Revolution CEO Steve Case invites 3rd wave internet entrepreneurs to get on the bus

January 26, 2022, 9:00 AM UTC
Steve Case, CEO of Revolution.
Courtesy of Revolution

Long before Google became synonymous with “search” or Spotify even existed, there was Steve Case and his startup: AOL. That was the start of the first wave of the internet, when people dialed in to get online. Then came Facebook and the other apps that merged the internet with real life.

And now? Welcome to the Third Wave, says Case, now CEO and chairman of Revolution, which invests in internet companies through three funds: Rise of the Rest Seed Funds, Revolution Ventures, and Revolution Growth.

Case joined Leadership Next co-hosts Alan Murray and Ellen McGirt to talk about the next generation of internet entrepreneurs—and why he decided to hit the road by bus to connect with them. Below, you can listen to the episode and read the transcript.

Alan Murray (00:27): Season Three, Ellen, Season Three. Can you believe we survived this long?

Ellen McGirt (00:32): I cannot believe it, Alan, but I have to tell you, I miss you. I miss you. I thought we’d be back together by now.

Murray (00:39): So, let me do my introduction, and…

McGirt (00:41): Do it. Do it.

Murray (00:47): [music to introduce sponsor] Leadership Next is powered by the folks at Deloitte, who like me are super focused on how CEOs can lead in the context of disruption and evolving societal expectations. 

[music to return to episode] Welcome to season three of Leadership Next, a podcast about the changing rules of business leadership. I’m Alan Murray, here with my amazing co-host, Ellen McGirt—more amazing this year than ever.

McGirt (01:15): More amazing all the time, 24/7. Hello, everyone. I’m so happy to be back with everybody in front of our mics. But I do have to say, Alan, I’m a little disappointed. I might not have predicted that COVID would have upended things to the slow and steady degree which they did. How have you fared? How are you doing?

Murray (01:34): One of my daughters ended up with the Omicron virus, but I think we have to admit that this is, particularly if you’ve been vaccinated, not as serious or dangerous an illness as it was six months or so ago. So, you know, wasn’t fun, but she got through it. And I know you’ve had some COVID experiences over the holiday as well.

McGirt (01:54): Yup, both kids, and it meant for a distributed holiday, quarantining alone with my mom down here in Florida in my makeshift podcasting studio. So when I say I miss everybody, I literally miss everybody.

Murray (02:08): Me too. So, people who listen to this podcast regularly know that Ellen does the clouds and I do the silver lining. And there have been a lot of silver linings to the experience of the last couple of years. It’s really accelerated some important trends in our society, most notably technology, but also, as we talk about a lot, the commitment that companies are making to improving their social footprint as well as their financial returns.

And today we’re going to talk about one of the positive effects that we haven’t really talked about that much yet, which is how COVID has changed the geography of technology and the lock that Silicon Valley and a few other places had on technology spending. And our guest today is somebody who has been devoted to this for some time, well before the pandemic. He’s Steve Case, CEO of Revolution, a D.C.-based investment firm that’s focused on building companies across the country. His Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, in particular, has backed nearly 180 startups in over 80 cities. Pretty impressive. He of course was also the founder of AOL, which Ellen, oldsters like you and me remember. Fortune plays a role in the history of AOL that we will get to in a minute, but let’s start with the big news.

McGirt (03:29): Steve, welcome to Leadership Next.

Steve Case (03:31): Great to be with both of you. 

Murray (03:32): So Steve, tell us how the pandemic has affected your effort to spread technology from the Silicon Valleys into the rest of the country.

Case (03:44): Well, it’s really been an accelerant, sort of a tipping point. We’ve been working on this now for over a decade. I was asked about 10 years ago to chair a White House initiative called Startup America, and then we started launching our Rise of the Rest bus tours, traveling around the country. We started those about seven years ago, so far visited over 40 cities by bus, and just tried to better understand what’s happening in those cities and shine a spotlight on entrepreneurs in those cities. And tell the stories of what’s happening in places outside of Silicon Valley, New York City, Boston, which have dominated the innovation economy for the past couple of decades.

That data is pretty sobering. But for the most of the decade, 75% of venture capital has gone to those three states, California, New York, and Massachusetts, which means the other 47 states are fighting over the remaining 25%. We’ve long said that we want to level the playing field and make it possible for anybody anywhere to start and scale a company, and print jobs everywhere, and hope and opportunity everywhere. And for most of the decade, it was a slog.

