‘I’m A Rare Bird Being A Black VC With A Fund Of $150M To Invest’: David Hall, Partner At Revolution’s Rise Of The Rest Seed Fund

Ebony Grimsley-Vaz
Written by Ebony Grimsley-Vaz
David Hall, partner at Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund. Photo: Revolution

Post-AOL fame, Steve Case is better-known now for his rise-of-the-rest approach to venture capital, becoming a rock star among founders who start their companies outside major tech hubs.

As CEO of venture capital firm Revolution, Case supports the growth of startup communities outside Silicon Valley, New York City, and Boston, which receive 75 percent of all venture capital in the U.S.

David Hall, a partner at Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, is responsible for investment sourcing, execution, and oversight for Revolution portfolio companies.

Hall was in Florida this month checking out the state’s tech founders on the
Eighth Annual Rise Of The Rest bus tour.

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Case co-founded AOL, the first internet company to go public and one of the best-performing stocks of the 1990s. Now Case is on a mission to help entrepreneurs, investing in people and ideas to build disruptive companies.

For eight years, Case has taken his mission on the road with the Rise Of The Rest road trip. Earlier this month, it was Florida’s turn to have a light shone on the health of the state’s tech ecosystems.

Rise of the Rest
Rise of the Rest Road trip bus at The Station House in St. Petersburg, Fla., for a leadership breakfast. Photo: Ebony Grimsley-Vaz

Thirty-two companies pitched in the Florida pitch competition and four were announced winners of the Revolution’s Rise of the Rest tour: Winter Park, Fla.-based AireHealth, Denver-based Atomos Space, Tampa-based Immertec, and Fort Lauderdale-based Xendoo.

These companies each won $100,000 from the Revolution investment fund and the opportunity to be a part of the Revolution portfolio.

Since the announcement of the Rise of the Rest tour coming to Florida, startup ecosystems around the state buzzed with excitement and took advantage of the opportunity to highlight why companies should be launched in the Sunshine State.

Florida is the third-largest state but gets just 1.3 percent of the venture capital pie compared to the rest of the U.S., Case said during a May 1 breakfast in Tampa — one of four stops on the Florida Rise of the Rest tour 2919. This 1.3 percent pales in comparison to the 75-percent-plus in venture capital funding that goes to California, Massachusetts, and New York, Case told local leaders and the press.

Rise of the Rest Partner Hall shared with Moguldom what he learned about Florida during the tour.

“There are so many great stories and narratives here in Florida,” Hall said. “The state is well known for being the Hospitality State and for aerospace, defense, and eldercare. I don’t think the breadth of the types of industries that are here and are available are getting the acclaim.”

Hall is responsible for investment sourcing, execution, and oversight for Revolution portfolio companies. He began his career with Revolution in 2006, serving as an investment professional and has been working with the portfolio companies ever since. Hall earned a B.A. in economics from Morehouse College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Prior to Revolution, Hall was director of planning and development at The Washington Post Company, where he managed corporate M&A and investments and launched new print and digital publications. Before that, he was manager of business development for Akamai Technologies, Inc. and a senior financial analyst for Morgan Stanley.

If Florida founders get 1.3 percent of venture capital funding, and around 1 percent of VC funding goes to companies founded by African Americans, there has to be intentional thought on how to level the playing field.

“The data does suggest it does matter where you live. It does matter what you look like. It does matter who you know,” Case said during a fireside chat with Tampa Bay Lightning Owner and e-sports investor, Jeff Vinik.

Rise of the Rest
Steve Case, CEO of venture capital firm Revolution, and Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner and e-sports investor, at Connectwise during the Rise of the Rest tour 2019 in Tampa. Photo: Ebony Grimsley-Vaz

Just two of the 32 Rise of the Rest finalists in the Florida pitch competition were Black-owned. Some states have a shortage of Black founders, like Utah, while some cities have more, like Atlanta, Hall said.

“I know I’m a rare bird being a Black VC with a fund of $150 million dollars to invest,” Hall told Moguldom. “It’s my responsibility to ensure I take the meetings with Black entrepreneurs and we’re not going to invest in all of them, because we’re not going to invest in all of any of the people we meet. But my pledge is to continue to look for and demand we think about at least giving these Black founders, founders of color and within the LGBTQ community a forum to pitch to an audience where they can engage.”

Rise of the Rest 2019 gave local investors a chance to meet Florida startup founders and owners they were most interested in.

“We’re hoping in a small way this (tour) will be a little bit of a catalyst, maybe a little bit of a spark that will help more communities like Tampa rise to the next level and capitalize on the opportunities that exist around innovation in the next 10 or 20 years,” Case said.

Rise of the Rest
Rise of the Rest Road trip bus, Florida 2019. Photo: Ebony Grimsley-Vaz