The effort to find and fund founders building high-growth companies in cities outside of San Francisco, New York, or Massachusetts has required significant and concerted effort. These corridors boast the highest concentration of venture capital dollars, while those in the middle have had to reach for scraps.
Investors like AOL co-founder Steve Case even began charting a bus in 2014, journeying across in-land cities in the south, southeast, and midwest, one year at a time, making highly-publicized investments in companies that venture capital forgot.
Six year’s later, Case’s company, Revolution, who sponsors the annual ‘Rise of the Rest’ bus tour, has taken the tour virtual and with a specific focus on Black founders. Under the moniker of the “Equity Edition”, the Rise of the Rest virtual tour will be held December 1 through the 3rd with a series of town hall events, presentations, and a final pitch competition where Black founders will compete for upwards of $2 million in funding.
- Revolution, Opportunity Hub (OHUB), 100 Black Angels & Allies, and Morgan Stanley’s Multicultural Innovation Lab (MCIL) are partnering to host the Equity Edition of Revolution’s ‘Rise of the Rest Tour’.
- Three companies will receive a total of $2M in investments from Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund and Morgan Stanley’s Multicultural Innovation Lab with additional investment from OHUB and 100 Black Angels & Allies.
- The competition will take place in early December.
“Revolution has long advocated for more funding for startups based outside of the coastal tech hubs, but we must do more to specifically level the playing field for Black founders, who currently receive less than 1% of venture funding. This tour is just one part of what must be a broader effort to scale and sustain inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem building in overlooked cities across America,” said Steve Case, Chairman and CEO of Revolution, in a statement.
Since 2014, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest team has traveled more than 11,500 miles on a bus to 40+ cities to better understand startup communities between the coasts firsthand.
The 2020 tour was initially slated to make stops in Wichita, Kansas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Northwest Arkansas, and St. Louis, Missouri. Founders in each city would have competed to land $100,000 in funding. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Revolution was forced to postpone it’s April tour which heavily emphasizes and rallies around community celebration and impact.
For this year’s Equity Edition, Rise of the Rest Seed Fund and Morgan Stanley’s Multicultural Innovation Lab will invest $500,000 each into the winner, and $250,000 each into the runners up.
“We’re really helping to accelerate the notion that Black founders are hidden, and we want to throw the cover off of these fantastic businesses and see more of them,” said David Hall, managing partner at Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Fund. “We’re bringing more people on board and giving people a way to take action to support Black founders.”
According to Rodney Sampson, chairman of Opportunity Hub (OHUB) who is serving as a lead partner in the Equity Edition initiative and partner with Revolution back in 2015, OHUB’s investing vehicle will invest between $25,000 and $50,000 into winning founders.
Other participating investors include Cowboy Ventures, First Round Capital, Founder Equity, Foundry Group, Greycroft, Motley Fool
Ventures, Precursor Ventures, Upfront Ventures, MaC Venture Capital, Engage VC, Basis Set Ventures, Fearless Fund, Impact America Fund, Kapor, Lightship, M25, and Village Capital.
Sampson’s hope for this year’s experimental virtual tour is to emphasize that Black founders and innovators have always existed, and through the density of applicants from around the country, will be able to cultivate useful data points in which to advance the work of getting Black founders equitably funded.
Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund has raised $300M to invest in early stage startups outside of Silicon Valley, New York City, and Boston. To date, they have invested in 150 startups across more than 70 cities; the companies selected for investment at the virtual pitch event will join Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund portfolio.
Startups will have until October 25th to apply at tour.revolution.com.