We started making a little bit of progress in the last few years. But the pandemic definitely was a tipping point, and more people now are moving to other places, or moving back to places they had left. And even some of the venture capitalists that have historically just focused on back-end companies on the coast are starting to look inward and back companies all across the country. So I do believe one of the silver linings of a terrible, tragic pandemic may be this accelerant in terms of what’s happening with these rising cities. More companies starting and scaling in cities, dozens and dozens of cities, not just a few, which is I think going to be great for our country, and maybe even, in a way, help unify a divided country, because there will be more opportunity for more people in more places. It won’t just be a few people on the coast, places like Silicon Valley, doing really well; a lot of people in other parts of the country feeling kind of left out, left behind.

McGirt (05:31): I love the sound of that. See, I like the silver linings, too. Before we get into what you’re learning in these cities—because I think this is a really important story, and how you’ve learned to get better at identifying promising stories and talent—could you just tell us how Revolution is structured? Because you’ve been doing this for a while, and Rise of the Rest, I think, is the best known of your efforts. Certainly the most optimistic story of your efforts, but that’s not the only thing that you’ve been doing.

Case (05:59): We launched Revolution about 15 years ago. So, after I stepped down as CEO of AOL and started making some investments to formalize it as a family office. For the first few years, I was investing my own capital, but about 10 years ago really decided there was opportunity to build Revolution into much more of a institutional platform, have outside capital as well, and really tried to scale it to be one of the best investment firms backing entrepreneurs in the country. But with a bias towards investing in entrepreneurs outside of Silicon Valley.

So now we have three strategies, three groups. Revolution Growth—the later-stage investments, companies like Sweetgreen and Tempus and BigCommerce and DraftKings are part of that. We have a Revolution Ventures, which is more of a classic series A investor that invests in a couple of dozen companies that have been scaling nicely. And the more recent one, which you mentioned, we started about four years ago, was the Rise of Rescue Seed Fund, which is the early stage kind of investment where we’re partnering with regional venture firms. So far, we’ve co invested with over 300 regional venture capitalists to back 180 companies in over 80 cities.

So now, Revolution is really able to back entrepreneurs at every stage of the journey, whether that be that very early seed stage when it’s just getting off the ground, or when they have product-market fit and are starting to scale, or later stage when they really are accelerating and need capital, but also need help with partnerships, output positioning, help with policy—some of the things that we think Revolution can bring to the party as well as writing checks.

McGirt (07:28): Wow. So you’re on this bus, and you’ve got this talent, and this wellspring of experience, and a killer Rolodex, and you roll into Atlanta or Philadelphia or Columbus, Ohio. What happens next?

Case (07:43): As you might imagine, there’s a lot of planning that goes into it. So, six months before we are in the city, our team starts working, kind of an advance team thing a lot of time, in the city talking to venture capitalists, talking to the mayor, talking to CEOs of large companies, talking to the university presidents. Really trying to understand, in each city, what’s happening, what’s unique about that city, what’s what’s unique about their past, what can be kind of unique about their future. So they do a lot of planning before we’re there.

Then we’re actually there. We use the bus—a Rise of the Rest bus is not just a way to get from meeting to meeting or from company to company, but really as a convening platform where you invite people onto the bus, some from that region but also others from other places including coastal venture capitalists. It ends up being a day-long kind of brainstorming session while we’re going between stops. And that actually has proven to be the most important part of it. 

McGirt (08:34): Wow.

Case (08:34): Because in the cities, we often find that we are connectors. Even people that are in the same city who didn’t really know what each other were doing. And we use that as a way to also educate people, usually from the coast, about what’s happening in these different cities. And every city is a little different. That’s a great thing about this country. We really spend a lot of time trying to understand what is particularly unique about a particular city. I remember for example, and we were in Chattanooga, Tennessee…

Murray (08:59): Hey, Steve…

Case (09:00): …we saw a lot of…

Murray (09:01): I’ve just got to stop—my hometown, my hometown—so, keep going.

Case (09:04): I’m going to give the pinch, maybe you should move back to Chattanooga. This is your moment, Alan. So, Chattanooga is actually proving to be an interesting startup city. That was not true 10 years ago. A number of things happened, including the mayor investing in the fastest broadband in the country. But also what was interesting about Chattanooga—you would have known this, I didn’t until we visited—Chattanooga is really a trucking capital, a logistics capital, almost the Silicon Valley of trucking. Some of the largest trucking companies are headquartered there, and just given the interstate highway system, that’s a central location for trucking. So one of the companies we met, when we were in Chattanooga, is a company called FreightWaves that’s basically like a Bloomberg data platform for the trucking and logistics industry. 

