At Lambeau Field, Case & Vance Plot a Path for Emerging Startup Hubs

Green Bay, WI, is among the smallest of the 30-plus cities Steve Case and other leaders of his venture capital firm Revolution have visited since 2014 as part of its national “Rise of the Rest” tour, but Case nonetheless said he sees some of the seeds that could help sprout a cluster of high-tech businesses there.

“We think there are companies that can be built in the next 10 years in places like Green Bay—big, valuable, change-the-world companies,” he said.

Case, who is known best as the co-founder of AOL, spoke before a crowd of hundreds of people on Tuesday as part of a tour stop at Lambeau Field, home of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers. He was joined on stage at various points by other members of Washington, D.C.-based Revolution’s team, including J.D. Vance, author of the bestselling 2016 book “Hillbilly Elegy.”

The Rise of the Rest tour stop was held in conjunction with a two-day conference for entrepreneurs and investors put on by Kinnektor. (Kinnektor recently changed its name from Launch Wisconsin, said John Ernst, the organization’s executive director.)

According to Revolution, the goal of its Rise of the Rest tour is to spotlight up-and-coming innovation communities. Many of the tour stops have been in so-called flyover states located in the middle of the country.

Many of the companies that will emerge as big successes over the next decade will come from industries like healthcare, education, and food and agriculture, Case said. He explained that while these sectors have moved into the digital age with the rise of the Internet and mobile devices, they are ripe for further technological advancement.

Case lays out this theory in his book “The Third Wave,” which was also published in 2016. He writes that the first wave of Internet-era innovation involved getting people online. The second wave, which Case writes is just now coming to a close, has been marked by software developers building apps and services on top of the initial foundation—social networks like Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) and Snapchat (NYSE: SNAP), for instance.

The third wave will be about “integrating the Internet,” Case said Tuesday. He said he believes companies that aren’t based in California, Massachusetts, and New York—the three states that attracted about 75 percent of U.S. venture capital last year—can prosper in the next era of innovation. One reason is that partnerships between two or more organizations will become a more common—and important—step on the path to profitability and widespread adoption of new products and services, Case said.

While consumer-facing software products like Facebook can be built and spread relatively quickly, in an industry like healthcare the sales cycles tend to be longer and the work to receive regulatory clearance can take years. The upshot is healthcare technology startups can bring products to market more quickly by partnering with nearby hospitals, which aren’t clustered in a few metropolitan areas the way VC funds are, Case said.

“In the third wave, there’s an opportunity to have more regional innovation,” he said.

Case also mentioned transportation as an industry he anticipates will experience major disruption during the dawning third wave. It was a fitting coincidence, then, that the winner of a pitch competition held Tuesday as part of the conference was Lanehub, a Green Bay-based startup that’s developing software allowing companies that ship their products by truck to communicate more efficiently with drivers—and other shippers—than is possible today. Lanehub said it has already signed several large, reputable businesses as clients. However, if it considers partnering with other … Next Page »

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Jeff Buchanan is the editor of Xconomy Wisconsin. Email: jbuchanan@xconomy.com Follow @_jeffbuchanan

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