Rise of the Rest: How Des Moines can bring it back

Steve Case (Left) participated in a panel with Julie Samuels of Engine and Ben Milne of Dwolla in October of 2014. Photo courtesy of Rise of the Rest.

Des Moines has an opportunity to showcase its startup ecosystem on a national level.

Steve Case—co-founder of AOL—is preparing to start the sixth, “Rise of the Rest” bus tour  that travels across the country to experience emerging startup ecosystems. The tour starts Oct. 10 in Pennsylvania and Iowa has an opportunity to be the sixth city the bus visits.

To vote for Des Moines click here. Des Moines was in third place as of Sept. 20. Voting ends Oct. 12 and the winning city will be announced Oct. 13.

Case—the current CEO of Washington D.C based investment firm Revolution—originally visited Des Moines with Rise of the Rest on Oct. 8 2014.

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The leaderboard as of Sept. 20. Results courtesy of Rise of the Rest.

What happened last time

Tej Dhawan was an organizer in 2014 when the “Rise of the Rest” bus visited Des Moines.

He explained that the “Rise of the Rest” tour is an all day event that concludes with a pitch competition where Case invests $100,000 in a local startup.

Dhawan said the day starts with a meeting between Case and the Rise of the Rest team plus local CEO’s, investors and state officials—including then Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds. Then a group visited local startups including Dwolla and Social Money.

“We weren’t really looking for external validation,” Dhawan said. “We weren’t trying to put on a show, we were trying to show the reality.”

During their visit, Dhawan said the Global Insurance Accelerator was launching and the coworking space Gravitate just launched.

“So there was already an excitement in the community,” Dhawan says. “We remained within the confines of lets showcase what we’re doing and the people supporting that ecosystem.”

A panel and pitch competition filled most of the afternoon with several local companies pitching.

John Jackovin and his company Bawte, won the pitch competition, kind of.

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The Rise of the Rest logo. Courtesy of Rise of the Rest.

A crash course in pitching

In October of 2014 Jackovin was in the midst of TechStars—an accelerator program in Boulder—and was unable to make it back to pitch at Rise of the Rest.

And because the person pitching had to be an owner, he called his wife.

“My wife is part owner—of Bawte—so I asked her to pitch for me,” Jackovin explained. “She’s a wonderful speaker, has great stage presence, she can sell but she had no idea what she was selling.”

Jackovin said he spent a few hours on the phone with his wife and put together a pitch deck and script for her.

“I got notified that she had won, it was absolutely crazy,” Jackovin said.

But Jackovin said the company never actually used the funding and it instead went to the second place company, Pear Deck of Iowa City.

The winners of each stop would pitch against each other at a national pitch competition at SXSW in Austin in March of 2015.

Pear Deck won.

“The second place team in our area won the national pitch off,” Jackovin said.

Pear Deck would win an additional $150,000.

Des Moines has a chance

Anna Mason, Director of Rise of the Rest Investments, said she visited Iowa earlier this year for EntreFest in Iowa City and says she connected with great people from the region.

She says the bus has never returned to a city it has already visited.

“Des Moines has a chance and if everyone gets out and votes, I think you guys are definitely in the mix and in the running,” Mason said. “We’d love to see the bus back there.”