AOL cofounder's business pitch bus tour to award $100,000 in Ann Arbor stop

The Rise of the Rest bus tour, showcasing startups and promoting entrepreneurism, will hit Ann Arbor on Oct. 11.


Rise of the Rest is an initiative of Revolution, a Washington, D.C.-based investment firm founded in 2005 by AOL cofounder Steve Case.


This will be the sixth iteration of the biannual tour, which stops in five different cities in the U.S. heartland each time. The tour brings about 10 hours of programming to each city, including a business pitch competition with eight finalists. Applications are being accepted now through Aug. 30 for the business pitch competition, which will net the winner a $100,000 investment.


Anna Mason, director of investments for Rise of the Rest, says Silicon Valley, Boston, and New York historically receive about 75 percent of all startup investments in the U.S., but Rise of the Rest aims to put a spotlight on dynamic regions outside of those three hubs.


"Our very first stop on our very first tour was Detroit, and because of the lessons learned and the rise of regional entrepreneurial communities, we were particularly excited to be back in the southeast Michigan region," Mason says.


Mason says Ann Arbor was attractive as a Rise of the Rest stop for a number of reasons, including the fact that Ann Arbor has strong economic development organizations supporting entrepreneurship and broad community engagement with the tech industry. The Ann Arbor area's mobility industry hubs were attractive as well, Mason says.


Perhaps most important to Rise of the Rest, a dense network of local and statewide investors are based in Ann Arbor.


"We were particularly excited and encouraged to see that, and we're looking forward to getting to know that group of local investors," Mason says.


The Oct. 11 event will open with a private, invite-only leadership breakfast bringing together participants from the private and public sector, ranging from local government officials to university representatives to regional investors and local startups.


Then the participants go on an "ecosystem crawl," visiting four or five companies ranging from early-stage startups, who might even still be in a business incubator or accelerator, up to pre-IPO or other late-stage startup companies.


The second half of the day involves a "fireside chat" with Case, the pitch competition, and a community happy hour.


Mason says pitch competition judges look for bold ideas that "swing for the fences." They also look for a dynamic team with solid leadership and a business idea that is likely to employ a large number of people locally or regionally once it's scaled up, Mason says.


"We're looking for an idea that has the potential to be game-changing for the industry," Mason says.


Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at

Photo courtesy of Rise of the Rest.

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