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How to Fundraise in the Midwest with Venture Capitalist Don Aquilano and Entrepreneurs Shwetha Pai and Brian Powers

Posted August 21, 2018

Matt Hunckler

CEO, Powderkeg

The data has shown that fundraising is a different kind of beast for Midwest-based startups. Unlike the investing scene in Silicon Valley, which is characterized by fierce competition and bullish investors, fundraising in the Midwest is grounded in a foundation of collaboration and strong relationships. There is funding out there for innovative, fast-growing tech companies in America’s heartland, but founders will struggle to secure it if they try to follow a coastal playbook.

In this first episode of Powderkeg: Igniting Startups’ second season, we dive deep into the intricacies of fundraising in the Midwest with a new and improved episode format. Our first guest, Don Aquilano, is an Indianapolis-based venture capitalist who started his career at major firms in New York. With his decades of experience between the East Coast and Midwest tech ecosystems, he has an intimate understanding of the national investment landscape. He’s joined by Shwetha Pai and Brian Powers, two experienced startup founders who bring knowledge of what it’s like “in the trenches” for Midwest tech entrepreneurs today.

Together, our three guests paint an in-depth picture of the non-Valley fundraising landscape and offer invaluable tips and strategies for finding funding the Midwestern way. Don, Shwetha, and Brian discuss such pressing topics as why you should or shouldn’t seek funding for your startup, which investors you should talk to and how to build relationships with them, and what the current state of Midwest tech investing says about the future.

In this episode with Don Aquilano, Shwetha Pai and Brian Powers, you’ll learn:

  • Statistics that show why Midwest tech investing is on the rise (5:37).
  • How to start building relationships with investors before you fundraise (14:02).
  • Reasons why your startup should or should not seek funding (20:47).
  • Who you should raise from and how to approach dealings with coastal VCs (31:47).
  • What makes Cincinnati a great place to grow a tech startup today (37:19).

Please enjoy this conversation with Don Aquilano, Shwetha Pai and Brian Powers!

If you like this episode, please subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes. You can also follow us on Soundcloud or Stitcher. We have an incredible lineup of interviews we’ll be releasing every Tuesday here on the Powderkeg Podcast.

Don Aquilano, Shwetha Pai and Brian Powers quotes from this episode of Powderkeg:

Links and resources mentioned in this episode:

Companies and organizations:



Boston Consulting Group




Interactive Intelligence









Angie’s List

Taft Law


Venture capital firms:

Allos Ventures

Battery Ventures

Collina Ventures


Harvard University

Stanford Law School


Powderkeg: Igniting Startups #53 on the Indianapolis Tech Census

Powderkeg: Igniting Startups #39 with Don Aquilano and Haresh Gangwani


CB Insights



Don Aquilano (LinkedIn)

Shwetha Pai (LinkedIn)

Brian Powers (@indyattorney)

Haresh Gangwani (LinkedIn)

Mark Hill (LinkedIn)



Matt Hunckler

CEO, Powderkeg

Matt is the founder and CEO of Powderkeg, a network of local communities with global reach for tech entrepreneurs, investors, and top talent. Powderkeg entrepreneurs have collectively raised more than $1 Billion in capital and are disrupting industries, creating wealth, and changing the world from areas beyond Silicon Valley. Hunckler has led successful teams with his own ventures, as well as Inc. 500 companies and venture-funded tech startups. He's been named an Under 30 CEO Entrepreneur to Watch and an IBJ Forty Under 40 Honoree for his entrepreneurial endeavors. @hunckler