COLUMBUS, Ohio — They seem an odd couple. J. D. Vance, author of
“Hillbilly Elegy,” his best-selling memoir of growing up in the postindustrial
Midwest and his journey of escape. And Steve Case, the billionaire cofounder
of America Online.
But Mr. Vance joined Mr. Case’s investment firm this year to scour the
Midwest for small yet promising start-ups, particularly for a new seed fund.
The firm, Revolution, plans to raise up to $100 million for that fund’s
investments, it disclosed in a filing last month with the Securities and
They are by no means the only notable investors seeking opportunity in the
Four years ago, Mark Kvamme, a top venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, left
the heart of the tech industry to become a tech investor here in the Midwest
After a slow start, his firm has raised $550 million and invested in 26
companies. Its bet is that the middle of America amounts to an undervalued
asset, rich in markets, new business ideas and budding entrepreneurs. The
Midwest, the thinking goes, is not only untapped, but also an antidote to the
scalding-hot tech market on the West Coast.
“Silicon Valley is kind of crazy now,” Mr. Kvamme said.
The money, power and influence of tech companies on the West Coast have
reached new heights. Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft and Amazon are now the
four most valuable companies in the country.