Nine startup companies gathered in the McKinney Presentation Theater today, marking the launch of the American Underground’s Startup Stampede, a nine-week journey designed to help participating companies learn more about everything from branding to design, e-commerce strategy, digital marketing and more. The Startup Stampede culminates on May 4, when one company will be selected to receive $100,000 in branding and mentoring from McKinney.

Neal McTighe, founder of Nellino’s, a Raleigh-based maker of super-premium, all-natural pasta sauces, described his excitement about the business incubator’s kickoff, “I was thrilled before, but after today’s session, I’m even more thrilled,” said McTighe. “The room was filled with energy, intelligence, excitement, and a desire to learn.”

To cap off the first day, the Stampeders joined McKinneyites in a more informal setting: our Pub Thursday. A business concept everyone fully endorsed.