Steve Case is having a pretty good second act.
Case, as you surely remember, led America Online to glory and riches during the Internet boom. The first Internet firm to go public, AOL was the best performing stock of the 1990s, with a 11,616% (!!) return. That put the upstart in a position to acquire media giant Time Warner, in the largest merger in business history, and one of the most ill-fated.
Case, who is 53, is back, and he’s busy, as the chairman and CEO of Revolution, a company that “invests in people and ideas that can change the world;” as chairman of the Case Foundation, which is mostly run by his wife Jean; as chairman of the Startup America Partnership, a nonprofit that supports startups in a variety of ways, and as a member of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, which has him advocating bipartisan legislation to make financing for startups easier.
What ties all those interests together is Case’s belief that entrepreneurs are the “secret sauce” that keeps the American economy humming, he told me last week at VERGE DC, a conference organized by GreenBiz about the convergence of energy, information, buildings and transportation..
“I really do believe that entrepreneurs change the world,” he says. “They’re willing to take risks, start companies around new products, ideas or services and in many cases new industries emerge. That’s why we’re the leading economy in the world. It didn’t happen by accident. FORTUNE 500 companies don’t instantly vault into being FORTUNE 500 companies. Walmart started as one little store in Bentonville, Ark.”
“I saw it first-hand with America Online. We started in 1985. Three percent of people were online. They were online for an average of one hour per week. We said, someday this is going to be a ubiquitous medium that’s going to change the world, that everybody would be connected all the time, with multiple devices. It took a quarter century to get there, but now we’re there.”
“We’re now ushering the second Internet revolution,” he went on. “Now that everyone’s connected through multiple devices, connecting more habitually and more mobile-ly, you’re now able to have a transformative impact not just on media and communications and financial services, but on other core foundational industries in our country — energy being a key one, health care being a key one, education being a key one.”
“They actually have not changed that much,” he said. “But I have no doubt over the next 25 years those industries will be fundamentally reshaped, transformed, disrupted by this second Internet revolution, and that provides a real opportunity for entrepreneurs who are challenging the status quo, playing an attacker role.” [click to continue…]