Steve Case, AOL Co-Founder, Sees Parallels in a Challenging Tech Environment


By Jon Swartz

Steve Case survived the dotcom bomb of the early 2000s and the media deal of the time. Two decades later, he sees some parallels.

“There’s still a little bit of media and internet companies trying to get back together… and trying to figure out how to scale such deals,” amid macroeconomic headwinds and a corrective phase in the tech market, said Case at the Best New Ideas in Money conference in New York Wednesday.

The co-founder of AOL and author of the upcoming “The Rise of the Rest: How Entrepreneurs in Surprising Places Are Building the New American Dream” knows a thing or two about insidious mega-media mergers. He was at the helm of AOL when it closed a difficult business pairing with Time-Warner Inc. in 2000. went through.

Now he’s casting a questionable/sympathetic look at Warner Bros. Discover Inc. (WBD), the star-crossed union of AT&T Inc.’s (T) spin-off of WarnerMedia with Discovery Inc. in April.

With a potential Senate vote on key tech legislation this week, Case favors regulation, but with a Three Bears approach — not too strict, but not too lenient. It’s a balancing act, he acknowledged, but necessary as tech titans Apple Inc. (AAPL), Alphabet Inc.’s (GOOGL) (GOOGL) Google, Inc. (AMZN) and Facebook parent company Meta Platforms Inc. (META) amassing vast wealth of revenue and dominant market share flowing through the US economy.

For now, his focus remains on bringing tech startups and jobs to cities and towns between the coasts – the main theme of his book. It was a tough job with a staggering 75% of technology venture capital still going to California, New York, Massachusetts and the other major tech hubs.

“The idea is of a more level playing field,” Case said. He said the pandemic and the tectonic shift of workers to work from home has accelerated the decamping of tech workers and resources from Silicon Valley and elsewhere to the Midwest and South.

“Detroit a hundred years ago was essentially Silicon Valley,” Case said. “Silicon Valley grew fruit [then]. But Detroit got lost and eventually went bankrupt. Now it’s coming back with a few tech companies. It shows what’s possible in starting a business” outside the San Francisco Bay Area and New York.

Gain insight into investing and managing your finances. Speakers include investors Josh Brown and Vivek Ramaswamy; plus topics like ESG investing, EVs, aerospace and fintech. The Best New Ideas in Money Festival continues on Thursday. Sign up to participate in person or virtually

-Jon Swartz


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

21-09-22 1315ET

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