AOL co-founder: Time to 'double down' on Nashville health care entrepreneurship

Steve Case sweeps through Music City on innovations-focused road trip

Music City is not only rich with entrepreneurial spirit that national investors have yet to pick up on, but creative minds here are in a unique position to drive innovation in the health care industry, said Steve Case, the co-founder of America Online.

Case founded and now runs Revolution, a Washington, D.C.-based investment firm that ended its four-city "Rise of the Rest" road tour in Nashville Friday highlighting stories about places with up-and=coming entrepreneurial communities.

“It’s kind of Nashville’s to lose,” Case (pictured) said about driving the health care innovations. “I really would urge everybody to kind of double down now and create more urgency now and create more investment now and attract more talent now and attract more attention now to really position Nashville as the center of the health care revolution,” he said.

“Silicon Valley is like a lake with a lot of fish, but also a lot of people fishing. Maybe over-fishing,” Case said outside the Trolley Barns at Rolling Mill Hill at a press conference Friday afternoon. “By contrast, a place like Nashville, maybe it’s more of a pond, a pretty big pond but a pond. There are a lot of fish in that pond, too, but there are not as many people fishing.”

Case’s tour included stops in Detroit and Pittsburgh, which he said are “fighting their way back” after years of a tough economy, and Cincinnati, which used to be over-reliant on a small number of big companies.

“Obviously, we did save the best for last,” he said, pointing to Nashville's diverse history of entrepreneurs in the health care industry and “pioneers” in the music industry, among others. The strength in Nashville now is in tech start-ups, he said, and lifting up communities within the city that other people had given up on. 

“Two hundred fifty years ago, America was just a startup and now it’s the leader of the free world because it’s the leading economy in the world, and we just need to remember that, and remember to recognize and celebrate and support and encourage our entrepreneurs.”

The Nashville leg of the tour included Case visiting Marathon Village near Charlotte Avenue and I-40, the BowTruss Building in Germantown and the Trolley Barns at Rolling Mill Hill.

“It shows that all the great entrepreneurial activities aren’t just happening in Silicon Valley or New York. And Nashville is increasingly being seen — and Tennessee — as a place where creative business startup ideas are happening,” said Gov. Bill Haslam, adding that he has gotten to know Case personally over the last decade and shares several mutual friends. “To have somebody like Steve Case going around the country and then ending up here talking about all the activity here, I think it’s really significant.”

The tour was presented by Revolution, UP Global and Google for Entrepreneurs, and is sponsored by Engine, Gallup and Seed Here Studio.