Visiting the Rust Belt with Rise of the Rest

Today, for the second time this year, Engine is partnering with Revolution and Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest bus tour. This afternoon, we head to central Pennsylvania -- Harrisburg, Lancaster, and York -- then Ann Arbor, Indianapolis, and Columbus in the following three days. In each city, tour participants will have the opportunity to meet and mingle with local startups, catch fireside chats with Steve Case, and watch pitch competitions that feature their ecosystem’s most promising startups. Each day will culminate in one participating startup receiving a $100,000 investment.

This tour will be Steve Case’s sixth. When explaining his rationale for starting Rise of the Rest, the America Online founder said, “I have met with scores of entrepreneurs, elected officials and civic leaders in places such as Charleston, Milwaukee and St. Louis to encourage start-up creation in cities once dependent on other industries. We’ve invested in more than 50 companies on these tours, not just because we want to support growth in these cities — although we do — but also because the men and women in our nation’s heartland are starting impressive businesses in places that provide unique culture, local expertise and supportive policies.” This year, Case will be joined by author and well-known tech investor, J.D. Vance, who signed with Revolution in March. Vance is a Kentucky-native who grew up in a impoverished community in southern Ohio. In explaining why he and Case chose the cities for this tour he said, ‘they are all in the area of the country that is often called the “Rust Belt,” and as a consequence, these are areas that have seen a fair amount of struggle, they have been hit hard by the trends of globalization.’ In accordance with the ROTR mission, both men are hoping that infusing publicity and capital into these communities can help support the growth of the new industries beginning to take hold there.

This will be Engine’s sixth time partnering on the tour. We have gone on five tours, visited 26 cities, and traveled nearly 6,000 miles with Steve Case and his team. From Pittsburgh to Cincinnati to Albuquerque, our team has been able to witness thriving startup ecosystems across the country and the talented entrepreneurs who have created them. More than ever, we believe great ideas and companies can start anywhere, and it is our job to help foster their growth.

If you are an entrepreneur, community leader, or ecosystem support organization and want to make sure we hear your story, please visit the Rise of the Rest website to reserve event tickets or reach out to Monica at Finally, check out some interesting facts on the four startup ecosystems we’ll be visiting below:

  • Harrisburg, the capital city of Pennsylvania, is home to startup, Pledge It. Pledge It is a cloud-based platform that helps athletes and sports teams raise money for charity. This technology is being used by large, national nonprofits including St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, the American Cancer Society, the Ronald McDonald House, and UNICEF.

  • Over 2,000 jobs have been created since 2000 at the University of Michigan’s office of tech transfer in Ann Arbor. Startups formed at the university have also produced $23 million in revenue.

  • Indianapolis is recently home to a large-scale Salesforce presence. The company purchased the Indy-based ExactTarget in 2013, giving it access to some of the city’s best tech talent and real-estate. Salesforce hopes to create an additional 800 jobs in the city.

  • Ohio’s largest city, Columbus, recently received a $277 million Smart City grant from the federal government to build out technology and infrastructure that will become integral to cities of the future.