It’s so fun to know smart people that do amazing things. As you’ll read in this week’s edition of The Spark, if you work in technology, that’s pretty much guaranteed. That’s one of the many reasons I love this tech community between the coasts.

This week, Mary Grove and Brett Brohl announced that they’re teaming up in Minnesota to form Bread & Butter Ventures. Their fund will give seed-stage investment to companies that draw on Minnesota’s historic experience in food, agriculture, healthcare, and enterprise software. We’ll have Mary & Brett on the podcast later this summer and I’m sure we’ll hear an update. (I’ll try to come up with some more bread and food puns in the meantime, too.)

It’s not just geographic communities like Minnesota being sustained by the launch of new investment funds. Lightship Capital and SecondMuse launched a $50m venture capital fund dedicated to investing in Midwest, minority-led startups. We call that a win.

In Today’s Edition of the Spark:

       💥Don’t Call It a Backlash!

       💪COVID Can’t Touch This

       🏳️‍🌈Tech Needs Pride (& Speaks Up About It!)


PS: Just when you thought there were no launches left, we’re launching a new feature of our Culture Directory later this month to help you explore more of the tech hubs we write about each week in The Spark. More on this soon.

This Week’s Top Stories…

🏁Race for Tech-cellence Continues

Vroom vroom. Middle America is catching up to the coasts. The Midwest, Plains, and South are building community engines for technology startups. Startup Genome just released its newest rankings for the Top 30 Global Startup Ecosystems. Of those, 7 tech hubs in Middle America made the list, including: 

  • Chicago
  • Austin
  • Atlanta
  • Denver-Boulder
  • Los Angeles
  • San Diego
  • Washington D.C.

But that’s just one list where cities not usually associated with tech are exploding onto the scene. In Charlotte, North Carolina, the West Coast fintech company Figure has expanded its operations and begun hiring folks to help them grow their blockchain business. Dallas and Tampa Bay each landed just outside the Top 30 and will be jockeying for a spot on next year’s list. 

Then there are whole states no one is looking out for, like Wisconsin, which doesn’t feature a city in the top 30 or 40 but is still projected to undergo huge growth in medtech and biotech. There’s all kinds of communities where growth is beginning, or deepening. We’re happy to see the brilliance continues to shine from more common places. 

📢Don’t Call It a Backlash!

When it comes to criticism, no tech company is too big to fail. Some may call it backlash, others a learning curve, but regardless there is still much for big Silicon Valley companies to consider. Facebook has seen backlash from advertisers over their inaction toward misinformation and hate speech. One group, Stop Hate for Profit, has successfully convinced dozens of large businesses to stop advertising with the social media giant until founder Mark Zuckerberg takes a stance on banning extremist posts. 

Meanwhile, Pierre Omidyar, the former founder of eBay, has quietly been backing and supporting antitrust efforts against Google, Amazon, and Facebook. Omidyar played a large role in the efforts to convince Google to stop selling AI technology to the Pentagon. He stands alongside other vocal entrepreneurs like David Heinemeier Hansson, co-founder of Basecamp. Hansson frequently criticizes major Silicon Valley companies’ approach to power and culture. 

While corporations are undoubtedly capable of wielding immense power, the feedback of their customers and employees must be taken into account if they want to survive.

💪COVID Can’t Touch This

In spite of a global pandemic, many tech industries are healthy. One of the biggest recovery leaders is machine learning and artificial intelligence. This year’s Disruptor 50 list has over 30 businesses citing that AI & machine learning are essential to the work they do.

Other industries continuing to thrive are those that meet new consumer needs, habits, and preferences. This includes industries like digital payments, online shopping, robot deliveries, distance learning, and telehealth. Telehealth specifically saw a 15x growth in just over three weeks from mid-march to early April. Whether you’re an investor, a prospective tech employee or just an outside spectator, the industries to engage with are right in front of our noses – which are hopefully safely underneath our cloth masks. 

