Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Steve Case , Jeff Bezos , Eric Schmidt and a bunch of other billionaires look outside the Valley

AOL co-founder Steve Case and a bunch of highly prominent tech billionaires including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt have set up up a $150m Rise of the Rest seed fund for startups in the Midwest and other areas that are often overlooked by investors. 

As The New York Times puts it, the complete list of investors in the Rise of the Rest fund “may be the greatest concentration of American wealth and power in one investment fund.” In addition to Bezos and Schmidt, it includes:

  • Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz
  • Fashion designer Tory Burch
  • Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio
  • Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert
  • KKR co-founder Henry Kravis
  • Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein
  • Financier and philanthropist Michael Milken
  • Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers chairman John Doerr
  • Breyer Capital founder Jim Breyer
  • Napster co-founder and former Facebook president Sean Parker
  • Spanx founder Sara Blakely
  • Tampa Bay Lightning and the Tampa Bay Storm owner Jeff Vinik
  • Banker Byron Trott
  • Goldman Sachs leader director Adebayo Ogunlesi
  • and members of the Walton, Koch and Pritzker families

The fund, which shares a name with Case’s speaking tour and startup pitch competition, plans to provide mentorship as well as financing to entrepreneurs located outside of Silicon Valley, New York City, Boston and other major business hubs.

Case told The New York Times that the Rise of the Rest fund isn’t a social impact fund, but instead seeks to increase investment in underserved regions by proving companies there can “generate top returns.”

Case believes that there are returns in areas that are further than a 1 hour drive from their offices in the Valley.

“I felt it was a no brainer,” says Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google parent Alphabet. “Investing in this way is good for everyone: more jobs, more wealth, better products and it helps our society in dealing with a lot of jarring employment changes,” Schmidt wrote Forbes in an email. “Entrepreneurs, remember, are the job creators in our economy.”

Doerr wrote Forbes. “I don’t think of ‘the Valley’ as some zip code in California. It is a state of mind that can be anywhere, for everyone.”

Tory Burch, the fund has civic appeal. “I see opportunity as an investor and as a citizen who cares about the future of our country,” Burch said by email. “By providing entrepreneurs outside of Silicon Valley with the resources they need to build great businesses, we are disrupting the current investment paradigm and creating a more evenly dispersed innovation economy, which is critical for the future of our country.”

This is a dream team of investors says Case!

“I felt investing in companies outside of Silicon Valley was a no-brainer,” Schmidt told the New York Times. “There is a large selection of relatively undervalued businesses in the Heartland between the coasts, some of which can scale quickly.”

The investment team headed by JD Vance will look to make investments of less than $1 million alongside local partners, not leading rounds or taking board seats. “We hope we can be catalytic, in the visibility we can bring,” says Case.

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