Big Investors Back Fund for ‘Flyover’ Start-Ups

Andrew Ross Sorkin reported yesterday at The New York Times Online that, “For the past several months, there has been a torrent of press around how [Steve Case, the billionaire co-founder of AOL] and [J.D. Vance, author of ‘Hillbilly Elegy,’ the best-selling book about the industrial decline of the Midwest] have teamed to try to revive entrepreneurship in what elites often derisively refer to as the so-called flyover states. As my colleague Steve Lohr wrote recently, Mr. Case and Mr. Vance have been barnstorming various cities in a painted bus, holding entrepreneurship competitions as if they were politicians on the campaign trail.

“But until now, at least to some skeptics, it seemed like a do-gooder vanity project.”

The article noted that, “It turns out that while they were publicly crisscrossing America, they were also privately holding meetings with some of the wealthiest individuals and families in the country, urging them to not only invest in a new fund but become partners with some of the companies that will benefit from it.

“On Tuesday, the fund, called Rise of the Rest, will disclose its investors, which has turned into a Who’s Who of American business.”

“The idea — far grander than the money itself, which is only $150 million to start, pocket money for most of the investors — was to assemble a dream team and create a network effect for entrepreneurs in the middle of the country to align with the biggest names in business,” the Times article said.

Mr. Sorkin also pointed out that, “The fund, said Mr. Vance, was meant to construct an ecosystem like the one in Silicon Valley that will provide support and connections to entrepreneurs in small towns.”

The Times article added that, “Mr. Case and Mr. Vance hope to seed investments in start-ups in underserved cities and then bring in some of their big names to invest even more money in them. ‘We’ll be curating interesting companies,’ Mr. Case said.”

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