McGirt (09:49): Wow.

Case (09:49): And that’s an example of something that, I guess you could have started at in New York, or you could have started in San Francisco. But it’s actually better to start that in Chattanooga, because you can hire a team that understands the business of trucking, even the culture of trucking and logistics, and you can quickly establish partnerships with the major trucking companies. So that is actually the best place to launch a startup focused on trucking. And so we’ve seen that all over the country, where people just presume that Silicon Valley is where all the great innovation comes from. Obviously, there are a lot of great things about Silicon Valley, but we’ve traveled around the country, and that every city has their own story, and every city has some startups that are really starting to scale, I think, will surprise people over the next decade.

Murray (10:31): And your thesis, if I understand it correctly, is not that talent is going to become distributed and you can live anywhere you want to and work anyplace else you want to—place is important, but you think that it can be smaller groups of talent as opposed to everybody in Silicon Valley, in New York, and Northern Virginia.

Case (10:49): Yeah, I think this pandemic has broken the lock that peaked in Silicon Valley a couple years ago, where the sense was everybody had to be clustered together. and they really kind of had to be in Silicon Valley. I think, to your question, there’s really two parts of it. I think there is an opportunity now, as you well know, to think about work and life in a different way and to choose where you want to live and where, you know, where you want to work and how you want to work. There’s more flexibility clearly than there was just a couple of years ago. And for some, that might be leaving Silicon Valley still working for a big company, Google or Facebook or somebody, but doing it from someplace else.

For others, it might be a wake-up call that they want to be doing something different in some other place, and that, I think, will accelerate these rising cities. And we do believe, particularly in the early stage of companies, when it’s still just an idea, you have a handful of people, maybe a couple of dozen people, that the being together does have some benefits. There clearly are some successful companies that have started in scale. There’s remote-only companies, I’m sure we’ll see more of those. But most companies, in that early stage when they’re figuring it out, there’s some value to being together.

And in these rising cities, we also see some value to being together. We see innovation neighborhoods, innovation districts, kind of rising up in most of these cities where, you know, entrepreneurs kind of want to be close to each other and bounce ideas off each other. That is, frankly, one of the great things about Silicon Valley, what they call network density that, you know, no matter where you go, you can run into other people that might be able to help you take your idea to the next level.

So, when they get sort of a game changer, almost a shake-the-snowglobe moment, this pandemic, and how it’s going to impact the life and work, but also how it has the potential to impact the startup landscape and start accelerating this leveling the playing field. People growing up in these places are going to some of these great universities like Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, or Michigan in Ann Arbor, or there are many others. When they graduate, instead of of feeling like they have to go to one of the big tech hubs like San Francisco or New York, having the ability to stay in Pittsburgh, if they want to be, or maybe go back home from where they grew up, and start and scale a company, or join a company there, I think it’s going to really be an important accelerant. And so we’re excited by some of the early signs that we’re seeing.

McGirt (12:56): I want to talk a little bit about what a good idea looks like in this in this crazy world that we live in, and a little bit about where traditional investment and venture thinking may have missed the mark in the past, particularly when it comes to underrepresented, underestimated company founders, regardless of where you might find them.

Your face literally lit up when you started talking about trucking in Chattanooga. So clearly, you are personally jazzed by discovering the insight that’s hiding in plain sight there. But one of the emblematic examples of someone who really struggled to get the funding they deserved, who is well known to Leadership Next listeners, is Tristan Walker, you know, CEO of Walker Brands, and he’s famously told the story of you know, walking up the main streets of Sand Hill Road and no one understands, you know, the the market opportunity of millions of people with skin and hair like he has. So, how do you think about coaching your colleagues through the trap of pattern matching, as they start thinking about new investments out there? Because I do think that there’s a lot of money in traditionally-organized venture capital shops, but I’m not sure that the industry as a whole is leading in the new thinking the way that you are.

Case (14:14): No, I think that’s right. First of all, I should say Tristan Walker did decide to leave Silicon Valley and move to Atlanta, for example. What’s happening in these Rise of the Rest cities are people who felt they had to be in Silicon Valley now rethinking that, and that was pre-pandemic. You’ve seen a lot more people during the pandemic make that decision.

