For nearly a decade, America Online co-founder Steve Case has crisscrossed the US on bus tours visiting cities outside of traditional tech-centric hubs looking for innovators and entrepreneurs to back through his DC investment firm, Revolution.
He found many of them. So some other big names in business joined his mission, and he wrote a book about the experience titled “The Rise of the Rest: How Entrepreneurs in Surprising Places are building the new American dream.”
Revolution launched two $150M Rise of the Rest Seed Funds to invest in intercoastal seed stage companies (first $150M fund launched in 2017, second in 2019). A group of investors backed the funds, executives, and founders, including Jeff Bezos, Ray Dalio, Sara Blakely, Henry Kravis, Eric Schmidt, Tory Burch, and John Doerr.
So far, The Rise of the Rest Seed Fund has invested in nearly 200 companies in over 100 cities.
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Case says he and his fellow investors recognized there was a disconnect and disparity in terms of where capital was distributed over the past decade, with 75% of venture capital attracted to just three states: California, New York and Massachusetts.
“First, we think the best way to get more capital to more people and more places is to generate returns that really make coastal investors pay more attention to the cities in the middle of the country,” Case told FOX Business.
He added that they also recognize the mission has a “broader impact in terms of being able to create more jobs and opportunities with a lot of cities in the middle of the country that felt kind of left out and left behind. “
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While the pandemic has slowed Revolution’s bus travel, it has drained fuel from its overall mission.
Case says the pandemic served as an acceleration of what he sees as a tipping point in terms of how people think about remote work and flexibility, and at the same time, venture capitalists realized they could have pitch meetings with entrepreneurs outside their own backyards. .
The new era of people being able to work from anywhere also has the potential to end the “brain drug” that occurs when skilled workers or entrepreneurs feel the need to leave their communities to be part of a startup – which is essential for job creation. in the United States
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Case says it’s already happening across the nation where entrepreneurs are disrupting major industries in places people wouldn’t expect, and it makes him optimistic about America’s future.
“There are a lot of things that divide us,” he told FOX Business. “This is an issue that can unite us: How do we maintain our leadership globally, around innovation, entrepreneurship? How do we do it in a more inclusive way? And how do we write this next chapter in American history? which really is. centered on new ideas? Not a pioneering spirit and innovation.”