When Steve Case, co-founder of AOL and CEO of Revolution LLC, came to Chattanooga, Tennessee in May 2023, he used one word to describe what he was witnessing: Potential.
“The fact that we have two mayors here that are both entrepreneurs and investors and decided to pivot into politics really is unique,” said Case. “Chattanooga is a great place to live and also a great place to build, starting with the work we’ve done a decade ago.”
That potential he sees doesn’t just stem from the progress Chattanooga is currently making. It stems from the direction the entire country is heading right now, which Case refers to as ‘The Third Wave’ (also the title of his best-selling book).
“The First Wave was getting America online and getting the world online. Once infrastructure was built and everyone was virtually connected, that set off the Second Wave, which has basically been building software apps on top of the internet,” said Case. “The Third Wave, which we’re in the relatively early phases of, is when the internet meets the real world. How we move around, how we invest, how we learn.”
He said he’s currently in the process of bagging entrepreneurs across the country disrupting sectors in The Third Wave.
Beyond Silicon Valley and Traditional Tech Hubs: What's Happening In Chattanooga?
Not only is it important for our country’s growth, but also the growth of individual cities like Chattanooga when it comes to job creation, capital, and collective progress for cities.
“You shouldn’t be indifferent. You should say ‘Chattanooga has an opportunity and this is the moment. We’re going to seize it,” said Case. “We’re going to do that individually by doing more than we’re doing right now. We’re going to build a stronger network regionally, more of a regional kind of client cluster, that can really help Chattanooga’s region capitalize more broadly on this moment, fully leveraging this moment.”
According to Case, Chattanooga is already leveraging this moment through different resources that can only be found in the Scenic City, like EPB’s fiber optic network and new commercial quantum network, UTC’s work with autonomous vehicles, and having the most freight per capita than any other city in the nation.
“If you look at all the interviews I’ve done in the last decade, you’ll find that Chattanooga gets referenced a lot. Why? I do think there’s something special in the community,” said Case. “Asking:
- ‘Who do you think has the fastest broadband in America?’
- ‘Oh, San Francisco or New York.’
- ‘Well no, it’s Chattanooga!’
- So that solidified and put Chattanooga on the map.”
However, despite Chattanooga’s international reputation for sustainable mobility that’s already established, Case said in order to truly benefit families and communities in Tennessee, more work needs to be done.
“You could really improve the lives of people and families here for decades to come,” said Case. “The next generation of people don’t feel like they have to leave to go someplace else. They feel like they can stay here.”
Mentors and Investors Needed
This work doesn’t just lie with founders in Chattanooga, however. He said the work must be contributed from everyone that is part of the Scenic City community.
“All the people with capital, figure out a way to support entrepreneurs, but if you’re on the fence regarding investing and either directing companies or venture firms, maybe now is the time,” said Case. “If you’re at a big company, maybe there’s ways to support not really investors but maybe you’re a customer, maybe you’re a mentor. There’s a ton of things that are important.”
Interested in learning more about Chattanooga’s potential for sustainable mobility and entrepreneurs? Contact The Company Lab at email@example.com.
Note: This article includes excerpts from Steve Case’s VIP Dinner and Keynote speeches at The Company Lab’s CO.MOBILITY Summit 2023. Guest blog courtesy of The Company Lab. More: Read all guest blogs here.