You bring up an important point: I mentioned the data around venture capital, in terms of place, 75% of venture capital dollars going to those three states. If you look at people, it’s actually even more sobering and troubling. Black Americans are 13% of our population; Black entrepreneurs get less than 1% of venture capital. Women are 50% of our population; female founders get less than 10% of venture capital. So it clearly does matter where you live, and it does matter what you look like if you have an idea, whether you really have a shot of building a company [and] a shot at, really, of the American dream.

And so, as we’ve traveled around, we’ve kind of leaned into trying to make sure we’re inclusive in terms of pitch competitions and other things we do, really, work closely to identify some of the local venture firms that are backing more diverse founders. And as a result, about 45% of our Rise of the Rest seed investments are diverse founders, either female founders or people of color, which is still not what it should be, but it’s way better than you’ll see from venture capital firms and in Silicon Valley.

Now, some of this is because the cities that we’re visiting, these rising cities, tend to be more diverse in and of themselves. Atlanta, New Orleans, and Washington, D.C., are more diverse than traditional cities, as you said, not just have to be pattern recognition. Venture capital mindset is the way to make investments, is to look what you’ve invested in the past and make more of those, so it’s kind of rearview mirror investing. There is something to that, but you’re going to miss out on some of the big opportunities of the future if you’re just looking in the rearview mirror, and if you’re just backing entrepreneurs that happened to be people you went to school with at Stanford, or worked with at Google, that’s going to limit your aperture if you will, and limit the number of great ideas from great founders that you can back. So hopefully, we’re seeing this leveling the playing field in terms of place, more venture dollars now going to cities all around the country. I think we’ll also see an acceleration in terms of that money also going to more diverse founders.

Murray (16:20): [music break for sponsor interview] I’m here with Joe Ucuzoglu, who is CEO of Deloitte US, who had the good sense to sponsor this podcast. Joe, thanks for being with us and thanks for your support. 

Joe Ucuzoglu (16:35): Thanks, Alan. Pleasure to be here. 

Murray (16:37): Joe, recent CEO transitions point to the stark lack of Black leadership at Fortune 500 companies and a broader leadership problem at those companies, which affects the pipeline to the top. How are organizations tackling that?

Ucuzoglu (16:51): Alan, we’re seeing an intense focus across our client base, and this has moved well beyond the supportive statements that most companies made. There’s a recognition that that was the easy part. The real work is making certain that there’s a sustainment of intensity past the headline, to actually address the underlying systemic barriers to get behind the root causes, to make the changes in core business processes around how we’re sourcing talent more inclusively, how we’re driving equity into assignments, into promotions, to remove the systemic barriers that have historically existed, and I am seeing real change across corporate America.

Murray (17:31): This is not a new problem, obviously. But you think there is a new seriousness in attacking it?

Ucuzoglu (17:37): I think it goes beyond seriousness to alignment of interests, and a recognition amongst business leaders that this is core to strategy, that those companies that do this well will be more successful in their markets and will be a more attractive destination for talent. 

Murray (17:53): Thank you, Joe.

Ucuzoglu (17:54): Thank you, Alan. Pleasure to be here. [music to end segment]

Murray (18:00): Steve, we have to spend a little time talking about the Steve Case story, because it is such a fascinating story. How you built and led AOL, the first big wave of the tech boom. I was in Washington, D.C. in the late ’90s, when there were literally thousands of AOL millionaires. Talk about creating opportunity, walking around from the success of that company, then merged it into our former parent, Time Warner, which at the time was the biggest merger in history. In retrospect, is not viewed as a terribly successful merger, and if I remember correctly, Fortune had a role to play in all of that.

Case (18:37): Yeah, that was an interesting journey. We started AOL in Northern Virginia in 1985. Only 3% of people were online, and they were online an average of an hour a week, and we had this bold idea: We wanted to get America online and connect the world through the internet. And it was a long slog, really, took us a decade before we finally broke through. I remember when we went public in 1992, we raised $10 million in our IPO and the market value that day was $70 million. And nobody really knew or cared what we were doing or frankly, was paying attention to the internet.

And then, as you mentioned, in the ’90s, things really took off. We went from that $70 million valuation in ’92, I think, and it was $160 billion valuation seven, eight years later. That’s when we merged with Time Warner. We really thought bringing together what was then the dominant internet company with a leading media company that also owned cable systems really would create a great company that really could lead the future. But as you mentioned, it was a disappointment. The vision of how these companies could work together I think was sound, but the execution was not.

