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Entrepreneurs in 4 cities have chance at $100K each

AOL founder and venture capitalist Steve Case is on the road — again — this time promising winners of his tech start-up tour in four cities that his company will invest $100,000 each in their small businesses.
But that’s not all: The entrepreneurs also will receive an all-expense paid trip to Washington to pitch their ideas to his company, Revolution venture capital, meet other investors and get the chance to raise even more money.
The four-cities-in-four-days tour — Detroit on June 24, Pittsburgh on June 25, Cincinnati on June 26 and Nashville on June 27 — is part of Case’s Rise of the Rest initiative, in which he seeks out promising start-ups beyond California’s Silicon Valley. He started the program in October 2012.
“Sixty years ago, for example, Detroit was essentially what Silicon Valley is today,” Case said in a January interview with Silicon Valley Business Journal. “It was the most vibrant entrepreneurial region in the country, arguably in the world. The technology of the day was the automobile and it was on fire, growing like crazy.”
Detroit is bankrupt now because it lost what he calls its “entrepreneurial mojo.”

“But the good news on Detroit, and I think it is true in some of these other regions, is it is fighting its way back,” Case said then. “We actually believe in 2014 for the first time ever (that) venture investments east of the Mississippi will be greater than venture investments in Silicon Valley.”
Case considers start-ups one way to jump-start the economy, and his Revolution venture capital firm already has made major commitments to more than 30 companies including Flexcar, which merged with Zipcar; Gaiam, known for its yoga and fitness equipment; CustomInk online T-shirt design; LivingSocial daily deals website; and SweetGreen organic made-to-order, fast-food salads.

Case will be part of a panel in each city that evaluates eight to 10 start-ups during a 90-minute pitch competition.
Before the pitch session, Case will be talking about entrepreneurship and the local start-up community; afterward is a reception. In his brief time in the cities, he also plans to meet with business leaders and spend time at some high-growth companies.
“Being selected as one of the four stops on the tour is evidence of the great progress we have made over the last five years,” said Rob McDonald, a lawyer in Cincinnati and co-founder of The Brandery marketing and branding accelerator here. “We will work hard to make sure Steve leaves Ohio knowing that he has no choice but to come back again.”
Another of Case’s titles is chairman of the Startup America Partnership, a privately financed network of 32 communities across the USA dedicated to nurturing local companies in their infancy.
That venture, in conjunction with the White House’s Startup America initiative, is different from a business incubator or accelerator, in part because it has no buildings, but local entrepreneurs, investors, mentors and other executives are working together to help young companies grow and often incubators and accelerators are part of that team. The Startup America Partnership does not make financial investments in start-ups.
But Case is making deals: He already announced earlier this year at the first-ever Google for Entrepreneurs Demo Day that he is investing $1 million, $100,000 each for 10 start-ups in seven cities.
His 17-year-old Case Foundation invests in companies and organizations that create both a financial return and societal change, what the foundation calls “doing well by doing good.”