Rise of the Rest Virtual Tour: Equity Edition

A Letter from Rodney Sampson & Steve Case

Our partnership goes back to 2015, but the journeys that led us each to this moment go back nearly twenty years.

In the early aughts, Steve was stepping away from AOL, the company he had built over two decades. Despite his efforts to bring America online, Steve would soon confront the reality that many Americans, often as a result of social or geographic factors, were still unable to access the information economy. And today, the entrepreneurial community is similarly divided. As entrepreneurs build the next wave of innovation, it is clear that not all founders have a seat at the table. Research shows that 75% of venture capital goes to just three states: NY, CA, and MA. And just 10% of venture capital goes to companies with a female founder, only 1% to Black-led startups.

Simultaneously, at the turn of the millennium, Rodney and his co-founders were starting a company to stream Black church services, hoping to open the door for millions of Black Americans to come online. As one of the first Black tech startup founders to raise venture capital, Rodney quickly realized that he was part of an outlier community that over a 20 year span would yield only 200 Black, Indigenous People of Color founders who’ve raised more than $1M in angel and venture capital. Juxtapose that with the $133B that was invested in more than 11,000 mostly non-Black founders in the last year alone.

Just over a decade later, we would both launch efforts in response to the unleveled playing fields that persist in this country. In 2013, Rodney and Shanterria Sampson launched Opportunity Hub (OHUB) at the 50th anniversary of The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom to begin building the framework for creating inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems. The next year, Steve’s investment firm Revolution, already focused on funding entrepreneurs outside the coastal tech hubs, would launch the Rise of the Rest Bus Tour to garner greater attention and investment for often overlooked startup communities. Revolution has visited 43 cities on the Rise of the Rest Bus Tour. The Rise of the Rest Seed Fund has raised $300M to invest in seed and early stage startups across the country, trying to end the cycle of money flowing to the same kinds of people, in the same places, for the same ideas.

We both had plans to expand our respective efforts over the coming years, but watching the societal unrest caused by too many acts of unjust policing against men and women of color in the middle of a global pandemic, with its resulting economic dislocation, demanded that we do more.

Today, Revolution and OHUB, along with Morgan Stanley’s Multicultural Innovation Lab and 100 Black Angels & Allies Fund, are launching the Rise of the Rest Virtual Tour: Equity Edition, a virtual week of programming anchored by a $2M investment pitch competition and a commitment to connect select Black founders with well-known investors from across the country. In addition to receiving seed investments, pitch competition winners will have access to Morgan Stanley’s Multicultural Innovation lab, a 5-week intensive accelerator.

We call on everyone in the startup community to commit more resources and capital to ensure that the future of entrepreneurship is an inclusive one. It is our hope that the Equity Edition will serve as a powerful example of how an ecosystem centered in racial equity can operate and benefit us all.

Let’s bring about change. Together.

Steve & Rodney