Welcome to the May 14 Monday Business Briefing, in which we highlight the Rise of the Rest bus tour visit to Louisville.
The Rise of the Rest bus tour rolls through Louisville
Billionaire entrepreneur and venture capitalist Steve Case brought his Rise of the Rest bus tour to Louisville Friday to meet entrepreneurs and learn more about the city’s startup landscape.
Case is the founder of AOL and is now the CEO of Revolution, a venture capital firm. He and J.D. Vance, author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” toured five cities last week: Dallas, Memphis, Birmingham, Chattanooga and Louisville. The tour is backed by Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, an early-stage fund backed by three-dozen entrepreneurs, investors and executives, such as Eric Schmidt, Jeff Bezos, Henry Kravis, Howard Schultz, Meg Whitman, Jim Breyer, John Doerr and others.
Case had visited Louisville in June 2016, and this year his team decided to revisit some places, and Louisville worked to get the bus back to the city. After what amounted to a write-in campaign, Chuck Denny, president of PNC Bank, said that there were 130,000 votes to get the bus to Louisville.
The day culminated with a pitch contest, and one team, Inscope, won the $100,000 investment. CEO and founder Maggie Galloway pitched her idea to create a better way to intubate patients with a lighted scope that can be inserted into the throat with a tube at the same time, rather than require several steps that require multiple hands.
Kickoff: Angel’s Envy Distillery on East Main St.
The day kicked off with breakfast and speeches from Gov. Matt Bevin, Sen. Rand Paul and Mayor Greg Fischer. Bevin said he would work to cut red tape so that more businesses can thrive in Kentucky. He and his team wore red lapel pins with scissors on them to show their support for cutting red tape. He said he’d like Kentucky to be known for quality manufacturing like Germany.
Case said that when they decided to bring the bus back, they didn’t expect Louisville to win. He said that Fischer is one of the most “startup-friendly mayors” in the country. He also praised David Jones Sr. for building a startup like Humana into a huge organization.
America itself is a startup, Case said. It almost didn’t make it, and now it’s the leader of the free world. Entrepreneurs built the economy, which is the leading economy in the world. But last year 75 percent of venture capital went to California, New York and Massachusetts, which left 47 states fighting for 25 percent of the money. Entrepreneurs in California get in one week what Kentucky gets in a year, Case said. Also troubling, 90 percent of capital went to men, and only 10 percent went to women. Less than 1 percent went to African-Americans. He stressed the need to level the playing field for entrepreneurs.
Crossing the bridge to visit Maker 13 in Jeffersonville
Visitors toured the co-working space in Jeffersonville, formerly a body shop, which allows entrepreneurs and artists to use the space and its tools instead of buying large pieces of equipment themselves, such as 3D printers, woodworking tools and embroidery machines.
Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore talked about how his city is on the rise, with new manufacturing coming into the area and new developments happening. He said he was excited to see the Rise of the Rest tour come to town and be able to spread the word of Jeffersonville’s success.
The companies participating in the pitch contest set up in the space to show their creations to visitors and those venture capitalists on the bus. The gave mini-pitches to those who were interested in their products.
Back to Louisville to visit El Toro on North First St.
Stacy Griggs, CEO, and founder David Stadler welcomed the bus to the offices of El Toro, an IP address-targeting advertising company. Griggs addressed the challenges of attracting top-level talent. He said the company had 30 interns starting soon.
“A big part of our talent acquisition strategy is to make sure that the best interns see that there are really cool opportunities in a place like Louisville,” he said.
One of the reasons El Toro can attract good talent is Louisville’s livability, he said. “You hear stories of Twitter engineers making $150,000 in the Bay Area and having to split a two-bedroom apartment among five roommates. While you’re not going to make the same kind of money here in Louisville, you save expenses. You have the opportunity to be in a very livable place.”
Moving on to Flying Axes on North Clay St.
The group went to Flying Axes, a startup that allows customers to throw axes at targets (after training, of course).
Founders Mike Brown and Dave Durand talked about the history of ax throwing, and how it got started in Canada. Basically, some guys started throwing axes at a target, and the police showed up. The police officers started throwing the axes, too, and a craze was born. Brown and Durand went to Canada to see what ax throwing was all about, and they opened Flying Axes.
