Steve Case Talks About Innovation and His Big Bets

Montgomery Technology Conference
Montgomery Technology Conference

Steve Case celebrated the passing of the Jobs Bill by the House today by speaking to some of the companies he says will benefit from the legislation — 190 startups at the Montgomery Tech Conference.

I caught up with him at the conference, where he met with a couple of startups in which he's potentially interested in investing, though he wouldn't tell me which ones.

Case is a big proponent of helping startups and innovation in order to drive economic growth: he's a member of President Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, chairman of Startup America Partnership, and co-chair of the National Advisory Council of Innovation.

He tells me he's bullish that the Jobs Bill will help companies go public sooner, without the current prohibitive cost and hassle. He cited the stat that 90 percent of hiring at venture-backed companies happens after they go public, which means the sooner they go public, the more hiring they can do.

He's also interested in making it easier for small, private businesses to raise money through crowd-funding. The idea is to open the use of sites like IndieGoGo or Kickstarter, which are used to fund projects, to fund companies. He says they'll "unleash more capital and help more companies get started and scale."

Case seems to be thinking a lot about solving the government's problems, even with his fund. The first investment of his $450 million growth fund is in FedBid, a reverse auction for government projects, which is geared to help the government spend more efficiently.

Case says he doesn't want to make many investments, but wants to find the really breakout companies, with a multi-billion dollar potential. He's looking for the next Zipcar or LivingSocial, both companies he's invested in, and he sees real potential in the health care space. He pointed to one health care play he's made — called RunKeeper — which provides tools to track your health.

What about Facebook? He wouldn't comment on whether Facebook's valuation in the $80 billion range was too high. But he did say that Facebook is providing a great opportunity for companies to launch on its platform and scale quickly, and that its IPO will give other startups more access to capital. And he drew the comparison to AOL, saying it was one of the first truly social Internet companies decades ago.

Questions? Comments?