The Rise of the Rest bus tour, AOL co-founder Steve Case’s tour of entrepreneurial cities outside of the traditional tech hubs, has announced its seventh tour which will focus on the Southeast region. In early May the ROTR bus will visit Birmingham, AL; Chattanooga, TN; Dallas, TX; Louisville, KY; and Memphis, TN to hear startup founders pitch and invest $100,000 in the top pick in each city.
“This year, we created an itinerary around Louisville, the city that won our Bring Back the Bus challenge last fall,” says David Hall, Rise of the Rest Partner. “We selected a geographically feasible plan that would allow us to explore five exciting and diverse emerging ecosystems. We look forward to meeting founders and ecosystem builders that are supporting these entrepreneurial communities.”
“Both the Rise of the Rest bus tour and fund are helping to raise the visibility of promising startups in cities across the country — we could not be more excited to announce our new investments and the next five stops on the bus tour,” said Case in a statement. “For the past four years, we have been encouraged by the entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders we’ve met on our tours and are excited to invest catalytic capital into these Rise of the Rest regions.”
Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, an accompanying $150 million venture capital fund backed by some of technology’s top leaders, has also made its first investments in companies across the country. Amongst the nine investments are agtech company AppHarvest from Pikeville, KY, and AI recruiting company ENGAGE Talent from Charleston, SC.
“We got turned down by a number of leading VCs who were very interested in what we’re doing, loved the team, were impressed by the traction, even talked to customers and knew how they were using our software, but just from our location and that we’re not in one of the major metro areas — they wouldn’t make an investment,” says ENGAGE CEO Joseph Hanna.
“So when we started working with these people who specifically try to find companies that are not in the big metro areas, since we live in a world now where innovation and smart people can be anywhere, we became very excited. The fit was great,” says Hanna.
Over the course of the past six tours, the ROTR team has visited 33 cities to host their free pitch competition and fireside chat. Eight to ten startups are selected to pitch in each city and applications for this summer’s tour are open now. ROTR partner Google for Entrepreneurs also provides coaches to help entrepreneurs refine their pitch.
Learn more and apply to pitch here. Photos via Rise of the Rest/Revolution