Albuquerque's tech community is rallying to bring back Steve Case, co-founder of AOL. (File photo)
When AOL co-founder Steve Case made a stop in Albuquerque during his Rise of the Rest tour in October 2016, one local startup bid him farewell $100,000 richer. Now the city’s tech community is rallying to bring him back.
Case’s past five tours across the United States had him visit 26 cities and travel more than 6,000 miles. Now Rise of the Rest is offering up the opportunity for a return visit to one of its past stops.
Rise of the Rest is a tour that visits five cities in five days, during which Case invests a total of $500,000, or $100,000 in one startup per city. When the tour stopped in ABQ last year, local tech startup Innobright Technologies came out the winner, beating seven other companies. The investment was a significant amount of money for the young company. So far Innobright has raised about $775,000 in investment funding.
Innobright develops software that cuts down the amount of time it takes to render animations. It has recently gone through some leadership changes, in which founder Raghu Kopalle stepped down and Charles Mendez took on the CEO role.
When Case invested in Innobright, he explained why ABQ was on his list of stops.
“Albuquerque is a city on the rise,” he said in October. “People here are recognizing the fact that the future will be built on investing in crazy entrepreneurs.”
Nearly a year later, locals like FatPipe Chief Operating Officer and Director Lisa Adkins are rallying to bring Case back to the Duke City as a part of Rise of the Rest’s #BringBacktheBus campaign. Whichever city brings in the most votes through the Rise of the Rest voting website will get to reunite with him on his next tour.
“We need to bring him back because it is an investment in our local startup community, which is hard enough to get,” Adkins said. “If he’s willing to come back to Albuquerque and invest another $100,000 in one of our startups, why wouldn’t we want him here?”
City officials have said they’re pushing to make Albuquerque a hub for technology and entrepreneurship, and a repeat visit by Case could raise the Duke City’s profile nationally in those areas.
She and others, including the city’s entrepreneur development manager Eric Renz-Whitmore, are using their networks to get more people involved. Adkins noted Albuquerque is competing with much larger cities like Phoenix, Denver and Detroit.
“We’re competing against much larger cities, so it’s important for people to help us,” she said.
So far Adkins has also used FatPipe, the Bioscience Center and the weekly startup community meeting 1 Million Cups to spread the word about the effort to get ABQ into Rise of the Rest’s sixth tour. The deadline to vote is Oct. 12.