If you can’t buy ‘em, keep competing. Isn’t that a saying? If not, someone call Uber… 

After missing out on the opportunity to acquire Chicago-based Grubhub last month, Uber this week bought delivery service Postmates for around $2.6B. This move is projected to slightly consolidate the food delivery market, and maybe help drivers gain income, since ridesharing might not be making a comeback any time soon.

Speaking of comebacks-yet-to-happen, the advertising backlash against Facebook continues. Over 500 advertisers have paused spending on the platform until concerns about hate speech & harmful rhetoric are resolved. Instead, Zuckerberg told staff in a memo that he won’t “capitulate” to pressure from anyone.

Facebook’s valuation dipped by over $70B last week, and though stocks have recovered, what about morale? 

As the foes of Hamilton would say (er, sing? rap?), “Let’s follow the money and see where it goes.” More and more tech employees are recognizing that safety, comfort, and convenience can often be found in greater amounts for more affordable rates outside mega cities.

Money talks, but it speaks many languages. Those who can listen stand to succeed the most. Below, you’ll find what we’ve been hearing this past week.

In This Week’s Spark:

  • 💥Tech Summer of Love
  • 📈Digital Health’s COVID Growth Spurt
  • 🌱Heartland Home-Grows Diversity

—Matt

PS: Save the date for July 30, 3:30-5:30 PM EST. We’re hosting a virtual event uncovering the biggest opportunities and trends in one of America’s fastest-growing tech hubs—Indianapolis. You’ll get to hear from key influencers, trendsetters, and tastemakers in tech while meeting one of the nation’s best-kept secrets…which is confusing, considering it’s America’s Crossroads. To be the first to know when registration opens…

Join the Waitlist Here.


This Week’s Top Stories…

🌻Midwest Tech Summer of Love

It’s not the heat; it’s the humidity. More and more non-traditional tech markets are transforming into bona-fide hubs, due primarily to strong senses of community that support high quality talent. One result of the hustle and determination put in by these community leaders is an increase in venture funding availability and interest.

Chicago startups raised a reported $200M in June after investing significantly slowed in both April and May. Remember when we celebrated $62M in a May edition of The Spark? This month, large fundraising rounds by LanzaTech and M1 Finance helped eclipse the downturn in the Windy City.


The upward trend continued across the Heartland in Austin. The city’s startups raised a combined $193M last month, led by a $118M raise by Shattuck Labs. In Wisconsin, technology startups are also pulling in record numbers of investments; new data shows that in 2019, the Badger State attracted a state-record-breaking $454 million in just 123 deals.

So what do these numbers mean, aside from a confirmation of general awesomeness? 

The environment for innovation is being disrupted and broadened. We can’t wait to see what heat Q3 brings to startups between the coasts.

📈Digital Health’s COVID Growth Spurt

Our national fight against COVID is still in round 1. But during the ongoing pandemic, numerous health startups continue to close big investments. The behavioral health industry has raised $588 million in funding for tech startups since the pandemic began, in part due to new stresses and need for mental health services. But even before the pandemic really set in, digital health startups as a whole raised $3.1B in Q1 2020 alone. In short, technology is the future of healthcare–but we knew that already.

We were excited to come across CB Insights’ United States of Digital Health Startups map and see the biggest health tech startups in the middle of the country. All these companies are leveraging data to help clinicians, patients, and/or employers make better decisions about healthcare.

  • Springbuk (IN)
  • Tempus (IL)
  • Illumicare (AL)
  • Welltok (CO)
  • Strata Oncology (MI)

Honorable mentions: in New Mexico, Viome is making breakthroughs in gut microbiome research, and healthcare API company Redox is becoming an industry leader in Wisconsin. It’s great to see so many businesses thriving with the potential to keep growing during and after the pandemic.

🌿Heartland Home-Grows Diversity

Diversity doesn’t happen without deliberate action. If you need proof, just listen to Black founders and CEOs in Chicago talking about the difficulty they face during fundraising. 

Feyi Olopade Ayodele, the CEO of CancerIQ, is one of many Chicago founders working to address a community where only 2% of Chicago founders are black. Nationwide data shows that only 2.7% of executives at big tech firms are Black or Latinx, suggesting that even executive headhunters might be perpetuating bias.

For many in the BIPOC community, the solution is to create their own change. In Wisconsin, Jet Constellations launched a $50 million fund for investing in black and POC-lead tech companies in the 5G, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things sectors. The Atlanta tech community is uniting, where Opportunity Hub co-founder Rodney Sampson recently raised $1 million to support racial equality in tech, all in less than a month. 

Tech employees are also calling for changes within their own companies. Led by Lawrence Humphrey, a consultant at IBM, black employees in Austin have compiled a thorough playbook for fighting racism in tech. Startups, founders, and tech professionals like these prove that real justice in tech takes effort and engagement at all levels, but is an achievable goal.

🗓Event Startups Make Digital Migration

If you can’t adapt, you can’t survive. (High school biology, anyone?) Event startups across the US are experiencing the truth of this statement right now. 

While Eventbrite’s CEO Julia Hartz says there are exciting signs of recovery in the event space, many experts predict that events as we once knew them might never return in the same way. Bye bye, conference swag?


If you’re not ready to quit on events just yet, don’t worry, most others agree with you. Many event startups have taken successful steps to pivot and survive the economic downturn until the day we can all meet again—literally.

