On Tuesday morning, Steve Case’s $150 million Rise of the Rest venture capital fund announced a Who’s Who list of investors, according to Andrew Ross Sorkin, of The New York Times, who broke the news.

“All told, it may be the greatest concentration of American wealth and power in one investment fund,” wrote Sorkin, founder of DealBook.

Among them are the likes of Jeff Bezos, of Amazon; Eric Schmidt, of Alphabet; Howard Schultz, of Starbucks; the fashion mogul Tory Burch; and Sara Blakely, of Spanx, as well as members of three wealthy families: the Waltons, the Kochs and the Pritzkers, Sorkin reported.

Those investors and entrepreneurs will be backing startups in the country’s heartland, including presumably Louisville, which fought its way in and won Revolution’s Rise of the Rest competition to #BringBackTheBus.

The Midwest is suddenly hot, as Steve Lohr, of The New York Times, recently noted. “Local entrepreneurs and big investors are scouting the Midwest for start-up investments that range up to tens of millions of dollars, far more than local angel and venture investors. And they are beginning to attract venture capital from Silicon Valley for follow-on rounds of funding,” Lohr wrote.

According to Revolution, the Rise of the Rest seed fund invests “catalytic capital in the most promising seed stage companies located outside of Silicon Valley, New York City and Boston.”

Touring cities, as part of Rise of the Rest Road Trip with Steve Case, is a key component in the fund’s approach. It promises to make a minimum of 20 investments a year in companies “that disrupt major industries like food, healthcare, transportation, and agriculture.”

When the bus returns to Louisville next year (Case last visited in the summer of 2016), Case and his team will meet with local entrepreneurs, explore Louisville’s ecosystem and invest $100,000 in a local startup. “Throughout the day we also visit the fastest growing local startups, hear directly from innovators, spend time learning from local policy and business leaders,” according to Rise of the Rest.

Charles P. Denny | Courtesy

In an emailed statement, Charles P. Denny, PNC regional president in Kentucky and Tennessee, who helped marshal a community-led campaign to invite Case & Co. back to Louisville, said Tuesday’s announcement by Revolution, “has the potential to transform our community’s future.”

“Being selected by Revolution and Steve Case to become a Rise of the Rest City is a significant validation of the quality of our entrepreneurs and the innovation of our startup industry in Louisville,” Denny said. “Importantly, it also recognizes the support of our community to create and sustain strong ecosystems to support the success of our entrepreneurs.”

What’s more, he wrote: “The timing of Louisville’s selection to become a Rise of the Rest City given today’s announcement and the advent of the Bring Back the Bus Tour to Louisville creates a profound opportunity for our community. Along with having Endeavor Louisville, 1804 — our new Entrepreneurship Center, and importantly the enormous advantages of a Carnegie Tier 1 research university in UofL — the critical elements for transformative change are in place.”

Jackson M. Andrews | Courtesy

Jackson M. Andrews, managing director of Endeavor Louisville, said in an interview that “when it comes to venture capital, more is always better,” especially when it comes to inserting global capital into nontraditional markets.

Endeavor Louisville is part of the 20-year-old global high-impact investing organization Endeavor, which has its own Catalyst funds, managing investment capital of over $100 million that together have co-invested alongside world-class VC and growth funds in 63 Endeavor Entrepreneur-led companies across 19 countries, according to a recent impact report.

“Thematically,” Andrews added, Rise of the Rest “is a further proof point of why these non-traditional, non-coast markets for entrepreneurship really are vibrant and alive. The more nodes in the networks supporting that thesis, the better it is for our market and region.”


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