Oct 9, 2017

J.D. Vance: What it takes to jump-start the Midwest startup scene

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.

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In photos: Authorities issue warning as Americans venture out for Memorial Day weekend

Venice Beach in Los Angeles on May 24. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Authorities urged Americans to maintain social distancing and wear masks against the coronavirus amid reports of packed beaches and bars during the Memorial Day weekend.

Driving the news: Law enforcement stepped up beach patrols, authorities on Florida's Gulf Coast closed parking lots because they were full and there were crowded scenes at Lake of the Ozarks bars in Missouri, per AP, which reports a shooting injured several people at a packed Daytona Beach in Florida.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 5,405,029 — Total deaths: 344,997 — Total recoveries — 2,168,408Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 1,642,021 — Total deaths: 97,698 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,195Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Republicans sue California over mail-out ballot plan

California Gov. Gavin Newsom during a February news conference in Sacramento, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

President Trump accused Democrats of trying "Rig" November's general election as Republican groups filed a lawsuit against California Sunday in an attempt to stop Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) from mailing ballots to all registered voters.

Driving the news: Newsom signed an executive order this month in response to the coronavirus pandemic ensuring that all registered voters in the state receive a mail-in ballot.