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Midstate start-ups shine in 'Rise of the Rest' tour

Written by Rachel McDevitt | Oct 10, 2017 5:17 PM
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The Rise of the Rest tour bus in York. (Photo: Rachel McDevitt/WITF)

(York) -- Midstate start-ups are in the spotlight.

Revolution, an investment firm started by AOL co-founder Steve Case, visited small businesses across the region on Tuesday. 

The Rise of the Rest tour is about highlighting innovation happening away from the usual spots like Silicon Valley, New York, and Boston.

Case said Tuesday was a departure from previous tours, which only stopped in one city at a time.

"Hopefully what's starting today will be something that builds over the coming months and years and really does allow central Pennsylvania to rise as a mecca for innovative start-ups, and as a result also create a lot of jobs and economic growth for the region," Case said. 

The tour kicked off at the Colonial Complex in York, where Governor Tom Wolf welcomed the Revolution team. 

Wolf said people often think of innovation as happening in larger places, like Philadelphia, "But things that are really good for the economy, innovative things are happening in York."

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Governor Tom Wolf welcomes the Revolution team in York. (Photo: Rachel McDevitt/WITF)

The group visited start-ups whose fields ranged from telecommunications to architecture and online branding in York and Lancaster before heading to Harrisburg for a pitch competition between nine midstate start-ups. 

The winner receives a $100,000 check from Case. But he said the money is just a small part of his mission, noting he hopes the tour sparks momentum in places where the economy is changing.

J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy--which examines the struggles of the white, working class in America-- and a member of the Revoluton team, said he worries that people who feel left behind by a transitioning economy lose their optimism for the future. 

"Part of what we're trying to do is to get them to see--look, this is an exciting, interesting set of circumstances, so let's be hopeful about what we can accomplish as opposed to just looking backwards at the problems," Vance said. " Certainly, I don't think you can solve the challenges, of course, unless you're clear-eyed about the problems, too."

Case said he has seen peoples' willingness to adapt to the new economy, and added job disruptions are not a new issue. He held up the example that 200 years ago, 90 percent of people worked on farms. 

"Are some jobs going to go away? Of course they're going to go away. The issue is are new jobs going to be created to offset at least in part the jobs going away?" Case said. "Our belief is that's only going to happen if you're backing more entrepreneurs in more places doing more interesting things, because the start-ups are across all sectors."

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