Editor’s Note: The Millennial Voices series is written by and for Millennials to foster nonpartisan discussion. Ben Link is a junior at American University. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Steve Case's 2014 “Rise of the Rest” bus tour may not have specifically targeted Millennials, but its mission and goals resonate with many Millennial ideals. Among these beliefs are a fondness towards entrepreneurship, an acknowledgement of the value of a collaborative environment, a desire to innovate and challenge traditional processes, and a passion for affecting positive change.
In 2005, Steve Case co-founded Revolution LLC, a firm that invests in innovative companies that offer consumers “more choice, convenience, and control in their lives.” As part of Revolution, Case began the “Rise of the Rest” campaign in 2011.
The goal: Travel America to visit its vibrant, often overlooked startup communities and build momentum for new investments in entrepreneurs looking to change the country’s business landscape.
Case is a venture capitalist and co-founder of AOL. In 2012, he advocated and lobbied for the bipartisan pro-entrepreneurship JOBS Act, which legalized securities-based crowdfunding and allowed start-up companies to raise capital from a large group of individual investors. This bill made it easier for more entrepreneurs to raise capital and start growing their companies.
The most recent “Rise of the Rest” bus tour was a five-day trip to five different cities in the upper midwest. In each city, Case meets with innovators and entrepreneurs and hosts a pitch competition for startup businesses – the winner of which receives a $100,000 investment from Case.
While in Madison, Wisconsin, Case told an audience that today’s generation views entrepreneurship as an opportunity to make an impact. He explained that in prior generations people went into politics to make a difference, and then there was a shift to go into nonprofits to create change. Today, making an impact through entrepreneurship is becoming increasingly popular. In fact, Case said that the mission of affecting change is a greater motivation to start a business for many than that of making money.
It is important to make a distinction that Case is not just funding or targeting millennial start ups. That being said however, there were businesses started by millennials that were invited to Case’s pitch competitions.
One such example, Fresh Vine, a company that makes membership-management software for churches and nonprofits, competed in Minneapolis’s pitch competition. Fresh Vine’s founder and president states on the company’s website that he is, “Under 30 years old, and [has] already started 2 companies, having over 15 years of web development experience under [his] belt.”
“We need to maintain our lead as the most innovative, entrepreneurial nation. That’s what drives economic growth, what drives job creation, what drives our global competitiveness,” Case says. “Those entrepreneurs are all across the country, and that’s the story we’re trying to tell with Rise of the Rest.”
“America itself was a startup. 250 years ago, America was just an idea.” http://t.co/4ARV7y8Xzv
— Steve Case (@SteveCase) June 1, 2014
Case points out that 250 years ago, America itself was a start up – just an idea. Now it is the leader of the free world in part because it has been the most innovative entrepreneurial nation in the world since its inception. The wave of startups sweeping across America today may be yet another cycle in America’s rich history of entrepreneurship and innovation. However, knowing that millennials are seeking to use entrepreneurship to make an impact, the nation is bound to see great changes before this cycle in America’s history is over.
Ben Link is a Policy Intern at MAP and is currently an undergraduate student at American University majoring in CLEG (Communication, Legal Studies, Economics, Government). Ben has served many campus positions including council member for the school’s grant program, the Eagle Endowment, director of the Student Government Community Service Coalition, and teaching assistant for the School of Public Affairs Leadership Program.
As a tax-exempt nonprofit organization governed by Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, Millennial Action Project (MAP) is generally prohibited from attempting to influence legislative bodies in regards to policy and legislation. It is important to note guest authors frequently take firm stances on issues and policy matters that are currently being debated by policymakers; when they do, however, they speak for themselves and not for MAP, its board, council or employees.