it’s hard to find people to help you or get people to open up about the inner workings of their startup, as if people are afraid their ideas will be stolen. In our business, ideas are cheap, it is really up to the people and who can execute on those ideas the best.
  5. Access and ease of getting around are huge. The Raleigh-Durham airport is one of the most pleasant airports to travel in and out of and traffic in the area is more than manageable.

I am excited to see more and more interesting startups that Revolution can hopefully invest in the near-term. It is a great place to live and start a company for entrepreneurs, and a fun place to visit and invest in for venture capitalists.