Nashville’s Entrepreneur Center was recently visited by David Hall, partner of eight years at Revolution Ventures. The company provides venture capital to startups such as Nashville-based online food delivery service OrderUp. Revolution Ventures began as Revolution General ten years ago in an attempt to address changing technology and public policy that made startup companies viable in cities outside of Silicon Valley, Boston, or New York City. These ‘big three’ states of California, Massachusetts, and New York account for 75% of all venture capital. Revolution saw potential and innovation in other cities, and from that was born the Rise of the Rest tour. In talking about the tour David says, “I think that the time is now and I think that you’re seeing people – stakeholders – in some of these cities like Nashville recognize that and take decisive steps to put cities like Nashville on the map for a Rise of the Rest, a continuum of cities that are saying, ‘You know what? We want our piece of the pie.’ ”
In the year and a half since it’s inception, the Rise of the Rest tour has visited 14 cities, investing $1.5 million in new businesses and creating valuable opportunities for introductions and collaboration. The first Rise of the Rest tour in fall of 2014 visited what David Hall called “classic American cities:” Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Nashville. “What we saw and who we were able to meet here were just outstanding people who had such great entrepreneurial spirit – folks like Michael Burcham who pulled the right stakeholders together in Nashville to make the EC what it is today as the hub of entrepreneurial activity in sort of the Nashville area.”
David Hall and the rest of the tour team found that there was a great demand in these cities for the information and inspiration they provided. What was lacking was not willingness or entrepreneurial spirit, but rather knowledge of how to develop necessary connections and how to become established in the city. David was surprised to discover that often the startups were representative of the unique resources of each city. The most recent Rise of the Rest toured the southeast, ending in New Orleans. Hall found that many New Orleans companies specialized in education technology, budding from the need for new education infrastructure after Hurricane Katrina. Likewise, in Nashville, many of the startups center on healthcare and entertainment. “What Nashville does really well is help these businesses coalesce around some of the natural industries in Nashville. So healthcare and entertainment makes so much sense, and there’s such a great network of people that can be supportive to young startups that need been-there-done-that expertise around the table and as advisors.”
Hall says that achieving the entrepreneurial mission takes a lot of local spirit, and the tour’s goal is to help local companies tap into that kind of support, via government representatives and policy makers, as well as potential investors and clients. “These American major cities have sort of recessed a little bit, and it’s good to see opportunities for them to step back into the spotlight.”
The next Rise of the Rest tour is scheduled to start September – October 2015, and the cities on the tour are to be announced shortly. For more information, you can follow @Revolution or @RiseofRest on Twitter.