Last week we had the opportunity to visit five cities in five days – Madison, Minneapolis, Des Moines, Kansas City and St. Louis – for the second Rise of the Rest Road Tour celebrating growing entrepreneurial ecosystems in America’s heartland. We were joined on the 1,300 mile tour by several partners, a host of entrepreneurs, and civic leaders who are catalyzing startup communities across the Midwest. We had the opportunity to visit spaces like CoCo in Minneapolis, TREX in St. Louis, Gener8tor in Madison and the Startup Village in Kansas City; in addition to spending time with trailblazing entrepreneurs like Ben Milne of Dwolla in Des Moines and Jim McKelvey of Square in St. Louis. We were also thrilled to have Steve Clemons from The Atlantic on the tour, who helped facilitate fireside chats with revered entrepreneurs like Seth Goldman of HonestTea and Jacquie Berglund of Finnegan’s (read more about their experiences taking part in Rise of the Rest HERE and HERE).
But perhaps one of the most rewarding parts of the tour was each day’s pitch competition, where one lucky company in each city was selected to receive a $100,000 investment from Steve Case.
Pictured: Steve Case and Tige Savage of Revolution; Al Toon, former NFL wide receiver and three-time Pro Bowler; Lori Benson, advisor to CEOs; and Becky Splitt, CEO of StudyBlue during the Madison pitch competition.
Collectively, twenty judges joined Steve to help him select the winner in each city from nearly 50 startups. In addition to the investment from Steve, the winning companies will join us again and pitch at the 2015 SXSW Startup Village in March, for a chance to win additional funding. We’re also excited to partner with the Forbes Under 30 Summit to extend an invitation to all of our Rise of the Rest Pitch Competition finalists, including those who participated in the first Rise of the Rest tour in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Nashville.
Without further ado, the winning startups were:
Madison: SOLOMO – Led by Liz Eversoll, SOLOMO provides turnkey and custom mobile solutions and mobilization strategies for website, marketing and business optimization giving our clients competitive advantages in the marketplace. Within the next year, mobile devices will out number personal computers and the rapid convergence of social, local and mobile technologies provides new opportunities for reaching customers, enhancing services and selling products. From check-in to checkout, SOLOMO provides innovative mobile solutions including mobile applications for all platforms, check-in, loyalty and rewards programs, location-based services, coupons and advertising, as well as rebate and payment systems. Steve was joined by Tige Savage (co-founder, Revolution Ventures), Al Toon (former NFL wide receiver and three-time Pro Bowler), Lori Benson (advisor to CEOs) and Becky Splitt (CEO of StudyBlue). Read more on SOLOMO’s win in Xconomy HERE.
Pictuerd: 75F founder Deepinder Singh pitching at the competition.
Minneapolis: 75F offers a HVAC control solution that addresses the wide temperature imbalances in light commercial buildings. Led by CEO Deepinder Singh, the system offers per room individual temperature control while saving 40% in energy costs. The HVAC control solution rebalances conditioning airflow in office buildings for optimum thermal comfort of the occupants. Most buildings have rudimentary single thermostat temperature control and most office workers are uncomfortable – some take to using small space heaters or portable fans. 75F fixes wide temperature imbalances in a typical commercial building. Judges David Golden (Managing Partner, Revolution Ventures), Prince Wallace (Owner and CEO, West Central Environmental Consultants), Erin Newkirk (Founder of Red Stamp), Jacquie Berglund (Founder and CEO of Finnegans), and Abir Sen (CEO of Gravie) were all on hand to select the winner. Read more in the Minneapolis Start Tribune capturing the day and the pitch competition HERE.
Pictured: Leap.It founders with Steve Case
Kansas City: Leap.it, launched CEO Mark Farmer, is a visual search collaboration platform for consumers and publishers. Leap.it delivers large web page previews, relevant images, videos, news stories, local listings and real-time social all in one engaging, visual interface. Judges Kimberly Bryant (Founder, Black Girls Code), Sarah Granger (author and entrepreneur), Gary Shapiro (CEO of Consumer Electronics Association) and Robb Heineman (CEO, Sporting Club) joined Steve in selecting the winner. Forbes writer Alex Knapp was on hand to cover the competition.Watch the Demo Video.
Des Moines: Bawte is an IOS platform that helps both retail manufacturers and their customers. By identifying the things we consumers buy (thus, Bawte) they enable manufacturers to do alert their customer in real time, like instantly notifying them if a product has been recalled. Judges included Ben Milne (CEO and cofounder, Dwolla), Debi Durham (Director of the Iowa Dept. of Economic Development), Leanne Johnson (President, Technology Association of Iowa), Michael Coppola (founder and President of Coppola Enterprises, Inc.). Read more from their founder Melissa Jackovin in Silicon Prairie News on the winHERE and a recent piece on the platform in Tech Crunch HERE.
St. Louis: SYNEK, created by founder Steve Young, is a beer tap system that lets you have any beer fresh on your counter. Both the cartridge and dispenser were specially designed to create the ultimate environment for beer. SYNEK cartridges maintain a beer’s taste integrity as well or better than bottles or cans. The SYNEK dispenser has adjustable temperature and pressure gauges for optimal delivery. Judges joining Steve included Jim McKelvey (co-founder, Square), Maxine Clark (founder, Build-A-Bear), and Cheryl Watkins-Moore (entrepreneur in residence, BioSTL by BioGenerator). Read the story in the St. Louis Business Journal HERE. Watch the demo video.
The Rise of the Rest bus tour is part of a broader effort to shine a national spotlight on one of the most important trends shaping America’s economic future – a shift in the geography of high–growth entrepreneurship, and the emergence of strong entrepreneurial ecosystems throughout the U.S., not just in Silicon Valley. You can see the full recap of the trip in our journal with interviews, photos and coverageHERE. Watch the recap videos from each city: Madison, Des Moines, Kansas City and St. Louis.
Congratulations to each of the winning startups and dozens of other rising companies who pitched throughout the week. We look forward to seeing each of you in Austin.