🌱Growers Grow Where They’re Planted

VCs and accelerators know what side their bread is buttered on. The answer is investing in local economies and regional strengths. That’s the intention of Mary Grove and cofounder Brett Brohl, who this week announced the launch of Bread & Butter Ventures. Bread & Butter is a seed stage fund investing in “problem solving companies,” particularly in food, agtech, healthcare, and enterprise software. “I definitely feel like I’m getting a backseat education on Minnesota’s economy,” said Grove, ”and even more conviction to want to jump in.”

Bread & Butter also points to a positive, growing trend for accelerators, specifically a move away from major markets like Silicon Valley or New York City. Make room for specialized or niche investments, just as special as the communities that create them. 

In Atlanta, VCs LaunchPad2x and Zane Venture Fund, have joined forces to prioritize funding for local women-led startups. Indianapolis’ Techstars Sports Accelerator Class, is a mentorship-driven program aimed at helping sports technology startups. And for those who want to attract investment, world-famous Y Combinator has taken its accelerator entirely remote, providing an opportunity to learn and grow your startup right from home, wherever that may be. We love to see the growth of local venture capital funds because it demonstrates each community’s passion for funding its own growth. Keep it up, everyone!

🏳️‍🌈Tech Speaks Up For Pride

June is an iconic month for recognizing equality and progress. This year it was not just conversations, but changes in the world around us. Arlan Hamilton, founder of Backstage Capital, recently tweeted a powerful call for the tech and startup community to listen and believe the underserved about the limits on their experiences. Only 76% of LGBTQ+ employees feel safe in their workplaces, and only 64% of trans or non-binary employees feel safe.

A big part of feeling safe is feeling welcome. Tech leaders in communities between the coasts are stepping up to advocate for LGBTQ+ inclusion in tech. As reported by McKinsey’s 2019 business and inclusion research, diversity and inclusion are like apples and oranges. While LGBTQ+ people might be on the team, their perspective doesn’t always get included.

What does promoting inclusion look like in action? 

There is still so much work to be done in the tech community’s focus on inclusion and diversity, so make sure you’re doing your part to improve the dialogue surrounding the LGBTQ+ community’s safety in the tech space.


Top fundings, acquisitions, and IPOs happening between the coasts.


Atlanta, GA

  • Urjanet, the world’s leading utility account aggregator, closed a $14.65 million Series D round led by Equifax and including existing investors Oak HC/FT, Pete Kight, Grotech Ventures and Correlation Ventures.

Austin, TX

  • Hoss raised $1.6 million in seed funding. Among other growth, this will fund the launch of a freemium version of its API tracking product. All this after completing Y Combinator!
  • OJO Labs has made a name with its AI assistant to help home buyers and sellers make informed decisions. Now, it’s announced a $62.5 million investment round led by Wafra. 

Charlotte, NC

Chicago, IL 

Denver, CO

  • CoPeace raised $1.6 million to fund startups committed to generating a positive social impact. They plan to address public health, education, and financial accessibility issues. 
  • The mobile health startup DispatchHealth closed a $136M Series C investment led by Optum Ventures. The round includes existing investors Alta Partners, Questa Capital, Echo Health Ventures along with new investors Oak HC/FT and Humana Inc.
  • Wearable technology startup Cipher Skin closed a $1.5 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense. The company designs devices to monitor body motion and biometric data.

Frisco, TX

Indianapolis, IN

Los Angeles, CA

  • Pipe, a subscription-based financing platform for SaaS companies, has raised $60 million in its seed round extension. 

Medical Alley, MN

San Diego, CA

Winston-Salem, NC


Know someone looking for a new gig? The economy is unpredictable right now, but startups in the middle of the country are still hiring.

