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Steve Case On Building Empires, Changing The World & The Internet’s Third Wave

By August 7, 2016May 23rd, 2019No Comments

“I think we need to have a more evenly dispersed innovation economy and we need to make sure that anybody, anywhere, with an idea has a shot at the American dream.”

Steve Case

It’s hard to imagine, but in 1985 — the year this week’s guest co-founded America Online — only 3% of Americans were connected to the internet, online for an average of a measly one hour per week.

It took a decade, many near-death experiences and back to the wall pivots, but under the leadership of Steve Case, AOL would go on to become the world’s largest and most valuable internet company, driving worldwide adoption of the medium that has literally transformed every aspect of modern day life.

The story is legend. After AOL became the first internet company to go public, Bill Gates gave Steve a choice — sell his upstart to behemoth Microsoft or get crushed. Believing in himself, his team and the renegade idea of community over content, Steve decided to take his chances. David against Goliath, the odds were not in his favor. But not only did AOL survive, it went on to become the top performing stock of the 1990s. At its peak, nearly half the users in the United States used AOL to access the internet. When AOL’s valuation escalated to $163 billion in 2000, Steve negotiated a $350 billion merger of AOL and Time Warner, the largest merger in business history, and served as chairman of the media and communication colossus until 2003.

It all looked great on paper. But paper isn’t reality. Cultures clashed. The stock price plummeted. With his own take on why the historic merger faltered, Steve lives to fight another day.

Today Steve is chairman and CEO of Revolution, DC-based investment firm, and the Case Foundation, a philanthropic effort that invests in hundreds of organizations with an entrepreneurial approach to strengthening the social sector.

The epitome of the American Entrepreneur and a true maverick of the digital age, this week I sit down with Steve to discuss his incredible story, the current state of entrepreneurship in America, and his new book highlighting an emerging new phase of the internet. Part memoir, part business playbook, and part manifesto, The Third Wave, An Entrepreneur’s Vision of The Future* bears witness to the fascinating machinations behind crafting the early stages of the internet we currently enjoy and provides an astute forecast for successfully stewarding pioneering tech entrepreneurship in the coming decades.

I only had a very strict 45 minute window with Steve, so this is a pretty tightly focused discussion. It’s a conversation about the internet’s incipient Third Wave and the focus on partnerships, policy and persistence that will be required to tackle and transform hulking, real world sectors like health, transportation, education, energy, and food.

It’s about something Steve calls impact investing — fostering the nascent emergence of entrepreneurship in outlier locales beyond the typical tech hotbeds of Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley and Silicon Beach.

It’s a conversation about why the most valuable currency of the future is ideas.

And it’s about why the killer app is, and will always be, people.

Steve Case has impacted our world more than anyone I have ever met. It was an honor to converse with him, and I sincerely hope you enjoy the exchange.

Peace + Plants,


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Background, Context & Reference:

Notable People Discussed:

  • Jim Kimsey: co-founder, CEO and the first chairman of America Online
  • Marc Seriff: best known as the CTO and co-founder of America Online
  • Evan Spiegel: co-founder and CEO of the mobile app Snapchat

Related Podcasts You Might Enjoy:

Thanks to Jason Camiolo for production, interstitial music and audio engineering; Chris Swan for production assistance & show notes; Shawn Patterson for graphics; and Ana Leimma for the theme music.

*Disclosure:Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

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