Rise of the Rest tour electrifies Denver

AOL Founder Steve Case blitzes the state's entrepreneurial community

Billionaire AOL co-founder and venture capitalist Steve Case electrified the local startup and established entrepreneurial community Tuesday with a non-stop blitz of activities and site visits, as the Rise of the Rest nationwide tour rolled through Denver.

The bus tour, led by Washington, D.C.-based VC firm, Revolution, first hit the road more than two years ago, meeting with city officials, corporate leaders and business builders with successes under their belts, with confidence that startup ecosystems beyond coastal cities were succeeding. To prove that point, Case and company presented an enthusiastic and, at times, brutally honest portrait of Denver’s business environment, addressing crowds throughout the day, across multiple events and venues, as apart of the fifth iteration of the tour.

“Most people don’t know the Colorado story,” Case said several times throughout the day. His mission fueling the event is to encourage funding in the nation’s interior states, in the hopes that policy and investments will follow.

To start the day, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock convened for breakfast at the Wynkoop Brewery alongside a wide range of local business leaders. Case’s tour bus visited veteran-owned startup HyprLoco, the Turing School of Software & Design, Craftsy, and Battery 621, TAXI and Industry – all shared office spaces. Midday, the hand-selected community of business, policy and investment leaders assembled for lunch at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, where Bryan Leach, the CEO of Ibotta, a consumer technology company headquartered in Denver, interviewed Case, discussing the third wave – the latest further permeation of Internet into our lives – and the “three Ps – partnership, policy, place.”

Joining the full five-day tour, John Lettieri, co-founder and senior director for policy and strategy with the Washington, D.C.-based Economic Innovation Group, stressed the significance of community support, intentionality and public policy that supports small business growth.

The evening portion of the program featured a fireside chat with Case and Boulder-based Brad Feld of Foundry Group, immediately followed by a pitch competition pinning eight local businesses against each other. Ultimately the judges selected Flytedesk, an automated ad-buying platform to reach millenials, as the winner and recipient of Case’s $100,000 investment.

Case called the Mile High City the cream of the crop among the five cities on this tour, though he said that doesn’t yet mean Denver is a success story in the national scene or global economy yet.

Along with four other stops – Lincoln-Omaha, Neb., on Monday and Salt Lake City-Provo, Albuquerque and Phoenix to follow – selected to participate on this iteration of the tour,

Mayor Hancock included 60,000 jobs and 5,000 companies among the entrepreneurial achievements Denver has experienced during the last five years. He also mentioned more than $300 million in local investment in the last year.

In total, the bi-annual Rise of the Rest Tour has logged more than 4,000 miles and 19 cities since launching, leaving $100,000 investments in each of the communities along the way.

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