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Steve Case ended his daylong tour of central Pennsylvania by making a $100,000 investment in Device Events, a York-based software company that tracks reported problems with medical devices.
Then, with his Rise of the Rest tour headed for Ann Arbor, Michigan, the AOL co-founder said it’s up to everyone in central Pennsylvania to actually create the startup culture his visit was meant to encourage.
“We’re getting on the bus, we’re leaving, we’re leaving town,” Case said. “The best way to have a bright community 25 years from now is to back entrepreneurs today, some of which will create the big companies of tomorrow.”
Rise of the Rest is Case’s initiative to encourage entrepreneurship and startup investments outside traditional hotspots such as Silicon Valley and other major cities.
“We want to do what we can to level that playing field so everyone does feel like they have a shot at the American Dream, jobs and opportunity everywhere, not just on the coasts,” Case said.
The visit to central Pennsylvania included stops in York and Lancaster and ended with a live pitch competition at the Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center.
Four Lancaster companies were among nine finalists who gave 4-minute pitches to Case and a panel of judges, which was followed by 4 minutes of questions.
Madris Tomes, CEO of Device Events, said the investment from Case would be used to bolster the team building the subscription-based software meant to proactively identify patterns and problems with medical devices.
Device Events uses data from the federal government to compile user-friendly information about problems with medical devices that can be used by researchers, insurance companies and health care providers.
“The winning choice was great. Her model is about disrupting health care, which is a space in need of innovation,” said Austin Haller who pitched for Schedule Engine, a Lancaster-based company that makes software to streamline scheduling of home service contractors.
Like the three other Lancaster finalists, Haller said he was grateful to have made it as far as he did and is hopeful about the lingering benefits of Case’s focus on local startups.
“How do we continue to create and build the ecosystem in Lancaster and central Pennsylvania that’s going to keep the ball moving forward?” Haller said after the event.
No cities, but a region
Case’s visit to central Pennsylvania was the first stop on a five-day tour this week, which includes Indianapolis, Indiana; Columbus, Ohio; and Green Bay, Wisconsin, in addition to Ann Arbor, where events are taking place today.
Case launched Rise of the Rest in 2014 and has visited 26 cities and invested more than $4 million in more than 50 startups during the previous tours.
And while the winning company wasn’t from Lancaster, Case urged the more than 200 people at the Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center to consider it a win for the region, not just for one of its main cities.
“One thing that is a problem is that different parts of central Pennsylvania — even different parts of York or Lancaster or Harrisburg — are kind of broken,” Case said.
Instead of a parochial approach that considers someone on the other side of a bridge as being from somewhere else, Case said the entire central Pennsylvania region should think of jointly encouraging entrepreneurial startups.
Lancaster, Harrisburg and York can rise faster as a region, instead of as individual cities, he said.
“That requires less focus on the specific area you live in and more focus on lifting up the whole region,” Case said.