Leadership

Entrepreneurial revolution: A chat with Steve Case

May 24, 2023

Entrepreneurial revolution: A chat with Steve Case

Steve Case

Chairman & CEO of Revolution; Co-Founder & Former CEO of America Online

In a recent episode of the Walker Webcast, we chatted with the one and only Steve Case, former CEO of AOL.

Steve Case is a businessman, investor, and philanthropist, best known for his work as CEO and Chairman of America Online (AOL). Today, he is the chairman and CEO of Revolution, a D.C.-based venture capital company. Among all of the aforementioned accolades Steve has, he is also a New York Times bestselling author. He has published several books, with the most recent one being, The Rise of the Rest: How Entrepreneurs in Surprising Places are Building the New American Dream. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Steve to talk about everything from his tenure at AOL to real estate and AI.

Promoting innovation and entrepreneurship

Although the United States have been the epicenter of innovation in recent decades, the focus of our investment dollars may force us to relinquish that title. Today, roughly 75% of all early-stage investments go to just three states: California, New York, and Massachusetts.

This is unfortunate, as there are countless intelligent, driven, and capable individuals across the country. The hyper-focus of investment dollars in these regions has led to a tremendous brain drain from underserved areas, which creates a huge wealth disparity within the country. To retain our position as the epicenter of innovation, Steve believes we need to take strategic initiatives to spread out our investments to other areas.

Steve’s AOL tenure

Steve knows the challenges of getting funding as a startup outside of CA/NY/MA all too well. AOL was based in northern Virginia, far from the traditional epicenters of VC money and tech workers. This made getting funding for AOL very difficult, as none of the investors from their first round of funding were from the northern Virginia/DC metro area. Throughout his time at AOL, Steve saw the internet go from a niche, hobbyist thing, to something that made nationwide news when service was down.

Despite the difficulties the company faced in its early years, AOL slowly gained traction over the course of a decade or so, until it was taken public. Shortly after, its stock saw great returns as the Dot Com Bubble grew in size. This meteoric growth made AOL the best-performing stock of the decade.

The AI movement

Steve, like many others, believes that AI is here to stay. However, it’s unclear how pivotal it will be going forward. In business, for every game-changing innovation, there are dozens of fads and buzzwords that simply come and go. It doesn’t seem that AI will be handled the same way the internet was handled. Initially, the internet was only available for use by the government and colleges. Companies like AOL had to lobby the government to let consumers and businesses use it. However, AI already has widespread use in society, and the government is proactively working to address potential problems that may arise. There have already been extensive hearings and testimonies from leaders in the space, like Sam Altman.

Post-pandemic entrepreneurship

Steve believes the key to supporting entrepreneurship post-pandemic is talent, capital, and collaboration. Building a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem across the entire country is how America can continue to be a global leader in innovation. Steve believes that the future of work is definitely hybrid. Entrepreneurs will need to build a culture that fits their physical reality. Some may choose to build a fully remote culture, but Steve believes that a lot of innovative thinking actually happens when people connect in a physical space. Innovation is often a serendipitous collision of ideas that morph into a truly innovative concept. Building a model that incorporates both the possibility of remote work and working together physically will likely be important for entrepreneurs going forward.

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