The Last Word: Steve Case On a “Once in a Lifetime” Kind of Opportunity

“Seize the day, carpe diem.”

Steve Case
Chairman and CEO
Revolution LLC
.…on stepping up the North Texas startup community.

Investor and tech pioneer Steve Case, best known as the co-founder and former CEO of AOL, made this call to action yesterday while visiting North Texas at Dallas Startup Week in Frisco. The pandemic “created an opening that’s a unique, maybe even once-in-a-lifetime, kind of opportunity,” he added.

Over the next 20 years, capital will flow more to more cities. Case says the cities that rise will be the ones that decide “it’s a real priority to create a thriving and inclusive startup community” with an “all-hands-on-deck” focus.

Case, who wants to level the playing field for as many people in as many places as possible, doesn’t favor one city over another. But, he says, “If you live here, and you care about this place, you shouldn’t be indifferent. The battle is on, and other cities are stepping up, so you’d better, too.”

There’s an urgency to building networks and driving collaboration, he says: “Now is the moment.”

Case’s mission is to democratize innovation so jobs are created across dozens of cities, not just a few coastal enclaves. In his book, The Rise of the Rest, Case captures the breakthrough potential of startups coast to coast.

Texas doubles VC funding

Case noted that Texas venture capital funding is now 4% of the country’s total. It’s doubled in the last five years from 2%. “You should celebrate that,” he said. “Doubling over five years is extraordinary. We don’t see that in most places, so people should recognize something that’s happening here.”

He said Texas is still punching  below its weight class, since it has 9% of the U.S. population. But it’s catalyzing momentum as “success begets success.” 

New focuses, like life science, that leverage the competence of universities and partners with big companies are especially interesting, he says, adding that “good things are happening.”

The North Texas region has an advantage as big institutions “play a critical role if they engage” with small companies,” Case said.

Fort Worth is part of AOL’s success backstory

A Fort Worth company played a pivotal part in his own success story, Case says.  When AOL was just starting out in 1985, he came to Fort Worth to partner with Tandy RadioShack and make things work. RadioShack became only AOL’s second partner after Commodore. 

“After that, we were able to get a deal with Apple. And then we were able to get a deal with IBM. Suddenly, we were off to the races,” he said. “But Fort Worth is part of the backstory of what allowed our company to succeed.”

Steve Case, right, talks with Trey Bowles. [Photo: The DEC Network]

Case acknowledges it’s not easy to be an entrepreneur, but it’s “getting a little bit easier.” It’s still hard to build iconic breakout companies, like the “next AT&T,” but he’s starting to see more of those happen.

“I’m confident we’ll come back five years from now, and the data will be even better, the momentum will be even better, more new companies will have started,” he said. “More companies will have gone public and had successful exits.”

But don’t think it happens automatically: “It takes work. And everybody in this room is part of that. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be in this room. And I think you should feel good, about the progress,” he said.

Case spoke with Trey Bowles yesterday in a keynote at Dallas Startup Week’s The Future of Venture Forum presented by Frisco EDC. The AOL pioneer also made a visit to Pegasus Park in Dallas.


For more of who said what about all things North Texas, check out Every Last Word.

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