Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Steve Case makes the case for investing outside of Silicon Valley

Steve Case, CEO of Revolution and founder of AOL, was in Des Moines today making the case for investing in startups in places like Des Moines and other cities in the middle of the country.

Case spoke with Steve Clemons, Washington Editor at Large of the Atlantic, as part of a panel focused on the current and future state of the heartland.

“Smart people aren’t just in Silicon Valley, there are smart people everywhere, we just need opportunities everywhere,” said Case. “The next big, iconic companies will not just be on the coast. They’ll be all across the country.”

In 2014, Case started Rise of the Rest, a seed fund that focuses on companies located outside of Silicon Valley, New York and Boston. Since then he has gone on seven “Rise of the Rest” bus tours, visiting cities throughout the country to encourage entrepreneurship.

“The common factor among all of these cities is that they’re on the move, they’re on the rise,” said Case. “You can feel it. You can see it.”

Last year 75% of venture capital in the U.S. went 3 states: California, New York and Massachusetts pointed out Case, saying that Iowa received less than 1%. Case advocated having a more level playing field in terms of where this capital is flowing.

“The vast majority of the net new jobs in this country do not get created by small business or by big business,” said Case. “They get created by young, high-growth startups. If you want to create jobs in your community, you have to back startups.”

Case ended the panel with a reminder of how quickly economic dynamics can change, talking about how 100 years ago Detroit was the most innovative city in the country and Silicon Valley was mostly fruit orchards.

“It’s a pretty vivid and sober reminder of how quickly these can change and that our lead is not guaranteed,” said Case.

Steve Case makes the case for investing outside of Silicon Valley | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
This Pop-up Is Included in the Theme
Best Choice for Creatives
Purchase Now