The Rise of the Rest investments you tout have certainly benefited from this exuberance – and may now suffer from it.
Some Silicon Valley venture capitalists who were focused on growing cities may pull out. But most will realize that it’s crazy that 75% of venture capital has gone to just three states in the last decade. In the next phase, these Rise of the Rest cities have an advantage because startups there tend to be more capital efficient. They had to be, because they can’t assume they can always raise more capital.
Speaking of capital, you raised two funds to invest in Rise of the Rest companies. What was the return on that first $150 million?
We did not announce it. When we raised this fund, we said we would generate top-notch returns. We had a pretty remarkable group of individual investors – Jeff Bezos, Howard Schultz, Ray Dalio, Henry Kravis…
Do they call you to say how happy they are?
They were pleasantly surprised that we were doing as well as most of them expected, if not better.
So you’re saying you’re getting “top notch” returns from these regional investments?
The the guy you chose to manage this fund was JD Vance. But your book doesn’t have a single mention of him. Have you broken up with Vance since he went MAGA?
He was with us for about a year, but then he moved to Ohio. I haven’t spoken to him since he announced his candidacy, and I haven’t supported this campaign. I am surprised by some of the things he said.
You hired him in part because of his nation-building spirit. But he appears to have used this to promote himself before taking an entirely different and divisive approach.. Feeling snookered?
This word seems a bit strong. Most of our conversations were about the fund and the companies we support. Sometimes we would talk about politics, and the things he was talking about seemed inconsistent with what he’s saying now. As far as what we asked him to do, he was helpful. These bus tours we did weren’t the red vs. blue kind. Although our efforts are political when it comes to the economies we save and working on government initiatives involving innovation, I have always tried to stay out of politics.
Your book praises the merits of immigration. In Silicon Valley, an incredible percentage of founders were born outside of the United States. I’m not sure it’s the same in the up-and-coming areas you’re promoting.
These cities are more diverse than you might think. Miami comes to mind, with a strong startup community where the majority of entrepreneurs come from other parts of the world. Atlanta, Baltimore, and Washington, DC have a much higher percentage of black entrepreneurs than Silicon Valley, as it reflects the diversity of those communities. I believe that if America loses its way and ceases to be the most innovative and entrepreneurial nation in the world, the most likely cause will be not having an immigration policy as welcoming to the people as it has been for the past two centuries. We need to build bipartisan support for immigration reform.