Sift Media’s Jud Bowman talks about Durham’s renaissance and the transformation of RTP

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DURHAM — Serial entrepreneur Jud Bowman announced this week that his third startup, Sift Media, is on the rise — raising another $1.5 million in working capital to keep up with its explosive growth.

The news is particularly noteworthy considering that the 38-year-old is a child of Durham. He grew up in Raleigh and attended Durham’s School of Science and Math.

He also started his previous companies, Motricity and Appia, in the Bull City and is actively working to be part of the region’s renaissance by serving as chairman of the Board of Directors of the Research Triangle Park.

This week, WRAL TechWire’s Chantal Allam had the chance to check in with him at the startup’s American Underground headquarters to check in. Here’s the second part of that interview:

  • You’re obviously an entrepreneur, but Sift Media is also heavy tech. Do you also consider yourself a tech guy?

So I went to Durham’s School of Science and Math, and then Stanford and then took a leave of absence to start my startup. I never finished college. I think of myself as an entrepreneur and a product guy. The real hardcore tech is done by the team here. I work with some of the smartest guys I’ve ever had the chance to work with. I feel really lucky. My co-founders, they’re the tech geniuses.

  • So you consider yourself more of the entrepreneur?

Yeah, I mean, as an entrepreneur, you wear a lot of hats. You have to be able to raise the capital to get started, You have to have the idea, first and foremost, and you have to be able to pull the team together. I think those are the things that I excel at. I didn’t write a line of code of our product.

  • On a personal note, were you born in Durham?

No, I was actually born in Greenville, North Carolina. I moved to Raleigh when I was five years old, and then came to Durham for high school. I graduated in 1999.

  • So you’re definitely a big part of the startup scene here, helping to rejuvenate Durham. What do you think about what’s happening?

It’s fun to watch. It’s been extraordinary. We live here in Durham, my wife and I. We live just one mile from downtown. She’s a teacher at a Montessori School, which is also on Main Street.

The Goodmons [owners of Capitol Broadcasting and parent company of WRAL TechWire who redeveloped downtown Durham] have been real visionaries. There are so many people that you could point to. My first two companies were based across the train tracks over there. It really took some vision to think about Durham [then]. Now, it’s like the obvious choice that people want to be here in the Triangle. When I graduated in 1999, there was still nothing here.

  • Do you like how it’s being developed?

This is a great tech hub, and I think that, collectively, Raleigh, Durham and RTP are doing the right things to get more companies here and to make it an awesome place. Downtown Durham is way better than it was 10 or 15 years ago. The RTP is trying to reinvent itself with the hub, and I think there’s so much good stuffy happening with what we’re doing in the center of the park right along I-40.

Every day, I feel like you read the newspaper and there’s some new company that’s either setting up a second headquarters here or a startup is getting funding, or a company that’s getting acquired. We’re starting to see billion dollar-plus exits. Of course, there’s the Red Hat success and earlier there was SAS, but now you’ve got Insight Software, Pendo is a unicorn. I mean, it’s pretty incredible.

  • What do you want to accomplish while serving on that board?

Right now, the park is undergoing this transformation to be more relevant in the new world of tech companies. Back when the park was started in the 50s and 60s, the idea was these leafy private campuses. But now we’re trying to create a central hub that’s urban, almost like another city.

It’s why we’re in Durham. You can walk to lunch, you go to restaurants, you’ve got hotels. And RTP doesn’t have that at these leafy campuses, most of which are hidden behind trees. So the world has changed. People want that.

I’ve been on the board for five years, and I think over the next 10 years, we’re going to put a billion dollars of investment into redeveloping the 100 acres into millions of square feet of mixed use, right on I-40 between Durham Freeway and Davis Drive.

For the first time, there’s going to be residential, condos and apartments in the park, and restaurants, coffee shops, bars. We envision a series of building taller and better, creating a mini city right there on I-40. So we’ll see. I’m excited to see it all happen.

Source: WRAL TechWire