We have a few of our Top Powderkeg Picks below:

Companies who are hiring:

Austin, TX 

  • Dosh is a cash-back rewards app for shoppers, hiring sales directors, an implementation engineer, a Director of Digital Comms/Brand Experience, and Senior Manager of Strategic Partnerships.
  • SailPoint offers identity and access management software, hiring in multiple strategic sales positions and engineering positions.

Chicago, IL

  • Otus is a learning management and assessment platform, hiring front-end engineers, full stack web engineers (including a lead) and a data engineer.

Denver, CO 

  • LogRhythm helps organizations detect and stop cyber threats, hiring customer care professionals, marketers, engineers, and developers.
  • Snowflake is a cloud platform provider hiring in customer support, finance, IT, and HR roles across the US and globe.

Indianapolis, IN

  • Emplify helps employers listen to their employees, and is hiring sales development reps, an employee engagement coach, and a manager of consulting services.
  • Greenlight Guru is medical device quality management software, hiring in product development and sales. 

Raleigh, NC 

  • Pendo helps product teams build great digital experiences, and is hiring front-end and back-end engineers, product and design experts, and a Director of Diversity, Quality, & Inclusion.


Know someone looking to make a hire? You might be able to help someone in the Powderkeg community with these job matching opportunities.

Take a look at some of the individual profiles below to see if you might be able to refer someone.

Chandy Littlejohn | Project Manager

Location Preference: Memphis

Chandy is a Project Management Professional with a focus on software development and testing. As a proven leader of delivery in a highly evolving landscape of digital transformations. Chandy has led agile teams for, mobile apps, property systems, and Salesforce systems. Recently, transforming the entire software testing delivery to behavior-driven development using, Selenium, React, GraphQL, Cucumber, and Node.js.

Jamie Boelman | Front-End Developer 

Location Preference: Boulder; Chicago; Cincinnati; Denver; Indianapolis; Kansas City; Cleveland; Detroit; Minneapolis; St. Louis; Other

Jamie has six years of experience as a front-end developer. He has built websites from scratch, both static and using the WordPress CMS. CSS is Jamie’s favorite language to write and loves the process of taking a PSD design and bringing it to life. He has experience using jQuery and is looking for a job where he can round out his jQuery/Javascript skills with more experience and learn and grow as a developer.

Anonymous | Marketing & Sales Leader

Location Preference: Willing to relocate

Anonymous is a founder, sales, and marketing leader who has helped create two tech products from concept to sales execution. They demonstrate the ability to develop and lead diverse teams for maximum efficiency. Their varied background allows for out of the box thinking and decision making.

Chris Kraft | Senior Front End Developer 

Location Preference:  Cincinnati; Indianapolis

Chris has 20+ years of experience in front-end web design, front-end web development, user experience, graphic design, and marketing. He’s an expert at HTML, CSS, and Adobe apps. Chris also has experience with JavaScript, React, Angular, Node, Express, SQL, Git, and Agile. He recently completed a 12-week web development boot camp at Eleven Fifty Academy.

Intrigued? Interested? Reach out to Powderkeg here if you’d like an introduction or just know a good company where any of these all-stars might make a good fit.


Get the inside scoop on even more interesting companies, stories, and strategies to help you reach your full potential.

  1. Chris Ducker shares how personal brand can grow your impact
  2. Yaw Aning Of Malomo explains how shipment tracking becomes a powerful marketing channel
  3. Read Ginovus’ Larry Gigerich on how tech companies are adapting their workspace to the new ideal
  4. Arlan Hamilton shares notes for LGBTQ+ founders on Bootstrapped VC
  5. Reskill America is giving away thousands of dollars to help people find a career in tech.
  6. Get the inside scoop on what every startup needs to know about investor pitch decks.

This email was curated by Alexander, Meg, Casey, Nick, and myself from the Powderkeg team, and written with the help of our friends at Metonymy Media. These are just some of the amazing stories happening around us every day.

Got 30 seconds? Share some good news with us! The Powderkeg team will share the best stories in an upcoming virtual event, on social, or in a future blog post.

Let us know!

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