When you think of thriving tech scenes, San Francisco and the Bay Area probably come to mind. Steve Case has spent most of his career working to expand the tech scene out of the Bay area bubble.
“I recognize great ideas are everywhere, great entrepreneurs are everywhere,” Case said. “But for a lot of people…they don't really have the opportunity to turn those [ideas] into companies.”
On this episode of Office Hours, AOL Co-founder and Revolution CEO and Chairman Steve Case talks about empowering tech communities through his work at Revolution and his entrepreneurial journey in founding one of the most important contributions to the internet – AOL.
“People didn't really believe that there would ever be a mass market for the internet,” Case said reflecting on his early career. “Of course, that proved not to be the case. And suddenly, I saw that same look [of judgment] in people's eyes 10 years ago, when we started talking about [The Rise of the Rest.]”
The Rise of the Rest Seed Fund is a Revolution initiative aimed at accelerating the growth of early-stage startups across the country. There is more opportunity for investors to back companies that aren't based in the Bay during their early stages, since valuation and arbitration are lower in less competitive sectors.
“I also think it's a great investment opportunity, because so much capital is focused in places like Silicon Valley,” Case said.
According to Case, most VCs are investing about 75% of all funds in only three states: California, Massachusetts and New York. But it’s getting better – with the pandemic and virtual conferencing becoming the norm, Case believes people are more open to listening to startups outside the major tech hubs.
Not to mention…the popularity of Case’s bus tours that started about eight years ago.
“We decided to hit the road to see for ourselves what's happening in some of these cities,” he said. “It's a way to learn about companies, learn about these cities and try to do what we can when we are there. It kind of is a convening platform — we invite people on the bus to meet each other and hopefully work with each other down the road.”
Case said community is critical to helping a city becoming a vibrant tech hub.
“The talent piece is obviously tied in with that, the community collaboration piece is critical,” Case explained. “But one of the things that was really catalytic — and you've seen this in L.A. — are these tentpole companies where there's a success of a company that people say, ‘Wow, I didn't know that was possible here.’ And then some of the people that were part of that company get experience in scaling companies and then decide they want to start some other companies.”
With tons of experience and expertise under his belt, Case compiled a lot of his learnings in his book The Rise of the Rest: How Entrepreneurs in Surprising Places are Building the New American Dream, which came out last year. In the book, Case details the importance of connecting entrepreneurs and shifting our stereotypical views on tech.
“Rather than start another company and have that be, you know, the next act…How do you create a platform that enables you to have a broader impact?” Case said.
dot.la social and engagement intern Gitanjali Mahapatra contributed to this post.
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