Steve Case’s Road Trips Across America Reveal Startups’ Promise for Cities
Steve case is no stranger to starting a business. In the early 1990s, he helped co-found America Online, later renamed AOL, a service that for the first time gave millions of people access to the Internet. It was a monumental change for the world, the meaning of which sometimes gets lost in the current ubiquity of iPhones and streaming. Case became chairman of AOL Time Warner after a tumultuous merger, but he ultimately left Big Media behind and all his cynicism to focus his energies on startup optimism — which brings us to his latest project.
Case’s new book, “The Rise of the Rest: How Entrepreneurs in Surprising Places are Building the New American Dream” (Avid Reader Press), out today.
The book collects anecdotes from his visits to more than 40 American cities that were part of an initiative of the same name, The rise of the restlaunched in 2014 by the company Case Revolution to identify and extract startups outside of Silicon Valley with seed funding from Revolution. Case traveled for years to these towns by bus or RV, often with his wife Jeans. On each of those multiple bus tours, Case and his team visited five cities in five days and invested at least $500,000 in startups after pitch competitions. The initiative is still ongoing and is evolving into two $150 million seed funds backed by Jeff Bezos, Eric Schmidt, Sara Blakely, Tory Burch, Ray Dalio, Henry Kravis and others.
The premise of the book is quite simple: to shine a light on the start-ups working to transform cities between the coasts, places like Chattanooga, Tulsa, York, Pennsylvania, Omaha, Green Bay and Salt Lake City. Case wants you to know that talent is evenly distributed, but opportunities often aren’t. It devotes a chapter to “the imperative of diversity”.
While Case’s road trips began long before Covid and continued after, the pandemic provides a whole new context for a book like this, one about startups boosting local economies as many cities use the pause two years to rethink their future in new ways. And, of course, the new allure of remote working is adding to that mix.
Skift caught up with Case recently and, of course, we wanted to know what travel managers should take away from his book.
“I think travel leaders should recognize that innovation is everywhere. With the migration of talent across the country, the rise of remote working, and the growth of robust startup communities outside of Silicon Valley attracting a large number of young creative and technological talents, travel managers have the opportunity to reach new customers right where they are,” Case told Skift.
“Additionally, and I think readers of your publication are aware of this, the travel industry is being disrupted at a rapid pace. Companies need to be attackers, not defenders, finding ways to embrace new technologies, working with startups and leveraging exciting new products and services to stay ahead of disruption.Hospitality and transportation are exciting spaces to invest in – we are excited and are investing in companies like Mint House, Placemakr, Collective Retreats and Hermeus to name a few.
During one of her trips, Case hung out with Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky and wrote about him in the book.
“When I mentioned my prediction that there would be a dozen tech hub cities in the United States, not just a few more,” Case writes, “Brian laughed. ‘I had in my head hundreds cities, perhaps, and I’m thinking of the whole world. So I think it’s going to be extremely distributed. The place to be will be the Internet. You can access it anywhere.
Chesky also explained how the cities will have to compete: “The cities that win will be the ones that welcome the most talent. In a world with more mobility, it’s actually easier (to attract talent.)”
The new wave of distributed workers will help cities attract talent, and startups will find new sources of funding in these cities, whether through connections with universities and their thirst for research, or large incumbents. in these places. And venture capital will follow to help create what Case calls “the ecosystem wheel” in these local communities. The spokes of this wheel are startups, investors, universities, government, startup support groups, and local media.
Case points out that more than 1,400 new venture capital firms have been created over the past decade outside of the traditional hubs of Silicon Valley and New York. Yet there is still work to be done, with 75% of venture capital funding continuing to flow to New York, California and Massachusetts.
Case said his goal was to make sure to end the cycle of money going to the same kinds of people, in the same places, for the same ideas. He writes about former Atlanta pitch contest winners – Jewel Burks and Jason Crain, the black co-founders of PartPic, which they started while working for a vehicle repair company. PartPic has saved repair professionals a lot of time by using technology to identify key parts using smartphone photos. It was later sold to amazon.
In his first book, “The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future”, published just before Donald Trump was elected president, Case sounded the warning that America could lose its status as the world’s most entrepreneurial nation. The new book builds on this reality by offering hope that the United States can stay on top by “practicing the art of possibility.”
“Just as they helped build America in its first two centuries, entrepreneurs can again help lead the way,” Case writes.
These days, Case can no longer claim the role of that childish visionary who changed the world forever with AOL. He turned 64 this summer. But Case managed to maintain the same optimism of a child entrepreneur with a killer idea. When asked what he hopes the new book’s broader message will be, Case admits to sounding a little ambitious with his answer. Yet he offers that for those who feel left behind and left behind, he hopes for the possibility of these new opportunities he has witnessed over the past decade, even in the most remote corners of the United States. , “will help bring a divided nation together”.
DISCLOSURE: Skift President Carolyn Kremins serves on the board of Exclusive Resorts, owned by Case’s Revolution.