- This post is part of Business Insider’s ongoing series on Better Capitalism.
- AOL founder Steve Case and “Hillbilly Elegy” author JD Vance are overseeing the $US150 million Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, operated through Case’s venture capital firm, Revolution.
- The fund has 38 of the nation’s highest-profile investors.
- In May, Case and Vance will be holding pitch competitions in Dallas, Memphis, Birmingham, Chattanooga, and Louisville.
AOL founder Steve Case and “Hillbilly Elegy” author JD Vance are headed to the southern United States to find the next big startups. They have got millions of dollars to invest from 38 of the country’s highest-profile investors, including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, and former Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman.
Case and Vance are overseeing the Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, through Case’s Washington, DC-based venture capital firm Revolution. Vance joined the firm last year, and Case announced the fund in December.
Revolution began Rise of the Rest bus tours in 2014 as a way to initiate relationships with American startup communities outside of Silicon Valley, New York City, or Boston. Revolution announced Wednesday that the upcoming seventh tour will take place from May 7-11 and include stops at the following cities:
- Dallas, Texas
- Memphis, Tennessee
- Birmingham, Alabama
- Chattanooga, Tennessee
- Louisville, Kentucky
In each city, Case, Vance, and other members of the Revolution team will meet with local political and business leaders and host a pitch competition. Google for Entrepreneurs is providing pitch coaches for all participants. The winners will receive $US100,000 from the seed fund.
Case and Vance told Business Insider that the purpose of the tours is to raise publicity and interest around the startup communities in these cities and start a dialogue among the entrepreneurs and Revolution that will continue in perpetuity.
Case briefly explained to us why he and his team chose each of the cities for the upcoming tour.
Texas is one of the fastest growing states in the country, and its startup communities have likewise been blossoming.
Austin-based incubator Capital Factory told the Dallas Morning News in January that of Texas’ four major cities – Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin – Dallas has “the most untapped potential” and “should be bigger than Austin.”
The city has strong startups in the tech and retail sectors, and plenty of willing investors.
“In Dallas, they have a strong network of startup support organisations that we are looking forward to exploring,” Case told us.
Over the past few years, the city of Memphis has attracted companies’ corporate headquarters, using the city’s low cost of living as an enticement.
Shipping giant FedEx has been there since the ’70s and has the city’s largest HQ by a long shot. The city is also home to large employers Baptist Memorial Healthcare and property management company ServiceMaster.
“Memphis will be a chance to learn more about the impact of corporations, like FedEx, on the startup community,” Case said.
In December, Target bought Birmingham-based grocery delivery company Shipt for $US550 million. Case is intrigued.
“We have seen in city after city the ripple effect of a major exit and we are looking forward to seeing how this plays out in Birmingham,” he said.
The city has been developing a startup scene over the last few years, and it includes the Innovation Depot incubator that’s home to about 100 startups.
Case said he’s interested by the “number of policy initiatives to attract entrepreneurs and talent” that Chattanooga has implemented.
For example, the city has overall the fastest broadband internet speeds in the country due to city-wide investment that began in 2010.
Mayor Andy Berke has also overseen the development of the Innovation District, making Chattanooga America’s first mid-size city with a dedicated public-private partnership for entrepreneurs.
Louisville won last year’s “Bring back the Bus” competition, making the home of the Kentucky Derby the first city to get a repeat bus trip. Revolution first made a bus visit in 2016.
“In creating a tour around Louisville, we looked at cities that have exciting emerging entrepreneurial ecosystems and touch on some of the important themes that we have identified in our ecosystem playbook,” Case said. “This region had a number of great options.”
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