From Bezos to Walton, Big Investors Back Fund for ‘Flyover’ Start-Ups

It turns out that while they were publicly crisscrossing America, they were also privately holding meetings with some of the wealthiest individuals and families in the country, urging them to not only invest in a new fund but become partners with some of the companies that will benefit from it.

On Tuesday, the fund, called Rise of the Rest, will disclose its investors, which has turned into a Who’s Who of American business. Among them: Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and now the world’s richest person; Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google’s parent, Alphabet; Howard Schultz, chairman of Starbucks; Tory Burch, the fashion mogul; Ray Dalio, founder of the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates; Dan Gilbert, the founder of Quicken Loans who has remade Detroit; Henry Kravis, the co-founder of KKR; David Rubenstein, the co-founder of Carlyle Group; Michael Milken, the financier and philanthropist; John Doerr, the venture capitalist; Jim Breyer, one of the first investors in Facebook; as well as members of three wealthy families: the Waltons, the Kochs and the Pritzkers.

Also on the list are Sean Parker, a former president of Facebook; Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx; Jeff Vinik, the Florida billionaire and sports franchise owner; Byron Trott, Warren Buffett’s favorite banker; and Adebayo Ogunlesi, the lead director of Goldman Sachs and a large infrastructure investor. All told, it may be the greatest concentration of American wealth and power in one investment fund.

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Mr. Case, right, aboard a bus in Columbus, Ohio, during a barnstorming tour to promote start-ups in the middle of the country. “While the network in Silicon Valley is obviously something that is great, it can also have an exclusionary effect,” he said.

Credit
Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times

The idea — far grander than the money itself, which is only $150 million to start, pocket money for most of the investors — was to assemble a dream team and create a network effect for entrepreneurs in the middle of the country to align with the biggest names in business.

The fund, said Mr. Vance, was meant to construct an ecosystem like the one in Silicon Valley that will provide support and connections to entrepreneurs in small towns.

“People tend to follow their networks,” said Mr. Vance, who was recruited to the effort by Mr. Case. “While the network in Silicon Valley is…

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