And to your point, some of that was formulated when we were both—Jerry Levin, who was the CEO of Time Warner, and I happened to be at a Fortune Global Forum. I believe it was in Singapore, and then we flew on to Beijing for a bunch of events. When China was celebrating its 50th anniversary of being founded, and the Time Warner board happened to be in China that week for a series of meetings. So that’s when things did get started. A few months later, we announced the merger.

But the lesson, for me obviously, and what this whole podcast is about, is that the vision is important. Having a sense of where you want to go is important. But execution is more important. Ultimately, that is about setting the right priorities, having the right people working together in the right kind of way. The disappointment of the AOL-Time Warner merger really wasm we never got that right, that people really never were unified around the vision and never really focused on execution as a result. And, by the way, that merger was announced 22 years ago. It’s been a long time. Apple was a tiny company, and Google was just founded. Netflix was just getting going, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was still in school. And Spotify wasn’t started. A lot of things that are now dominant didn’t exist 20-plus years ago, so it was a huge missed opportunity.

Murray (20:54): We’re glad to see you’re still going strong, and we, at least, are still going.

Case (21:00): Strong. Powered by this podcast.

Murray (21:05): Ellen, I know you had a speed round here that you wanted to do.

McGirt (21:09): I did, I did indeed. Alan, thank you so very much. We’re starting off 2022 adding a new element to Leadership Next where we’re asking all of our distinguished guests three sort of fast-pulse questions just to give us a sense of how they see the world, and by the end of the year, I think we’re going to have a pretty nice snapshot of what’s happening in real time. So here are very easily answerable questions for you, Steve Case. In one or two sentences, tell us your biggest concern regarding COVID right now.

Case (21:37): I think it’s just a general frustration that people have. Kind of hurry up and go, stop, you know, what’s the new rules? It’s unsettling to everybody and very hard, obviously, for leaders to lead organizations when the rules keep changing. I happen to be the chair of the Smithsonian Institution. Right now it’s 21 museums. A good example, we were closed and we reopened and we had to close again. Now we have limited hours. It’s just an adjustment that is still challenging for everybody individually for families, and obviously for organizations as well. 

McGirt (22:06): That’s absolutely true. And thank you for your work with the Smithsonian. What a treasure. Your biggest concern about the economy?

Case (22:13): I think the economy continues to be pretty robust, and I think innovation is now the focus of a lot of companies that we back and really tackling big industries like health care, big sectors like food, big challenges and opportunities like climate. There’s opportunity to build some of the most valuable companies in the world. At the same time, I think you do need to be careful if you’re an investor, around entry valuations—things don’t always go up, even when they’re good ideas. We’ve seen a lot of cycles. So I think, as investors, we really need to look at that.

And more broadly, in terms of the economy. I think there’s a concern, we talked about it earlier, around income inequality and opportunity inequality. How do we create a more inclusive economy that everybody feels part of it, everybody feels included, as opposed to a few people doing really well? A lot of people and a lot of places being left behind?

McGirt (23:00): And to hit the human side of leadership, the biggest challenge you feel that you’re facing as a leader?

Case (23:06): Really scaling Revolution, while trying to make sure that we have the right culture. We have grown rapidly. We expect that to continue in the years ahead. So that’s one at Revolution specifically.

More broadly, in terms of the companies we backed, we’ve now backed over 200 companies and across Revolution Growth, Revolution Ventures, and our Rise of the Rest Seed Fund. How can we be supporters of those companies? How can we help those companies succeed? How can we help those entrepreneurs have their dreams come true? And that often is helping them on strategy, sometimes helping them on recruiting people, sometimes helping them on policy issues, or sometimes helping them with strategic partnerships, or positioning the companies, that’s a big focus as well. It’s not just about writing the checks. It’s about how you really then roll up your sleeves and help these companies succeed.

McGirt (23:47): The last couple of years, particularly around COVID, are the kinds of companies that you are seeing changing? What’s what’s hitting your radar?

Case (23:57): Yeah, that’s what I’ve called the third wave of the internet companies. The first wave was just getting everybody connected, getting everybody online, building the on-ramps, companies like AOL and Yahoo and many others. That was really the first 20 years or so. The last 20 years is sort of the second wave of the internet … essentially building software apps on top of the internet, Facebook, Google being some of the classic examples. I think the third wave is when the internet meets the real world and really starts impacting the most fundamental aspects of our lives, how we stay healthy, how we learn, how we invest, you know, what we eat, how we deal with climate.

