Rise of the Rest Captures Columbus Startup Momentum

Sometimes the best way to see what’s happening in our own backyard is to see ourselves through the eyes of others.

That’s how it was for us last week as Columbus’s entrepreneurial ecosystem hosted AOL co-founder Steve Case, best-selling author J.D. Vance, and the RISE OF THE REST® (ROTR) team for a deep dive into Columbus’ buzzing and vibrant entrepreneurial community.

The RISE OF THE REST® is a nationwide effort to work closely with entrepreneurs in emerging startup ecosystems. Case believes that we are on the threshold of a new era for entrepreneurship in the U.S.—that companies can now start and scale anywhere, and that the next hotbed of innovation and entrepreneurial success lies somewhere between the coastal triad of Silicon Valley, Boston, and New York.

Having a RISE OF THE REST® event in Columbus wasn’t just about a prominent venture capitalist visiting. The event was validation that national leaders in entrepreneurship and venture capital recognize the great things happening in Columbus. Hosting Case and company here meant that our city is demonstrating the startup momentum and championship deal flow that attracts attention well beyond the borders of our state.


Here are a few highlights of what Case and his crew experienced when they rolled into Columbus last Friday:

  • Stories from Startups and Successful Entrepreneurs: At stops at NCT Ventures and Rev1, more than a dozen successful technology entrepreneurs talked about their companies: what they’re doing, what they need and why they’re building their business in Ohio. Visits to Hot Chicken Takeover and Jeni’s Ice Cream showcased a different and delicious type of success. A panel of later-stage startup leaders showed how successful entrepreneurs here are giving back, by reaching out to support the next crop of company founders and technologists.
  • Smart Cities: The stop at the Columbus Idea Foundry provided a chance for Jordan Davis, Director of Smart Cities Strategy and Collaboration, to highlight Columbus’ Smart Cities initiative.
  • Corporates Care About Innovation: Lunch at the Reeb Avenue Community Center, a job skill center born on the site of an old school, brought the ROTR team together with corporate partners who support entrepreneurship here in true Midwest style. Columbus Collaboratory’s Matt Wald and Bestselling author Eric Ries spoke with corporate leaders. Ries advocated for building a startup DNA within large companies, leveraging insights from his new book The Startup Way.
  • Inclusive Entrepreneurship: Diversity and inclusion were woven into all the events, especially a roundtable discussion at Rev1, (with 50 percent diversity in client engaged company founders or leaders), which featured grassroots organizations connected to diverse cohorts, including i.c. stars*|Columbus, Bunker Labs, and <BLK HCK>.

The day ended with a pitch event featuring eight of the most innovative startup companies on the Columbus startup scene. Case awarded SafeChain, a local startup that eliminates title fraud and redundancies in real estate transactions through a secure blockchain solution, won a $100,000 investment from Case’s Revolution, a Washington-based investment firm.

Case told The Dispatch, “Many of the best and brightest startup founders spring to life within Columbus’ corridors because of the support, investment and collaboration of local long-established businesses.” This event turned the spotlight on that connectedness and showed what we’ve accomplish together.

In the past, maybe the Midwest has been “left out” when it comes to venture capital. But “left out” isn’t left behind. Any way you look at it, Columbus is a rising star.

We would like to thank Steve Case and the RISE OF THE REST® team for coming to Columbus. Thank you, also, to the many community partners that helped to create a great showing of our city.

  • VentureOhio
  • Columbus Partnership
  • NCT Ventures
  • Idea Foundry
  • Fintech71
  • <BLK HCK>
  • Lumos Accelerator
  • SunDown Group
  • SMART Columbus
  • Smart City Accelerator
  • Startup Grind
  • Taivara
  • Futurety
  • i.c.stars*|COLUMBUS
  • Reeb Avenue Center
  • Big Kitty Labs
  • Zoco Design
  • Business Builders Club
  • Loud Capital
  • Jenis
  • Columbus Collaboratory
  • Startup Weekend Columbus
  • Give Back Hack