J.D. Vance on Being a Zealot for Your Ecosystem

Growing up in a rural town often means that people are only exposed to the businesses and experiences available in their bubble. And while one might hear about technology happening in the world and in nearby big cities, the thought of connecting with those people or working with those companies may seem like an unlikely option.

As a young kid, New York Times Bestselling author and Veteran J.D. Vance moved from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio where his grandparent’s, aunt, uncle, sister, and most of all his mother, struggled with the upward mobility to a middle-class life and was never fully able to escape the history of abuse, alcoholism and poverty. The thought of becoming a tech icon was far from a realism for Vance.

It wasn’t until he entered the Marine Corps after high school and went on to graduate from the Ohio State University and Yale Law School that he saw the world in a different light.

In his new book Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis Vance takes a deep look into the white working-class Americans who exist in the Rust Belt from the perspective of someone who was raised in that environment. Vance writes using his own personal experience and understanding of this group of people to deliver an insightful exploration of what it’s like to be in such a struggle of class, society, and region. Vance uses his roots in Middletown, Ohio to paint the picture of how difficult it is to experience upward mobility in such dismal circumstances and meditate on why and how the American dream is falling out of grasp for so many Americans.



At the Rise of the Rest Summit, Steve Case talked with J.D. Vance about how to bridge ecosystems around entrepreneurship. Vance shared his deep rooted passion to help people in rural areas realize opportunities and possibilities out in the world as well as help smaller communities build companies and create jobs.

“There is a huge mismatch of jobs that people want to do or they know are out there, but they don’t even know the training they need for those opportunities,” Vance said.

Vance stressed the importance of those working in the larger tech ecosystems to take the time and connect with young people in their rural cities to bridge the gap and shine a light on what is possible.

“It’s impossible to overstate how important it is to get involved on the ground level. If you’re a kid who has absolutely no exposure to entrepreneurs or the startup ecosystem and [someone comes to] volunteer and talk about the tech ecosystem in your city, having access to that person makes it seem more realistic and accessible. When you expose people that don’t know enough about the work that you are doing it could be incredibly powerful to [them] and can create future synergy and employees,” Vance said.

Around the country, there are startups in the most unlikely cities creating amazing companies and innovations, but we don’t hear enough about them. Vance said that each ecosystem needs to start making noise and spreading the information throughout their communities that innovation is happening and in turn the noise could attract more investments.

“We should all be zealots for [our communities] and bring attention to the good things that are happening in our ecosystems. We are all in this together and making an effort to expand cities,” Vance said.

Co-authored with Jacob Faber

Photo: Flickr / Fusion-of-Horizons

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Written by:
Tishin is a technology journalist and correspondent. She has written for TechCrunch, Demand Studios and Fitness, and has regular network segments on local Phoenix affiliate stations. She holds a Master's degree in Clinical and Sport psychology, and has covered many areas of technology ranging from 3D printing and game development to neurotech and funding for over 15 years.
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