SXSW V2V, Day 2: Steve Case's Blue Collar Approach to Startup Success

SXSW V2V, Day 2: Steve Case's Blue Collar Approach to Startup Success

Complex Tech is in Las Vegas for the first annual SXSW V2V conference. Check in here for our daily dispatches.

“Twenty years ago, Detroit was Silicon Valley. It was the pride of America. Where are we today?”

That’s Steve Case, co-founder of AOL and current CEO of Revolution, an investment firm based in Washington, D.C. “You’ve got to go all in on entrepreneurs and startups,” he continued. “We have to reinvent our industries and economy.”

During day two of V2V Case spoke bluntly to a crowd of eager entrepreneurs with hopes of creating the next revolutionary app or social network. As you can imagine, Case is a big believer in the power of the Internet. But his hour-long talk centered largely on what he termed “the rise of the rest.”

Venture capital firms and media, he said, now focus too heavily on startups in Silicon Valley and New York City, which ultimately provides a skewed understanding of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. According to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Silicon Valley accounts for one-third of all venture capital investments in the Unites States. 

 

As CEO of Revolution, Case pinpoints startups that exist beyond the idyllic roads and manicured lawns of Palo Alto, San Francisco and Cupertino.

 

“It’s nothing against Silicon Valley, the story is just much broader,” Case said. “We can’t just focus in a few sectors or regions.”

His point was not without merit. Startups have succeeded outside of Silicon Valley before (and many continue to do so), so why had the attention from VCs begun to focus so narrowly on specific locales? AOL was birthed in D.C., Chipotle in Denver, Under Armour in Baltimore, and Chobani in upstate New York.

“Being outside of Silicon Valley helped us recognize the challenges,” he said of AOL. “It was about getting all of America online. It took us a decade. It wasn’t an overnight success.”

As CEO of Revolution, Case pinpoints startups that exist beyond the idyllic roads and manicured lawns of Palo Alto, San Francisco and Cupertino.

“We actually believe you can find great companies elsewhere.” He referenced Lolly Wolly Doodle, an online children's apparel company started in North Carolina that leveraged social media to establish its brand. The company is on course to earn record profits this year.

As for a solution? Case believes crowdfunding will put more companies on the radar and force VCs to look to at startups in cities all across America; platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, he said, will democratize access to entrepreneurs.

"It’s about building up the entrepreneurial ecosystem," Case said. "We’re looking for big ideas that can change the world. We’re focused on built-to-last, not built-to-flip startups.”

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Tags: sxsw-v2v-2013, steve-case, aol, startups
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