Steve Case, entrepreneur and co-founder of America Online, is bringing his Rise of the Rest Road Trip to Nebraska. The announcement was made this morning during a press conference at FUSE Coworking in Lincoln.
“We are creating the next legacy companies right now in Lincoln and Omaha,” said Brian Ardinger, Managing Director of the NMotion Accelerator. “We’re excited to showcase to the rest of the country.”
In a video shown at the press conference, Case talked about the reason for his initiative.
“75% of venture capital in the country goes to three states,” he said. “The rest are fighting over the other 25%. We’re hitting the road to shine a spotlight on startups building companies around the country.”
The Nebraska visit will happen on October 3rd, beginning with a breakfast and startup tour in Omaha. The bus will then come to Lincoln, where case will conduct a fireside chat and pitch competition.
“We’re very thrilled he’s stopping in Omaha,” said Wendy Birdsall, President of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce. “Lincoln and Omaha are one big ecosystem.”
The winner of the pitch competition will receive a $100,000 investment from Case, something he does at every stop. The winner will be announced at the end of the competition.
“The competition will be open to a variety of folks,” Ardinger said. “Over 50% of his investments have been in women-owned and minority-owned businesses, so it’s important that we show that diversity.”
Making the pitch for Nebraska
Getting Case to Nebraska is viewed as a big win.
“New York, Portland, Philly and now Nebraska,” said Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler. “When you get the attention of Steve Case, you know you’re doing something right.”
Ardinger made the initial contact with Case. What convinced him to come to Nebraska?
“Other than we badgered him?” Ardinger said. “It was an easy sell. We can say ‘look at Hudl, opendorse, Bulu Box, Flywheel.’ Over 600 people came to hear pitches from six startups.”
It’s sometimes difficult for the Midwest to get this kind of attention.
“A lot of times we’re heads down and don’t bang the drum about the exciting things going on,” Ardinger said. “This provides a showcase regionally and nationally.”
The tour will also kick off Lincoln Startup Week beginning October 3rd. This year’s event is called “LNK DNA” and will incorporate Lincoln Calling, Young Professionals Week and other activities.
“We have so much to be proud of,” Birdsall said.
A return to the prairie
Iowa City-based Pear Deck was the winner of the Rise of the Rest pitch competition at SXSW last year. The last time the Rise of the Rest tour came to the Silicon Prairie was in 2014, when Case visited Kansas City, St. Louis and Des Moines.
“I thought it was a very positive event,” said Mike Colwell, Executive Director of Entrepreneurial Initiatives at the Greater Des Moines Partnership. “I think the community took some great outside advice away from the sessions.”
For Kansas City, the event signified that the local startup community was generating national buzz.
“When the Rise of the Rest tour planned a stop in Kansas City in 2014, many viewed it as indication that Kansas City had really ‘arrived’ and was on the map as an entrepreneurial leader,” said Melissa Roberts, VP of Communications and Outreach for the Enterprise Center in Johnson County.
The bus tour offers recognition for a community that is truly building great businesses.
“The Rise of the Rest is an indication that coastal VC like Revolution is beginning to recognize investment in startups in Kansas City, Omaha and “the rest of The Rest” as a good business opportunity,” said Roberts.