Steve Case makes a spur-of-the-moment million-dollar investment in 10 start-ups

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg - Steve Case, chief executive officer of Revolution LLC, made a hefty (and surprise) investment in 10 up-and-coming start-ups Wednesday.

Venture capitalists are increasingly looking for young, innovative companies in areas outside of traditional technology hubs like Boston, New York and California’s Silicon Valley. And perhaps few are scouring the country quite like Steve Case.
The former chairman of America Online, Case committed to invest $100,000 in each of 10 tech start-ups from towns like Durham, N.C., Nashville, Tenn., and Minneapolis, Minn. on Wednesday. After winning local competitions, the firms had been invited by Google to pitch to dozens of investors at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

None were guaranteed to walk away with any capital.
“I was so inspired by the consistent quality of each of the pitches that I made an on-the-spot decisions to support each company,” Case, now one of the investors behind Revolution Ventures in Washington, said in a statement.
Case has spearheaded a campaign the last few years to unearth promising new technology ventures in every corner of the country, particularly areas that have historically been underserved by angel investors and venture capital groups. Calling the movement “the rise of the rest,” Case has urged investors and policymakers to look beyond Google’s and Facebook’s backyard when trying to cultivate innovation and entrepreneurship.
“I’ve long known that great start-ups can be found everywhere,” Case said, later adding that he hopes his investments this week “will be just the start of a growing flow of venture capital dollars to new regions.”
In addition to receiving the $100,000 infusion, start-up Windsor Circle was crowned as the top company by the judges at the event. Hailing from the American Underground business incubator in Durham, the company offers software that helps online retailers retain customers through targeted, data-driven marketing.
“An important part of the journey for any entrepreneurial company is getting to that level of market validation that allows you to rise above the fray, and that bar is even higher when you’re not in a heavily capitalized market like San Francisco and New York,” Matt Williamson, Windsor Circle’s chief executive, said in an interview.
Thus, securing an endorsement from a high-profile and well-connected investor like Case, he added, is even more valuable to the company than the $100,000.
“For us, winning on a national stage like that reads as ‘Boom, we just punched a ticket and proved that one of the hottest marketing start-ups in the country is located in Durham, North Carolina,’” Williamson said.
Others pitching at the event included, Automated Insights, also from Durham, whose technology converts big data patterns into easy-to-read narratives, and iRule of Detroit, Mich., which lets users control their televisions and lighting from their smartphones.
The lone representative from the health care sector, Nashville’s InvisionHeart, provides software that transmits cardiac patient data between health care providers and cardiologists in real time. Meanwhile, Chicago was represented by WeDeliver, a service that allows anyone to work as a delivery person for local firms like florists and restaurants.
All of the regions represented, Case said, “show huge promise as part of a ‘rise of the rest’ in growing entrepreneurial ecosystems in North America.”
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