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The Rise of the Rest bus tours the country looking for startups outside Silicon Valley. (Rise of the Rest Photo)

Some of the world’s most influential business leaders want to repair the deep divisions in America by investing in entrepreneurship outside of traditional tech hubs like Silicon Valley and Seattle.

That’s the goal of Rise of the Rest, an organization created by AOL co-founder Steve Case and J.D. Vance, author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” to “revolutionize” the U.S. economy. The two connected because Case read Vance’s chronicle of Rust Belt decline as a problem that needed solving. That’s according to an account from The New York Times that details how the unlikely duo formed the Rise of the Rest Tour, traveling across the country to make small investments in startups. Now, they’re taking the project to the next level with a little help from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt and others.

Today, Rise of the Rest announced the list of high-profile investors backing a new $150 million fund to invest in startups in so-called fly over states.

“We know the talent is evenly distributed but opportunity is not,” Case said in a video announcing the fund.

The vast majority of venture capital funding is concentrated in just a handful of cities and states which means the wealth and opportunity created by the innovation economy are not shared proportionately with regions outside tech hubs. The result is a bubble effect in which people living in prosperous regions struggle to identify with people living in communities that haven’t rebounded from the decline of manufacturing, and vice versa.

Vance details that divide in “Hillbilly Elegy,” an account of his family history in Kentucky and Ohio that reflects more broadly on social deterioration. “There is no group of Americans more pessimistic than working-class whites,” is a thread woven throughout.

The Rise of the Rest is about bringing opportunity back to communities like Vance’s hometown by removing a big barrier for startups outside of tech hubs: access to capital.

The effort will probably meet some skepticism. It’s a good opportunity for Big Tech to make headlines by addressing the growing resentment from those who have been left behind by the new economy. Still, the investors on board have experience solving complex problems. Take Dan Gilbert, the Quicken Loans founder who has played a vital role in Detroit’s renewal.

The fund will go toward companies innovating in “major industries like food, healthcare, transportation, and agriculture – industries that have long established ties to regions between the coasts,” according to the Rise of the Rest website.

Rise of the Rest’s next tour will kick off in Spring 2018, visiting five cities in five days and making investments based on pitch competitions.

Continue reading for a full list of investors in the fund.

  • Louis Bacon
  • Jim Barksdale
  • Jeff Bezos
  • Sara Blakely
  • Jim Breyer
  • Tory Burch
  • Steve Case
  • Ray Dalio
  • John Doerr
  • Scott Dorsey
  • Craig Duchossois
  • Dan Gilbert
  • Sheila Johnson
  • Brad Keywell
  • Members of the Koch Family
  • Henry Kravis
  • Mel Lagomasino
  • Eric Lefkofsky
  • Ted Leonsis
  • William M. Lewis, Jr.
  • Joe Mansueto
  • Michael Milken
  • Adebayo Ogunlesi
  • Sean Parker
  • Charles Phillips
  • William Powers
  • Members of the Pritzker Family
  • David Rubenstein
  • Howard Schultz
  • Eric Schmidt
  • Byron Trott
  • John Underwood
  • J.D. Vance
  • Jeff Vinik
  • Romesh Wadhwani
  • Members of the Walton Family
  • Meg Whitman
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