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AOL's founder sees the future in Chicago

Tech entrepreneurs looking for capital, take note.

AOL co-founder Steve Case, who now runs investor funds that mentor entrepreneurs, is on the lookout for ventures to boost.

“I’m a big believer in Chicago,” he said, speaking at an event at the 1871 tech hub auditorium Monday. “We believe (Chicago) is an example of the ‘rise of the rest’ and will be one of the great tech regions 10 years from now.”

Case used the term ‘rise of the rest’ to describe regions outside of Silicon Valley where entrepreneurial growth will flourish. In fact, Case said America needs to be less reliant on Silicon Valley and look to entrepreneurial growth elsewhere.

“If America wants to remain the leader of the free world, it needs to remain the leader of entrepreneurship,” he said. “It’s central to the future of the nation.”

One of Case’s venture firms, Revolution Growth, last year participated with New Enterprise Associates in a $6 million venture capital investment in Chicago-based BenchPrep, a startup aimed at letting students study for any subject from any publisher, on the Web or using any type of mobile device.

Case said other critical measures to America’s entrepreneurial competitiveness are comprehensive immigration reform in order to keep talent in the U.S.

Other advice:

-The key to success is employee passion and an energetic culture.

-The downside of starting a company today is breaking through the clutter to win attention.

-Internet’s second wave will disrupt education, health care and other big industries, but partnering with these industries may be the best strategy.

ABOVE: Steve Case (right) and 1871 interim CEO Jim O’Connor host a “fireside chat” for entrepreneurs. Photo by Sandra Guy