In the summer of 2014, while serving as the CEO of Cintrifuse in Cincinnati, I met Steve Case and the Rise of the Rest team when they visited Cincinnati on their bus tour. Launched in 2014 to promote investment in ecosystems and startups outside of Silicon Valley, Rise of the Rest has now “raised $300 Million to invest in early stage startups across America — startups that we believe will be successful at driving local economies by yielding successful returns for investors.”

Our regional Cincinnati startup ecosystem had been growing through the efforts of entrepreneurial ecosystem support organizations The Brandery and CincyTech, as well as Cintrifuse. During the Rise of the Rest visit, top-tier startups presented to a panel of investors and entrepreneurs, including Steve, and the winning startup received a $100K investment. A fun first experience with Steve and his Rise of the Rest team—and the beginning of  an important collaboration!  

Since then, I have been honored to accompany them on several Rise of the Rest tours (I’ll always remember Green Bay, WI!) and to participate in several annual meetings with Rise of the Rest portfolio companies in Chicago and Washington, DC. I have gotten to know the amazing Rise of the Rest team—Anna Mason, Mark Rucci, and now Jamie Rodota—and as part of their Expert Mentor Network, I have worked with and learned from many outstanding founders across the Midwest. 

2021 Playbook: Supporting Startups Through COVID-19

Rise of the Rest’s support of startups hasn’t wavered through this global pandemic. In January, they published a series of case studies, Responses to COVID-19: How Cities Across America are Supporting Startups, that includes a look into Energize Colorado’s successful model, highlighting three primary areas: funding, navigation, and founder support. What the report points out has been true: “While the pandemic has wrought extraordinary public health and financial hardships, it will accelerate innovations in critical industries.”

Now approaching the one-year mark, Energize Colorado’s tested model is now ripe for replication in other regions or at national scale. As I share in the report: “Energize Colorado was designed in such a way that it’s a blueprint which can be adopted by others. We are in active discussions with multiple states, and envision a future where there’s an Energize America effort. There are the tactical elements that others can implement: funding, mentorship, mental health support, and reopening guidance. Each of these products can then be adapted to serve different types of organizations, from startups to nonprofits, in both urban and rural settings.”

Read more about how Energize Colorado and other initiatives are “seizing this moment for entrepreneurial ecosystems, and in turn, charting the path back to prosperity for us all.” Download ROTR’s Responses to COVID-19: How Cities Across America are Supporting Startups.