I don’t know if I was alone in my conflict over the titling of ‘Rise of the Rest’ used by Steve Case and the Revolution Ventures team for their tour around middle America. This isn’t the fault of Case or anyone at Revolution Ventures, they have all good intentions with the title, this is an issue I struggle with.
The ‘Rest’? Is that what we are here in Columbus? The ‘Rest’ feels like second place, third place, or worse… and when accompanied by ‘The Rise,’ it implies that others have already risen and we haven’t. Clearly I am over thinking this, but it got me thinking more about the issues they were discussing.
The ‘Startup’ system has some inherent class distinction built into it by design. Think about a founder’s psyche from day one. The entrepreneur is seeking funding, support, team members, and believers, to name a few things. The constant strive for validation is suffocating.
The ‘Rest,’ as designated by Case and the tour, relates to the invested venture capital dollars that are overwhelmingly deployed in companies in Silicon Valley, NYC, and Boston. This geographical focus doesn’t bother me at all. I look at that as a bit of a supply and demand economics problem more than explicit geographical discrimination. The Rise of the of Rest has the following mission statement :
Revolution’s RISE OF THE REST® with Steve Case is a nationwide effort to work closely with entrepreneurs in emerging startup ecosystems. Our view is that this is the beginning of a new era for entrepreneurship across the U.S. — high-growth companies can now start and scale anywhere, not just in a few coastal cities. The effort has been praised by leading Democrats and Republicans, as well as businesses leaders across the country.
The focus on ‘high growth’ might be nuanced language, but to me this is a direct reflection on a recent company prototype born out of the internet/software boom. The prototype where a company can reach valuations of a billion dollars in under 10, heck 5, years’ time. That situation is SUCH an outlier for most companies that it obviously points to the need (and fantasy) for the VC financial model. Remember, VC’s typically have under 10 years to return capital to their Limited Partners, so it’s ideal to have a major win (unicorns as they say). PS: Only DC folks would include a mention of bipartisan praise 😂.
The resounding message I take away from Case’s movement is the idea of inclusion. The opposite of ‘the rest’ is everyone. My favorite part of entrepreneurship is its ability to empower anyone to move into whatever socioeconomic position they choose. I’m not saying it’s easy for everyone, there are many intentional and unintentional biases and discriminatory issues we have to tear down. As I am able to tear down my own insecurities of not being amongst or accepted by Silicon Valley elites, I am able to find the deeper message of hope and will that Case brought last week. It’s a reminder to not look to others to validate our abilities or tenacity. We can define success in our own ways.
I asked Steve Case if he were to return in a year, what impact would he hope to see from his time here. He said their goal is to elevate the awareness of what is happening in the cities they visit and continue to raise the bar. Which had me wondering, what do Columbus entrepreneurs want their community to be and look like in one year, five years, or twenty years?
Kudos to Rev1, Venture Ohio and others who helped make the Rise of the Rest stop a VERY Columbus focused event. It’s exceptional to be able to show off our city’s prized possessions and people to others. There is no doubt ‘The Rest’ of the country has no idea that we rose up a long long time ago and continue to all the time.