It’s official. This October we will take the Rise Of The Rest road trip to Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona!
I am excited to meet seven new communities of entrepreneurs. If you live in Omaha/Lincoln, Denver, Salt Lake City/Provo, Albuquerque or Phoenix and are building something great, make sure you let us know! You can apply to pitch here: [apply here.]
This will be our fifth bus tour of emerging startups regions. We fire up our Rise Of The Rest bus to shine a spotlight on great entrepreneurs building great companies all across the nation, not just in Silicon Valley. Last year 75% of venture capital went to just three states – California, New York and Massachusetts – and we aim to change that. We know there are a lot of terrific entrepreneurs building great companies in those three states, but we also know – and want others to know – that there are also awesome entrepreneurs in the other 47 states, too. Our goal is to do what we can to help level the playing field, so any entrepreneur, anywhere in the country, has a real shot at the American dream.
That’s what our Rise Of The Rest is all about – celebrating the American entrepreneurial tradition, all across our nation. As we travel the country we make the case that one of the best ways to ensure you have a vibrant, growing community 25 years from now is to invest in the startups today. That requires investment capital, startup-friendly leaders and policies, creative universities, and a commitment from larger companies to reinvest in their communities by partnering with the entrepreneurs building the companies for the future.
So what happens on the Rise of the Rest tour? We start by asking some questions, and then we try to listen carefully to what we hear. We ask about the core assets and unique differentiators that makes each city special. We try to learn from a city’s history, as we have found that can often inform the future (and identify core advantages to build on). We look for what’s working, to showcase and celebrate. And we identify opportunities for improvement – what’s not working so well. And we encourage city leaders to come together to address them.
On past tours, we’ve seen how Philadelphia’s strong base of colleges and universities (they have 101 of them!) has helped it reboot. Similarly, in the “Steel City,” educational institutions are enabling Pittsburgh to build on the expertise it assembled during the industrial revolution to power new sectors like robotics. We’ve learned how New Orleans reimagined its school system post Katrina, and in the process unleashed an edtech revolution. In Baltimore we saw how the pillars of the community – ranging from the well established Johns Hopkins University to recent success stories like Under Armour – are coming together to reinvent their city, and in the process establish Baltimore as a magnet for millennial talent. In Pittsburgh we toured Startup Town, an initiative to embed entrepreneurs in underserved areas to help catalyze community development – and try to inspire the next generation of young people living in difficult neighborhoods to consider startups, not sports, as a possible ticket to a better life.
To get to know each city, we get to know the people, connecting with local leaders in business, government, finance, and tech over a spirited breakfast discussion. Then we hit the road, using our bus as a convening platform. We try to bring together people who should know each other, but might not have had the opportunity yet. We encourage that honest discussion about about what’s working, as well as what’s not. We encourage – some might even say beg! – people to redouble their efforts to build thriving startup communities.
Then we get to know the companies. Our startup crawl takes us from community spaces for early stage startups, to the rapidly growing speedups all the way up to the larger companies that have broken through, and are now focused on giving back and supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs.
We end the day in each city with a pitch competition. The community picks the most promising startups and they all pitch to me and a panel of great judges – including local government officials, celebrities, and other investors. We’ve had some pretty special guest judges join us, including Aneesh Chopra, the former Chief Technology Officer of the United States, Franco Harris, the legendary Pittsburgh Steeler, and Sallie Krawcheck, once called the most powerful woman on Wall Street. The winner is selected, and then I write a personal check for $100,000 to that winner. And then we host a party, to celebrate startups, and the momentum that is building in each city.
So far, I have invested in several dozen of these pitch competition winners.
In Atlanta, the winner was Partpic, a self described “Shazam for industrial parts” that went on to pitch to President Obama in the first ever White House Startup Day.
In Pittsburgh, SolePower walked away with the prize for creating a new kind of sole for shoes that generates energy as you walk.
I am inspired by what they are building, and how each business demonstrates the innovation backbone of different American cities.
For the first time since we launched the Rise Of The Rest Road Trip, we asked for your help in selecting the cities we will visit. I am so glad we did. The response from all across the country has been overwhelming and passionate. In total, 80 cities were nominated. This reinforces our belief – and underlying investment portfolio thesis at Revolution – that a new wave of startups are launching and scaling their businesses in cities outside Silicon Valley.
I am looking forward to seeing what we uncover in Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. As we begin to connect with local leaders, we are finding common themes, such as a strong commitment to action from local civic leaders, like the Downtown Denver Partnership; the support of influential university programming, like the SkySong Center & Furnace Tech Transfer initiative at Arizona State University; the spirit of inclusivity, demonstrated by Taza, the weekly Spanish-speaking version of 1 Million Cups that is an ecosystem pillar in Albuquerque; repurposing major areas for innovation, like the Innovation Campus of the University of Nebraska, which is built on the site of the old fairgrounds in Lincoln, Nebraska; and how increased tech mobility has catalyzed the flow of talent and human capital into regions where people want to move for the great lifestyle, like Utah.
Together with great partners like Google for Entrepreneurs, Salesforce for Startups, Village Capital, Economic Innovation Group, Inc., Engine, and Tech.Co., we will spend a full day in each city, meeting with local leaders, founders, and community builders to explore the unique challenges and opportunities inherent to each region. [Find out more] about where we’ll be. I hope to see you there!
Entrepreneurs do change the world. We want to make sure that entrepreneurs everywhere have that opportunity.