Case’s new fund focuses on the geography of fly-over states, where the US extracts, grows, makes physical stuff; credit Musk for his full-throttle focus on what is, for Silicon Valley, a kind of virtual fly-over country of physical technologies anchored in atoms and hardware, not bits and software.
What do Elon Musk and Steve Case have in common? Both are tech billionaires and capable of generating headlines about anything. Both – like another billionaire, now POTUS -- have put so-called fly-over country back in the news.
Even in the digital age, physical stuff still matters.
Note that we’re not including Mark Zuckerburg, who is wealthier than all the aforementioned combined. While Zuckerburg’s excursion this past summer to 30 heartland states generated media buzz, it’s Musk and Case that are actually doing something beyond visiting fly-over land to tease out the forensics.
Start with Steve Case and his new $150 million venture fund, Rise of the Rest, focused on start-up companies not located on the coasts. The fund’s star-studded list of investors -- moguls from all political dogmas and business domains -- was just unveiled following a multi-city Rise of the Rest bus tour. Case’s partner in the venture, J.D. Vance, author of the acclaimed book Hillbilly Elegy, recently left Peter Thiel’s Silicon Valley venture fund for Columbus, Ohio, to run Rise of the Rest. (If you read Elegy, you might divine some hint of future political aspiration in all this too.)
So what’s worthy of interest in fly-over country? Obviously there’s the oft-noted reality that smart and motivated entrepreneurs live everywhere and that the heartland is “underserved” by risk, i.e., venture, capital. But the singular interesting feature of fly-over country? That’s where we find the vast majority of all businesses and people engaged in extracting resources, growing stuff, and manufacturing pretty much everything.
Mark P. Mills is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a faculty fellow at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering. In 2016, he was named “Energy Writer of the Year” by the American Energy Society. Follow him on Twitter here.