Raleigh vs Durham vs Triangle

Written by Vance Fitzgerald. Posted in NCSU, North Carolina, Raleigh, Tech

This @jproco thread got me thinking 
As sexy as a subset of Durham is, it seems fair to say that IF you look at these as two distinct systems, Durham as a whole is not as appealing as Raleigh. Polarizing statement, perhaps, but settle down blue friends.  Clearly Durham is doing something very right though - else this would be an easy discussion. Raleigh is the North Carolina State Capitol, and it’s simply not going to crumble overnight.  Raleigh will be just fine for some period of time.  But that is not a solution nor a strategy for the future, and being just fine doesn’t cut it. So you settle down for a second too, red friends.  It is that subtle complacency that is a potentially big problem for Raleigh.  Embracing uncertainty and change, and being courageous enough to evolve and thrive vs. settle, is much easier when there is necessity.  According to most, necessity is also the mother of invention.  Durham has risen in part because of necessity and is spawning invention thanks to a growing number of bulls.  You are simply more likely to get people to change when there is a burning platform.  And the price is right then too. Raleigh doesn’t seem to sense a burning platform.  I’m just fearful of a slow roast if we don’t smell the smoke.  I believe that Raleigh is going to have to incent fast microfailures vs. marinating for a long slow macroast.  That is hard to say on paper, and even harder to make reality. But Raleigh has access to roughly the same critical three T’s as Durham – Technology, Talent, & Tin Cup (capital), so there aren't going to be any excuses when we look back and try to figure out how Durham blew up. I'm good with growing an obtuse Triangle, its all commutable. But from a Raleigh lens - there are simply no excuses for letting it be anything less than equilateral. 
Meanwhile Durham is escaping what might have been perceived to be (that is me cushioning the message to avoid further polarization) a burning platform.  That burn appears to be helping Durham see the potential reward of small business bets and allowing them to have much less fear of the risks.  They are building critical mass, and please don’t let us underestimate critical mass for startups.   Startups are more likely to thrive together and much more likely to flail in isolation.  I’ve read blog posts and replies from James Avery for literally years now that should be the most compelling burning platform smoke detector for Raleigh.  To me he his cry for help from Raleigh should be listened to like a screaming toddler on the 4th floor of a burning building.  Fortunately there are a lot of brilliant folks pushing like crazy in Raleigh, but the sense of urgency from the masses has to happen sooner rather than later.  First to market would have been nice, but Raleigh may have missed that boat.  Perhaps we have survived thus far due to a massive talent pool.  But critical mass in other areas of the country will create a growing gravitational pull if we don’t offset it.  Not only will that be bad for the future of the region, but bad for the Universities themselves.  You see how this ecosystem works?
If you are paying close enough attention you will also have seen the ad-hoc alliances that have formed in Durham across the startups.  You could argue that it’s because they have such magical products right out of the gate that they can’t help but choose to use their cross town startup’s product.  Or you could step back and realize that they are using each other’s products in part because of a simple yet powerful sense of team.  Can there be any other region in the WORLD that grasps TEAM & what the color of your jersey can do for the psyche?  This region should be able to relate to that if nothing else.  It is a magical thing my hatred of *cough* Rhode Island blue.  These startups are eating each other’s dog food, being each others best customer's, and in turn helping make sure that they will all ultimately be delivering wine.  That collaboration simply doesn’t happen between two companies that don’t share some common sense of purpose, perhaps some common enemies. And it happens much more often when they can share a beer tab, or make a food truck visit for lunch with each other.  We need to make sure that we have a shared sense of common enemies as we stand together in the Triangle.
In an ideal world - we would do a flyover and see that this is really a single ecosystem, not two distinct, independent entities with a winner takes all outcome at stake. With the rate of change accelerating today, with enough backing from the big veteran companies of the region, and with enough smart people pushing the envelope – a Triangle All Star mentality is not completely idealistic. Somebody hug me.
Recommendation 1:
Build a diagram that shows alliances in the Triangle.  Connections indicate customers / partner relationships.  Direction of the arrows are open for discussion, but hopefully several will be synchronous.  This will help others to literally see the symbiotic results of creating a supportive, collaborative infrastructure in the region.   Build a single diagram for the Triangle and it will paint an informative picture. Concept:
Durham-connections
  Recommendation 2:
Go watch basketball this summer at the NCPROAM in Durham if you’d like an indication of just how exciting the blending of the blues & reds can be.  It’s even open source.

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Vance Fitzgerald

Entrepreneur. Business Analyst with a passion for innovation, customer success & driving revenue.
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