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Photo illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

"Hillbilly Elegy" author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance moved back to Columbus earlier this year with the goal of trying to figure out how to attract more money and talent to Ohio's fledgling startup scene.

Why? States in the middle of the country collectively get less than a quarter of total U.S. venture capital dollars, but they're the ones that most need that investment. That's what Steve Case's Revolution, where Vance is now a partner, wants to fix with its "Rise of the Rest" effort.

This week Case and Vance are traveling to four midwestern cities — Central Pennsylvania, Ann Arbor, Indianapolis and Columbus — that haven't benefitted from the investment boom that's largely occurred in coastal tech hubs.

What to watch: I'll be tagging along with the Revolution crew as they explore how these cities are trying to remake themselves, and what it will take to really jumpstart their economic engines. I'll be writing dispatches from the road, so stay tuned.

What's been the most striking thing to you about Columbus' startup scene since moving back?

I was a little surprised at how advanced the local startup scene was already. The last time I'd lived in Columbus was when I was a student at [Ohio State University]. I've been really impressed by what the folks had already built and it obviously builds on some of the themes that we've been talking about for a long time.

What are some examples?

Obviously the folks at Rev1 Ventures are doing great things, and VentureOhio is thinking thoughtfully about how to bring more startups and entrepreneurs to the area. The big headline thing is that CoverMyMeds [a healthcare software company] had a $1 billion exit. I didn't know there was a $1 billion startup company in Columbus.

What is the biggest misperception that tech leaders and investors have of Columbus and communities like it?

Generally, that there isn't a whole lot going on there. Folks in Silicon Valley recognize that it has a lot of network density and obviously a lot of great companies in the Bay Area, but there's a perception that these mid-sized cities don't have a lot going on. Maybe they don't have exciting talent, or exciting companies — and that's just not true.

Another misperception is the idea that the industrial mid-west is an economy in decline rather than on the rise. Of course, both of those things can be true. Obviously some old industries are suffering and some new industries are coming to the foreground. I wouldn't say it's the biggest problem, although it's a problem we're trying to solve with Rise of the Rest...Even though you have quality talent and quality educational institutions and exciting entrepreneurs, you don't have access to capital. And that's the gap we're trying to solve.

What are communities like Columbus not doing that they should be doing more of in order to attract the kind of investment and talent needed to grow the ecosystems?

I don't think there is any one component that the city is ignoring. It's just a matter of accelerating and amplifying their existing work. For example, the Columbus region is home to 20 Fortune 1,000 companies. We need to create more opportunities for the long-established companies to engage and collaborate with the startup community. The region is off to a great start with things like the Columbus Collaboratory, a firm helping to solve cyber security challenges, largely funded by major corporations in Columbus, but there is still more work to be done.

Go deeper

Biden will reverse Trump's attempt to lift COVID-related travel restrictions

Photo: Tasos Katopodis via Getty

The incoming Biden administration will reverse President Trump's last-minute order to lift COVID-19 related travel restrictions, Jen Psaki, the incoming White House press secretary, tweeted.

Why it matters: President Trump ordered entry bans lifted for travelers from the U.K., Ireland, Brazil and much of Europe to go into effect Jan. 26, but the Biden administration will "strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Jen Psaki said. Biden will be inaugurated on Wednesday, Jan. 20 and Trump will no longer be president by the time the order is set to go into effect.

Dominion sends cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.

Off the Rails

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 5: Trump vs. Gina — The president becomes increasingly rash and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.