AOL co-founder Steve Case is leading a venture capital ‘revolution’ beyond Silicon Valley
For nearly a decade, America Online co-founder Steve Case has traversed the U.S. on bus tours visiting cities outside the traditional tech-centered hubs in search of innovators and entrepreneurs to back through his D.C.-based investment firm, Revolution.
He found a lot of them. So many that some other big names in business joined his mission, and he has written 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 seed stage companies between the coasts (the first $150M fund launched in 2017, the second in 2019). A group of investors backs 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 more than 100 cities.
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Case says he and his fellow investors recognized there has been a disconnect and disparities in terms of where capital was being distributed over the last decade, with 75% of venture capital drawn to just three states: California, New York and Massachusetts.
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“First and foremost, we think the best way to get more capital to more people and more places is to generate returns that really get the coastal investors paying 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 opportunity and a lot of cities in the middle of the country that have felt kind of left out and left behind.”
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While the pandemic slowed Revolution’s bus tours, it poured fuel on his mission at large.
Case says the pandemic served as an accelerant to 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.
This new era of people being able to work from anywhere also has the potential to end the “brain drain” that occurs when skilled workers or entrepreneurs feel they need to leave their communities to be a part of a startup – which are essential for job creation in the U.S.
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Case says that is already happening across the nation where entrepreneurs are disrupting major industries from places people might not expect, and it makes him optimistic about America’s future.
“There are a bunch of things that divide us,” he told FOX Business. “This is an issue that can unite us: How do we make 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 of the American story that really is centered around new ideas? By a pioneering spirit and innovation.”