STARTUP

The World’s Wealthiest People Just Teamed Up to Invest in Startups Like Yours. (There’s Only One Catch…)

Jeff Bezos, Eric Schmidt, Howard Schultz and many others just joined Steve Case’s “Rise of the Rest” fund. Here’s why and how it works.

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BY Bill Murphy Jr. - 05 Dec 2017

The World's Wealthiest People Just Teamed Up to Invest in Startups Like Yours. (There's Only One Catch...)

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Want to start an incredibly successful company, but don't have access to a ton of capital? Here's some really interesting news--especially if you want to follow the herd of entrepreneurs moving to the highest cost of living and/or lowest quality of life areas of the country--where the vast majority of big investment money currently flows.

Now, some of the world's wealthiest people and most prestigious investors have banded together into to form "may be the greatest concentration of American wealth and power in one investment fund," according to a report in the New York Times.

All of the money is slated to be invested in startups in what the coastal elites sometimes refer to as "flyover country," the roughly 70 percent of the country that isn't part of our largest metropolitan areas.

The fund, called Rise of the Rest, was organized by Steve Case (billionaire co-founder of AOL), and J.D. Vance, author of the best-selling book, "Hillbilly Elegy." And its list of investors reads like a who's who of American success in the early 21st century. Among the members:

  • Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and the world's richest person.
  • Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google's parent, Alphabet.
  • Howard Schultz, chairman of Starbucks
  • Members of three of the country's wealthiest families: the Waltons, the Kochs and the Pritzkers--along with many others (longer list below).

Case and Vance talked with Aaron Ross Sorkin for his DealBook column in the Times.

The fund itself isn't gigantic: only $150 million, comparative pocket change for some of the investors. But, the hope is that besides the initial investment from Rise of the Rest in any particular company, partner investors or outsiders would be prompted to take a long look at "flyover country" ventures they might otherwise never have known about.

As Sorkin puts it, "if [Rise of the Rest] discover[s] a nascent but promising e-commerce company in Allentown, Pa., they will not only invest in it, but they might also help it establish a relationship with one of the fund's investors -- Mr. Bezos, for example -- who might invest even more."

Currently, 76 percent of all venture capital investment goes to ventures in only three states: California, New York, and Massachusetts. That leaves a huge part of America ingenuity and entrepreneurship that is undervalued--and could be a relative bargain for investors--simply because of where it's located in the country.

"People tend to follow their networks," Vance told Sorokin. "While the network in Silicon Valley is obviously something that is great, it can also have an exclusionary effect that prevents investors from looking at and finding opportunities that exist outside of their networks and outside of their geographies."

The other investors publicly announced Monday include the following. See anyone on the list you'd want as an investor?

Tory Burch (fashion mogul), Ray Dalio of the Bridgewater Associates hedge fund, Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans, Henry Kravis, co-founder of KKR, David Rubenstein, co-founder of Carlyle Group, financier and philanthropist Michael Milken, venture capitalist John Doerr, investor Jim Breyer, Sean Parker (Napster and Facebook), Sara and Blakely (Spanx).

Also, Ted Leonsis, investor and owner of the NHL's Washington Capitals and NBA's Washington Wizards, Jeff Vinik, billionaire owner of the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning, Byron Trott, whom Sorokin describes as "Warren Buffett's favorite banker," and Adebayo Ogunlesi, "the lead director of Goldman Sachs and a large infrastructure investor."