Did you miss the Bitcoin blitz or did you HODL? 

Tesla’s play to buy up $1.5 billion in Bitcoin earlier this week bumped the price of the cryptocurrency even higher. I’m no financial expert—nor do I play one on the internet—but I’d argue that the bigger investment opportunity is the $4 trillion in unrealized value in VC that still exists due to lack of diversity. 

This week’s edition of The Spark gives you a first look at how some are looking to unlock the full potential in this space with a new investment strategy, led by Backstage Capital founder and Unvalley conference speaker, Arlan Hamilton. 

You will also get a look at one of the more exciting things happening in the public markets with Kentucky-based App Harvest’s IPO, which soared 44% last Monday in its SPAC debut. 

We’ll talk about all of this later on Clubhouse, the audio chat room app covered in one of our top stories this week and that already has a $1 Billion+ valuation. But you can also expect us to talk about some of this week’s larger funding announcements like Cincinnati-based Coterie and Durham-based Pairwise Plants. 

You’ll find all of that and more in this week’s edition of The Spark: 

  • 🤑 Crowdfund the Future
  • 🍅 Vine-ripened IPO
  • 🎉 Party in the Club

—Matt

P.S. Give me a follow @Hunckler if you’re already on Clubhouse (or let me know if you still need an invite). I want to try something new with our Powderkeg community on there and I’d love to include you.

💥THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES

🤑Crowdfunding the Future

Last week Arlan Hamilton raised more than $1 Million for Black LGBTQ+ and underrepresented founders – and she did it in just 9 hours, using equity crowdfunding. 

Right now:

  • There is $4 trillion unrealized value in VC due to lack of diversity 
  • Over 80% of VC firms don’t have a single Black investor
  • Only 1% of venture-funded startups are led by a Black founder

But the revolution has begun, and Arlan is leading the way with her crowdfunding approach. More VCs will likely follow Arlan’s lead, working to reduce racial disparities in the industry.

There’s still so much untapped potential that is being unlocked by the next generation of Black VCs and entrepreneurs. So be sure to check out Pitchbook’s new list of 50+ Black founders and investors to watch in 2021.

🍅 Vine-ripened IPO

Agrifoodtech startup AppHarvest recently announced a merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Novus Capital that enabled the Kentucky-based company to go public with a valuation of $1 billion.

AppHarvest grows all their fruits and vegetables hydroponically in super-sized greenhouses, a technique that requires no soil and far less water than traditional farming.

Quick AppHarvest facts:

  • AppHarvest will produce approximately 45 million pounds of tomatoes in Kentucky every year
  • AppHarvest’s leaders are dedicated to providing more jobs in areas of the U.S. that have been hard hit by the collapse of the coal industry. 
  • AppHarvest is planning to add a dozen more hydroponic farms in Appalachia by the year 2025.

The Rise of the Rest was one of AppHarvest’s investors, and you can check out Steve Case’s Squawk Box conversation about the SPAC deal with AppHarvest founder and CEO Jonathan Webb.

🎉Party in the Club

All the chatter on VC Twitter lately seems to be about Clubhouse, the audio chat room app – and the latest stats seem to show that Clubhouse might be more than just a flash in the social media pan. Highlights:

  • 6 million registered users (up from just 600,000 in December 2020 and 2 million in January 2021)
  • $10 million in funding raised
  • $1 billion valuation (up from $100 million in May 2020)

Source: Backlinko

But Clubhouse is exclusive, and some say it has a Silicon Valley “boys club” vibe. The app is currently invite-only, and you can only get it on iPhones, so the conversation still has a strong center of gravity in the Valley. 

That said, AOL co-founder and Rise of the Rest champion Steve Case was on Clubhouse last night chatting it up with “How I Built This” host Guy Raz. Elon and Kanye are going to have to bring the heat to top that convo. 

How will this app continue to proliferate through the Unvalley?

Give Powderkeg founder @Hunckler a follow if you’re already on Clubhouse and we’ll send you an invite to a little experiment we’re doing with the Powderkeg community.

💥EXPLODING WITH OPPORTUNITY

Top fundings, acquisitions, and IPOs between the coasts.

Boston, MA

Metalenz, a startup that manufactures and sells meta-optics into high volume applications, has raised $10M in Series A funding.

SpectraWAVE, a company that develops optical diagnostic and therapeutic devices, announced a $13.2 million Series A-2 financing led by Deerfield Management. 

Cincinnati, OH

Coterie Insurance, which simplifies small business insurance, announced they have raised $11.5M in Series A-1 financing led by Intact Ventures.

Durham, NC

Pairwise Plants, a purpose-driven food+tech company, announced the closing of its $90 million Series B funding round led by Pontifax Global Food and Deerfield.

Lindon, UT

Opiniion, a tool that collects authentic real-time feedback from customers, has raised a $1.5M Series Seed II round led by RET Ventures.

Provo, UT

Latitude, developer of the popular AI Dungeon game, has raised $3.3M in seed funding led by NFX with participation from Album VC, and Griffin Gaming Partners.

Saint Paul, MN

Structural, a dynamic people directory and internal opportunity marketplace, raises more than $2 million in latest round.

Washington, DC

Poppy, a managed marketplace connecting customers, event florists, and flower farms, closed a $1.65 million seed round led by IDEA Fund Partners with participation from IrishAngels and Techstars.

West Lafayette, IN

Novosteo Inc., a startup developing bone-targeted therapeutics, announced the closing of a $5.5 million in Series A financing.

💥 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. 

Check out a few of our Top Powderkeg Picks below:

Companies who are hiring:

Atlanta, GA:

  • Verusen, an AI based Inventory and Data Management Software, is hiring a Director of Demand Generation, Customer Operations and Strategy Analyst and Customer Success Manager.
  • Kainos, a leading provider of Digital Services and platforms, is hiring an Account Executive, Integrations Consultant, PMO Associate and more. 

Carmel, IN:

  • KAR Global, a company that helps the auto industry buy, sell and trade used vehicles, is hiring a Director of User Experience, Intermediate Software Developer and more.

Indianapolis, IN:

  • Edify, a Global cloud-based communications platform, is hiring an ADR Manager, Automation Engineer (Remote), Sr. React Native Developer and more.
  • Onebridge, a BI, Data Analytics, and Enterprise Application Development consulting firm, is hiring an Administrative Assistant, Big Data Engineer, Scrum Master and more.  
  • Zotec Partners, a specialized medical billing software, is hiring a Cloud Operations Engineer, Director of Product Support and more.
  • Zylo, the leading enterprise SaaS management platform, is hiring a Commercial Account Executive, IT Analyst, Lead Software Engineer and more.

McKinney, TX:

  • ShearShare, a marketplace that connects salon and barbershop owners to stylists, is hiring a Customer Service Advocate, Data Scientist and Full Stack Engineer.

Seattle, WA:

  • Blink UX, a software company that helps businesses create unique customer experiences online, is hiring an Adobe Analytics Analyst, Freelance UX Designer, Senior Project Manager and more.

Warrenton, VA:

  • VSO, an end-to-end hybrid-cloud service management company, is hiring a Sr. Cloud Security Engineer, Full Stack Developer, Network Operations Engineer (L3/L4), Network Engineer and more.

Need to optimize your resume for opportunities like these? Get feedback using our new resume review tool.

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This email was curated and created by Nikki, Meg, Casey, Beth and myself from the Powderkeg team. These are just some of the amazing stories happening in the Unvalley.

Got 30 seconds? Share some interesting tech news with us by hitting reply to this email. The Powderkeg team will share the best stories in an upcoming virtual event, on social, or in a future email. 

Let us know!

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