Steve Case on tour in Pittsburgh

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Steve Case's visit to Raleigh and Durham next month is proof its hard to digest the entire startup community in a single day.

I hopped on the phone with Case's team at Revolution yesterday, along with local organizer Adam Klein of American Underground, to hear more about the venture capitalist's much-anticipated visit to the Triangle for the Rise of the Rest Tour May 5. It's an event Klein believes will give the Triangle the national spotlight for a day, and despite the time and geographic constraints of the tour, the chance to tell the story of a region embracing entrepreneurship, not just a single city.

"This area has been under the radar for awhile but I suspect through this tour, word will get out," says Klein. "It's up to us to take advantage of that moment to capture new attention and investors after the tour heads out of town."

Along Case's second stop on his third tour (here are photos from the first two), he'll meet with entrepreneurs, investors, startup supporters, economic development workers and policymakers, discuss the region's biggest strengths and challenges in a public forum and judge a pitch competition that will send one lucky startup team home with $100,000 investment and a direct link to one of the biggest national names in venture capital.

Oh, and he'll have some fun too. He's throwing the first pitch at the Durham Bulls baseball game that evening.

So how do you get the best picture of the startup community in a day?  Here's Case's itinerary:

When he arrives to town from Richmond on a huge tour bus, he'll first stop in Raleigh to visit the tech hubs at HQ Raleigh and American Underground on Fayetteville Street. Revolution's Herbie Ziskend says Case will do a meet and greet with as many entrepreneurs as possible during that time, but the visit will be informal.

Rise of the Rest Tour Bus
Steve Case and Revolution Ventures team members sitting on the Rise of the Rest tour bus in 2014. Credit: Rise of the Rest Tour

He'll move on to the region's newest startup campus, The Frontier at Research Triangle Park, where he'll have lunch with students from the area's universities. One regret of the tour is that Case won't have time to stop by the university campuses, or the startup community in Chapel Hill, but they'll be invited to the events in Raleigh, RTP and/or Durham. 

At some point during the tour, Ziskend says that Case will take smaller meetings with business, civic and political leaders, and he'll stop by the three local companies in which he made investments through Google for Entrepreneurs' Demo Day in 2014 and just last week: Automated Insights at American Tobacco Campus and Windsor Circle and Mati Energy at American Underground @Main. Here's last week's story on Mati's Demo Day win.

Steve Case in Minneapolis
Case takes an interest in this startup during his visit to Minneapolis in 2014. Credit: Rise of the Rest Tour

But he'll be in Durham by 2 p.m. for a fireside chat, followed by the main event—the pitch contest—at 3:30 p.m. Both are happening at Carolina Theatre. 

An application period to pitch is open now, and Ziskend says that number of applicants so far are among the highest of the five cities on the tour (he wouldn't share exact figures). The top 10 companies will be notified by the end of April, and on May 5, they'll be given 5 minutes to pitch and three minutes to answer questions and get feedback from Case.

The winner of the pitch event will be announced at a happy hour celebration on the new rooftop patio at American Underground @Main. RSVPs (though not yet open) are required for each of the three afternoon events in Durham. 

The outcomes of the previous events in the Midwest and North are evident through media coverage in both local and national press (Bloomberg TV joined the tour in Detroit). Nine companies have walked away with $100,000, and Revolution now has deep connections in each of the regions where those companies are based.

Here's a wrap up video of Steve Case's visits during the second Rise of the Rest Tour to Madison, Wisc., Minneapolis, Des Moines, Kansas City and St. Louis. Credit: Rise of the Rest Tour

Klein believes that network effect is the beauty of the tour—it connects the Triangle to a national venture fund and its growing network in cities outside Silicon Valley. He also hopes Revolution and Case will provide some insight back to our region.

"They have a unique vantage point having been elsewhere and can point out strengths and weaknesses," Klein says. "Having someone outside our area who is knowledgeable and has a precise view of things look in—that will be an important outcome of this as well."