Cultivating an entrepreneurship ecosystem is not like driving a motorcycle, said David Hall, managing partner at Rise of the Rest Seed Fund.
It’s akin to driving a bus or a van, with seats for everyone.
Hall will speak at the Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington’s (NEW) event
Nov. 16 at Ironclad Brewery, 115 N. Second St., in downtown Wilmington. The audience will learn about the Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, a $150 million venture capital fund focused on tech startups outside the traditional tech hubs in New York, Boston and Silicon Valley.
Revolution, a Washington D.C.-based investment firm, is an umbrella for several investment groups — Rise of the Rest, Revolution Growth and Revolution Ventures. Rise of the Rest is known for its bus tour, which visited five cities around the country with budding tech scenes before halting because of the pandemic.
The fund touts its high-profile investors like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Steve Case, the founder of AOL and Revolution’s CEO and chairman.
The NEW meeting’s main event will be a conversation with Hall, moderated by Cofounders Capital Managing Partner Tim McLoughlin. Durham-based Cofounders Capital is a sponsor for NEW.
Preceding the keynote, Charlotte Ketelaar, founder of ZWANET, a venture capital firm for startups, will lead the audience through what signals to send investors when pitching.
Rise of the Rest’s decentralization philosophy aims to diversify the nation’s tech sector by focusing on investing in startups. Diversification in the tech industry is good for America, Hall said, and an investor’s portfolio.
Jim Roberts, founder of NEW and the organizer of the event, said Hall will meet with five Wilmington startups at Live Oak’s Channel office downtown for “office hours.” Roberts said he would not disclose what startups he selected, but the decision was based on consultations with regional investors, interactions at NEW events and activity in the ecosystem.
Rise of the Rest acknowledges the difficulty of raising capital in a place that’s not saturated with eager investors, Hall said. Fundraising can be easier in a city like San Francisco because it has a higher density of venture capitalists who are looking for their next investment.
Cofounders Capital, a $50 million venture capital fund, invests in two startups with ties to Wilmington, Approve Payments and EasyVote Solutions
. McLoughlin said Wilmington has developed an ecosystem that is starting to draw in new investment. He cited Live Oak Bank’s Venture at the Beach conference as an example, which attracted 50 investors from outside the Wilmington area, he said.
“Now, you see something like Rise of the Rest coming, and it’s highlighting that the secret’s getting out,” McLoughlin said.
Rise of the Rest choosing to invest in a startup can have a validating effect in an area’s tech industry, Hall said. Once the fund invests in a startup, other deals may start flowing in.
As for his advice for Wilmington’s tech startup scene, Hall said community support is the foundation for building the industry. Local businesses and community members need to invest in local startups before they can get attention from larger organizations, Hall said.
Leveraging Wilmington’s proximity to the Research Triangle could also be key to growth, he said.
“There's got to be this umbilical cord that's tying it to the bigger ecosystem so it can draft and drain some of those additional resources and support until it's self-sustaining,” Hall said.
ZWANET’s founder, Ketelaar, can speak more specifically about the pitching process, giving entrepreneurs advice about how to sell to investors.
“It's almost like selling through your first customer,” she said. “In this case, it's an investor persona and not your customer persona. When they ask you for your pitch deck, make sure that you have some expert data on how much traction you have already gotten.”
Ketelaar agreed to speak at NEW's event because she recently expanded her firm to Charlotte, after building a presence in San Francisco and New York City. She is building her relationships in the Southeast, she said.
“The best deals are not all in New York City and in San Francisco,” she said.