One Birmingham, AL startup that recently pitched Live on the Powderkeg virtual stage and is gaining national recognition has pivoted so successfully into the digital realm they’re getting featured for it. Mixtroz COO and co-founder Ashlee Ammons has shared her story with the Powderkeg community before, including how in 45 days, she and her team wrote their own video platform. Virtual congrats to the team over at Mixtroz!

And it’s not just the event experience that is going digital, but everything surrounding it. Like payments–in Austin, Oveit is making it easy to monetize and fund your digital events with cashless and secure transactions. Or planning–New Jersey-based EventCombo provides a large-scale conferencing solution with immediate analysis to help plan future events. If you don’t want to plan but do want to participate Atlanta-based app, Vendorspace is a resource for you.

At Powderkeg, we’ve been hosting all-virtual livestreams and events for the past few months and are continuing to monitor the Coronavirus epidemic as it continues. 

For now, we’re staying all virtual and hosting our next big event on July 30th where we’re having a virtual celebration of the Indianapolis tech community, with startup pitches, fireside chats from local leaders, and the release of our new City Pages helping you get to know the region. Hope to see you there! (Virtually, of course.)  

🎓Higher Ed’s COVID Test…Still Pending

The debate to attend college class or skip used to be fun. But for students entering the 2020-2021 academic year, it’s a future-defining concern. Many institutions plan to take education partially or fully virtual to protect students, faculty, and staff against COVID-19. But with many also planning to charge full tuition, students are debating if the investment is worth it. These institutions are scrambling to implement remote learning, and students have some reason to doubt the quality of experience will be worth their full tuition. 

Indianapolis publisher Wiley, Utah-based communications app Pronto, and Toronto higher education app Top Hat are some of the tech companies offering free use of their products to colleges and universities to help them make necessary pivots.

But universities who want to retain international students may not be able to keep their plans. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Monday that international students must attend at least some classes in-person or depart the country

Coming to the US to take online-only courses has always been prohibited, but many higher-ed institutions were hoping for more flexibility to allow them to weather this crisis safely. International students contribute around 30% of the tuition and fees that fund public universities, despite being only 12% of the student population.


This is part of the reason Harvard and MIT have already filed a lawsuit about the international student ruling. Not only will the future global talent pipeline be affected by the expulsion of willing international students from US shores, but some institutions might also have to close doors for good if domestic students decide to save their money and take a gap year.


EXPLODING WITH OPPORTUNITY

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

Atlanta, GA

Austin, TX 

Baltimore, MD

  • Protaryx, the medical technology company specializing in cardiac procedures, announced their round of $8.3 million in financing.        

Dallas, TX 

Holland, MI

Indianapolis, IN

 Los Angeles, CA

  • Airvet, a remote veterinarian service aimed to provide better care pets and their owners, has closed a $14 million Series A round.

 Minneapolis, MN

  • Fast-growing logistics startup Dispatch announced it has raised $11 million in funding. The company has been in a hiring push, and will use the funds to continue growing.

San Diego, CA 


STARTUPS STILL HIRING

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:
  • Indianapolis, IN
    • Socio is an app for event organizers hiring in customer success, sales, and a Director of Services.
    • Boardable helps board members stay organized and connected, hiring a product support technician.
    • Covideo is a personalized video messaging tool
  • Austin, TX
    • Televet is a platform to connect veterinarians and clients, hiring engineers, developers, sales staff, marketing, and more.
    • Pushnami is a push notification automation platform hiring designers, engineers, content marketers, analysts, product managers, and more.
  • Denver, CO
    • Sovrn is a publishing technology platform hiring in sales, customer success, marketing, the legal division, and more.
    • BillGo is a bill payment innovation platform hiring many types and levels of software engineers, a sales professional, and a remote Director of Enterprise Alliances.
  • Various Locations or Remote
    • Flatfile is a database management platform hiring account and sales executives, engineers, and designers.
    • Magic Leap is a wearable VR tech company hiring in hardware, software, automation, and at many levels of specific software engineering.
    • ReCharge helps businesses launch and scale subscription services, hiring in engineering, finance, and marketing.
    • Otus is an eLearning performance dashboard hiring full-stack, back-end, and front-end engineers.

💥💥COMMUNITY-POWERED JOB MATCHING

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.

Dave Goldshmidt | Marketer, Consultant, and Entrepreneur 

Location Preference: Detroit, Remote

Dave is a marketer, consultant, and entrepreneur. He’s an expert in creating and marketing innovative, revenue-generating solutions to real problems, and helping others do the same. He’s managed a $20 million solution suite and launched two industry-exclusive mobile apps that present competitive sales and rebate/incentive data near real-time.

Anonymous | Chief of Staff & Operations Leader

Location Preference: Indianapolis, Remote

This Operations Leader has a strong healthcare and health tech background but can plug into any high-growth tech company.  They specialize in helping high-growth companies scale. They’ve helped grow and train teams, including one team that grew 3x in 18 months.

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.


IGNITING POTENTIAL

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

  1. Scaling Up Business Branding–Insights from Tiffany Sauder of Element Three
  2. CLA Helps Businesses Avoid Financial Mistakes That Limit Growth
  3. Indy Tech Gives Calling on Trivia Teams for Youth Fundraising
  4. Virtual COVID-19 Innovation Showcase: Because Midwest is Best
  5. Looking to Hire More Diverse Talent? Check Out Diversify Tech’s Talent Pool
  6. Unemployed? Need a Boost? Book a Free Professional Headshot Session for 7/22

This blog posts 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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