Because Durand is a software developer, the pair incorporated technology into the business by creating a digital scorekeeping system. The company has enough revenue to support opening six more locations by the end of the year, with one opening this week in Covington. Visitors got a short demonstration about how to throw, then spent about 15 minutes throwing axes.
Staying in NuLu, the bus stops at Edj Analytics and 1804 on East Market St.
Visitors toured Edj Analytics and learned about the data company that has been helping coaches call better plays and companies harness their data.
Then the bus tour had a catered lunch at 1804, an entrepreneurship center that helps startups get the help they need to keep going. At 1804, the group was joined by Bill Ready, Louisville native and COO of PayPal for a discussion about the entrepreneurship climate in Louisville
Ready said he had five startups and three of those were created in Louisville. Denny said the city’s proximity to other cities, such as Nashville and St. Louis fuels competition.
Natalia Bishop, founder of Story Louisville and LevelUp, said Louisville was hitting its stride in part because “because its women are fearless,” causing a loud hoot from the women in the crowd. She added that as an immigrant having an open community that is willing to lend a hand has made her success easier.
It’s on to Portland and Love City
Denny said that he spent his childhood playing basketball in the Mackin Building, the home of Love City, a combination community center and startup incubator. He added that a friend of his with a difficult background once told him that people raised in situations where they don’t know where their next meal is coming from make the best entrepreneurs because they know how to fight to survive.
Love City founder Shawn Arvin told visitors that he grew up in a tough situation and that he and his wife, Inga, felt a strong pull to Portland to help improve the neighborhood by giving it hope. The organization has helped create a few microbusinesses so far and wants to have 100 created in five years.
“I truly believe that this community is coming back,” Arvin said. “We do demographic research on crime rate analysis, and the crime rate, since we’ve been here for three years, has dropped 35 percent in the 10 blocks around here since we’ve been here.”
Vance said the neighborhood looked a lot like the one he grew up in. While his parents couldn’t take care of him, he always knew he was loved, “but for kids who don’t have that, I’m glad you’re here to close that gap.”
Fireside Chat at the Speed Art Museum
Case and Ready discussed entrepreneurship with incoming University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi. Case reiterated the disparity of venture capital by region, gender and race. He said keeping that venture capital spread throughout the country is important to America’s sustainability.
He used Detroit as an example. He said 75 years ago, Detroit was Silicon Valley — it was the center of innovation in the automobile industry. Then Detroit went bankrupt and the digital revolution boosted Silicon Valley. “What is the next crazy idea?” Case said. “(Those ideas are) kind of like a seed you have to plant, water and fertilize.”
Ready added that Silicon Valley doesn’t have a monopoly on talent or problem solving. There are always problems to be solved, but you have to be willing to jump into the game. The way to attract venture capital to your area is to demonstrate success, he said. When he first started in the 1990s, business owners had to have millions to spend on servers and software, whereas now most storage is in the cloud.
What the entrepreneurs waited for: The pitch contest
Seven finalists competed to get $100,000 in venture capital. In the end, Inscope won over the judges, but before the competition, Case said all of the companies were winners and he encouraged those who attended the packed Speed event to support all the companies in any way they could.
- Inscope Medical Solutions, Maggie Galloway, CEO. Inscope Medical Solutions is launching a revolutionary intubation device.
- Handle, Kyle Green, founder and CEO. Professionalizing a fragmented, low-integrity segment of health care by building a trusted exchange platform for supplies and equipment.
- Schedule It, Rebecca Wheeling, CEO. Schedule It provides automated mapping, routing, scheduling, and file documentation to help insurance adjusters close claims faster.
- FreshFry LLC, Jeremiah Chapman, founder and CEO. FreshFry is a patent-pending technology that will revolutionize the frying oil industry for commercial kitchens.
- Toggle Health, Jake Miller, co-founder and CEO. Toggle Health is releasing a sterile wireless controller for operating room scenarios with a recurring revenue model.
- MailHaven Inc., Kela Ivonye, co-founder and CEO. MailHaven is a physical storage device for home mail and packages, as well as a monthly subscription service for protection and maintenance.
- Neuropak, Chris Tedesco, founder and CEO. Neuropak is a wearable device to enhance physical performance.