By Fran Dauth
Like a lot of McLean residents who have been wildly and financially successful, McLean neighbor Steve Case knows what it’s like to start small.
If you thought we were talking about how Case took a relatively unknown company and turned it into AOL, you’d be wrong.
We’re talking about the time when the now-billionaire was 6 years old in Honolulu and he and his older brother set up a stand to sell lime juice for two cents a cup. Later, according to biography.com, the two lads sold seeds and greeting cards door to door. Now there’s a guy who knows about start-ups.
Which probably is why Case, the former co-founder and CEO of AOL, was so committed to the passage of the JOBS Act (Jump-start Our Business Start-up), which President Obama is scheduled to sign Thursday.
The legislation, which got final approval last week makes it easier for entrepreneurs to raise capital to start new companies. Among the provisions are ones that loosen regulations governing smaller companies seeking to go public such as audited financial statements required for an IPO.
“Capital is not adequately deployed across the nation and this will be another tool that will help provide capital to underserved regions,” Case told the Washington Post. “Overall, that will be a good thing for innovation and for job creation,” he said.
While the legislation received strong support in both the House and Senate, some, such as AARP, expressed concern that the “crowdfunding” aspect might allow some unsophisticated, small investors to be swindled. That led to a Senate amendment that tightens the rules on how much small investors can put into a startup.
Case told the Post he thinks the Senate amendment and other protections in the law will safeguard investors. “The amendment helps strike a reasonable balance between providing the capital people need and at the same time doing it in a way that provides a responsible way of protecting investors,” he said.
Politico.com noted that Case, an independent, with friends in both parties, worked with fellow Virginian, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-7th District), in getting the JOBS bill passed.
“Steve Case played a big role in the success of the JOBS Act by generating support amongst the startup and business community through his online efforts,” Cantor told the website. “He also made sure members on both sides of the aisle understood the benefits this legislation will have for our nation’s startups and small businesses.”
In an interview with Politico, Case gave credit to others and said his role had been that of a “cheerleader/connector” role. Case, who has 500,000 followers on Twitter, often tweeted about the bill.
Another Virginian whom Case counts as a friend, Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat, told Politico that Case’s interest in policy issues is relatively new. “He had the normal technology guy’s disdain for it, but he knew you couldn’t just engage on the philanthropic side,” Warner told Politico.
Case was named co-chair of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Commerce Department in 2010.
Last year, President Obama appointed Case chairman of the Startup America Partnership. He also joined the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
Case and his wife Jean live in McLean in a mansion along the Potomac River that once was the childhood home of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.