Steve Case, head of Startup America, co-founder of AOL, CEO of Revolution LLC, and chairman of the Case Foundation, visited Austin on Thursday.
During his visit, Case met with about 60 entrepreneurs, media and others during a session at Capital Factory, put on by Scott Robinson, head of Startup Austin, the local affiliate of Startup America along with Josh Baer, co-founder of Capital Factory.
Case’s fund, Revolution Growth, just invested $40 million into Austin-based Bigcommerce, a software company that allows anyone to open a retail site online for just $25. With the investment, Case joins the Bigcommerce board. He said he would be back in Austin for more meetings with entrepreneurs.
“We love what’s happening in Austin,” Case said during his opening remarks.
Case’s fund also has investments in Living Social, Portico and Zipcars in Austin. He said the focus of his visit was the Bigcommerce investment but he also wanted to visit with entrepreneurs in Austin to talk about the need for immigration reform and job creation through startups.
The visit by Case was something that Robinson organized on short notice.
“I got an email last Friday afternoon and I got on the phone with everybody and emailed everybody and within two days time, everything was arranged,” Robinson said. “That’s the spirit of our community coming together like that for a visitor like Steve. It’s important for him to see how cooperative and collaborative we are with one another. It’s one thing I hope to demonstrate in our role in the Startup America partnership with the rest of the country and other regions.”
Case spends a lot of time focusing on trying to make sure the United States can remain the world’s most entrepreneurial nation, he said. Entrepreneurs built the economy and that’s why we are the leaders of the free world, he said.
“If we can preserve that innovation/entrepreneurship ethic I think the future of the country will be bright,” Case said. “If we lose it, and I don’t think we will, but there is some risk of being complacent, the future will not be so bright.”
Just look at what’s happening in Detroit for what could go wrong, Case said. Sixty years ago, Detroit was Silicon Valley and the hotbed of innovation in the U.S. with the disruptive technology known as cars, Case said. Last week Detroit declared bankruptcy with $18 billion in debts.
“Detroit was the pride of America and the envy of the world,” he said. But they grew complacent and they lost their “entrepreneurial mo-jo,” Case said. Competitors moved in. And in the last 50 years, Detroit has lost 60 percent of its population, he said.
“This is a searing example of the rise on the back of entrepreneurship and innovation and then the fall,” Case said.
Now there’s lots of great entrepreneurial efforts underway in Detroit and hopefully it will come back, Case said.
According to the Kauffman Foundation, in the last three decades startups were responsible for 40 million new jobs – most of the net new jobs in the United States, Case said.
The rise of startup technology regions like Austin bodes well for the overall economy, Case said. While Silicon Valley continues to do well, Austin has made tremendous strides in the last 20 years, he said.
Following Case’s talk, Baer with Capital Factory, gave an overview of the Austin Technology startup scene. Capital Factory, a technology accelerator program and co-working space, also offers a $100,000 sidecar fund for startups.
Case also heard from Isaac Barchas with the Austin Technology Incubator, Shari Wynne with Incubation, Kerry Rupp with Dreamit Ventures Austin, Kevin Koym with Tech Ranch Austin and Jennifer Bullard with Texas Gaming Lab.
And a handful of entrepreneurs got to give a three minute pitch of their company to Case. Those companies include InsuranceZebra, Phunware, Subtle Data, MyCampus Tutors, Pictrition and Eye Q.
Steve Case Visits Austin, Touts Entrepreneurship for Job Creation
July 26, 2013 by 12 Comments