So some of the biggest industries in the world, like health care, one-sixth of our economy, are kind of up for grabs in the third wave, and that’s what we’re seeing with Revolution as we’re backing companies all across the country. Companies like Tempus, a health care company in Chicago, focused on personalized medicine, or AppHarvest, the company focused on kind of ag-tech in Eastern Kentucky, Appalachia. Or Sweetgreen, which started in the Washington, D.C. area. And the climate cyber-backed companies like TemperPack, focused on sustainable packaging ridding the world of Styrofoam. They’re in Richmond, Va.

So these are big opportunities to attack big problems, but also in the process, disrupting industries. And I think that’s what’s going to happen in this third wave, and it’s going to be more regionally dispersed, because a lot of the know-how you need, the domain expertise, to have credibility to establish strategic partnerships, are going to benefit the entrepreneurs in these Rise of the Rest of cities. I think innovation is changing in a pretty fundamental way, the app economy and just having apps for smartphones is not going to be where the puck is going. It’s going to be some of these big parts of our lives. Big industries that are up for grabs.

In some ways, those early days of the internet, the first wave of the internet, actually was quite regionally dispersed, more than people think. And people presume it was Silicon Valley, but if we talk about it, AOL was in the D.C. area. Hayes, the modem company, was in Atlanta. Sprint, the communications company, was in Kansas City. IBM’s PC operations were in Boca Raton, Fla. Microsoft actually started in Albuquerque before moving to Seattle. CompuServe was in Columbus, Ohio—I could tick off another dozen or so companies like that.

So the first wave was geographically dispersed. It was only the second wave when it became about software apps and coding that Silicon Valley rose to such prominence, arguably dominance. In the third wave, I think it can disperse again, because of the domain expertise in the food sector, in the health care sector, in many of these other areas that are up for grabs. So I’m very excited about this, this third wave. I think it’s going to really impact our lives in profound ways, and disrupt industries and in really significant ways, and create great big opportunity for both entrepreneurs and investors to really help build some of the industries of the future, do it in a much more inclusive way, bringing along more people and bringing along more places.

McGirt (26:46): What role do voters have to play in all of this? … Should we be advocating for something from local and federal government that will make things easier for entrepreneurs in the middle of the country?

Case (26:56): There’s some progress there, but more attention I think would be helpful. Some of the recent legislation around infrastructure did include broadband for rural areas, which would be really important way to level the playing field. There’s also legislation now pending on the Endless Frontier act that would fund regional hubs, about 10 regional hubs that the government would help stimulate more development, just as they help stimulate development Silicon Valley itself.

It’s worth remembering that 100 years ago, Silicon Valley was just fruit orchards. It wasn’t growing startups, it was growing fruit. But some investments, including in semiconductor research by the government, really powered that that innovation and helped create Silicon Valley, and there’s a role for local government really to make sure they’re supportive of startups. Mayors have to really evangelize on behalf of the entrepreneurs in their area and win the battle for talent as people are thinking of new places to live, win the battle for capital as investors are thinking of new places to invest. So there’s definitely a role for government, both at the national level and at the local level. And when these third wave industries, because health care and food are regulated, there’s always going to be more of a role for government in terms of striking the right balance in terms of unleashing innovation while protecting people.

Murray (28:04): An important part of the Chattanooga story, not to dwell on it continuously, but an important part of the Chattanooga story was the decision by the government and the electric power board to provide internet access to everyone so early on.

Case (28:17): Absolutely. They actually had litigation with some of the telecom companies to allow it to go forward, and that really helped put them on the map in terms of the startup people … people said, “Wow, Chattanooga has the highest-speed internet in the country. Who would have thought?” And that opened some people’s eyes both to companies already in Chattanooga, and other people thinking about other places to potentially start or scale their company. So it is a great example of what’s happening all across the country, sort of the untold story. There’s so much focus on on Silicon Valley, not enough focus on these Rise of the Rest stories. I think that will change over the next decade.

Murray (28:47): Well thanks for that. That was awesome. Thank you so much for everything you’re doing. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us about it.

Case (28:53): Thank you, Alan. Thank you, Ellen.

Murray (28:59): Leadership Next is edited by Nicole Vergalla, written by me, Alan Murray, along with my amazing colleagues, Ellen McGirt and Megan Arnold. Our theme is by Jason Snell. Executive producers are Mason Cohn and Megan Arnold. Leadership Next is a production of Fortune Media.

Leadership Next episodes are produced by Fortune‘s editorial team. The views and opinions expressed by podcast speakers and guests are solely their own and do not reflect the opinions of Deloitte or its personnel. Nor does Deloitte advocate or endorse any individuals or entities featured on the episodes.

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