The difference between a good idea and a business often comes down to money.

Venture capital firms invested more than $47 billion in startup companies across the country last year, but 75 percent of that went to firms in California, New York or Massachusetts.

So, AOL co-founder Steve Case is on the road across the rest of the country looking for the best ideas for new businesses and putting his own money behind them. His bus tour stopped in Raleigh and Durham Tuesday to hear pitches from eight entrepreneurs – the startups were chosen from 100 applicants and included everything from a candy company to a Web-based educational tool – for his Rise of the Rest program.

Case said he likes big ideas – “Ideas that can change the world. Something around health or education or energy or transportation.” – and the Triangle is rich with business talent.

“I think the Triangle has a great history of entrepreneurship in a variety of different areas because of the universities in the area,” he said. “One of the tragedies in the past (is) people grew up here and left, and now they’re sticking around.”

Still, he acknowledged that the biggest need for local startups is access to capital.

“Hopefully, they’ll get more attention and get other investors,” he said. “How do you then surround that talent with that sense of community and support, including getting people investing in the startups within the community?”

Jenny Bonchak, who started Slingshot Coffee, a hand-crafted cold-brew coffee, with her husband, was one of the first entrepreneurs to meet Case during a Tuesday morning visit to American Underground, a location for startups in downtown Raleigh.

“There’s so much happening here, from food ventures to tech ventures, and just the personality of this city is so exciting and so great, I can see why it’s an easy selection for him to choose Raleigh,” Bonchak said.

Triangle entrepreneur Bill Spruill said the attention garnered by being part of Case’s third bus tour will benefit the region and educate locals about what startups can mean for the community.

“People starting companies generate jobs, generate opportunities for their neighbors,” Spruill said, adding that the competition “means we are continuing to rise on the radar screen on a national and global basis.”

Archive Social, a 3-year-old Durham company that provides social media archiving, monitoring and analytics for legal compliance, won $100,000 from the Rise of the Rest competition.

“We’ve been able to accomplish a lot with a little bit of money. So, for us, $100,000 goes a long way,” Archive Social founder Anhil Chawla said. “Our produce has been market-leading, but our competitors are looking at us. They’re trying to catch up. This (money) allows us to hire more developers faster.

“We have a really talented team, but we can grow much sooner and really build an amazing company here in Durham,” Chawla added.

Case then left the local entrepreneurs with one important lesson: No matter what they do, never focus purely on profit. Have a purpose.