The grass is greener where you water it. In this week’s Spark you’ll learn about the next big places and ideas to help you strategically place your sprinkler.

CNBC released its list of 2020’s Disruptor 50, the tech platforms and companies poised to dominate during and beyond the pandemic. These five companies below all made the top 25 of this list and represented a rise in cloud computing, data capturing, and AI-driven technology (More on that  below…)

We are in the final week of Pride Month and the tech community has been celebrating its LGBTQ+ founders, entrepreneurs and VCs. And Ohio-based Loud Capital recently announced its launch of Pride Fund 1, a $10 million venture capital fund that will invest in companies led by LGBTQ founders and entrepreneurs in local communities. 

Lots of other funding news below, but one worth noting…

Australia-based Canva doubled its valuation to $6 billion and announced plans to expand its operations with a headquarters in Austin. Will that officially make them Austin-stralian? Sorry…just doing my part to keep it weird. 

In Today’s Edition of The Spark:

  • 👽Take Us To Your VC Leader
  • 🛢️Tech Talent Pipeline Rupture
  • 🤖AI Startup Funding Records
  • …and more!


PS: One growing trend we’ve covered lately is the flight of tech professionals from traditional tech hubs to join startups in some of the booming communities between the coasts. Be sure to check out our new section: Community-Powered Job Matching, featuring Powderkeg members who are open to new career opportunities.

This Week’s Top Stories…

🏡 Small Town U.S.A is…Cool Again?

Does San Francisco have a toxic culture? We don’t know because we don’t live there, but as far back as 2018, tech mogul and Facebook board member Peter Thiel decided he’d rather live in Los Angeles and take his business with him. According to Curbed SF, at least 40% of young tech workers in the Bay Area dream of leaving today. Zuckerberg says that at Facebook, it’s more like 75% of employees who are interested in leaving the Bay Area.

Where would they go? Even though the UN predicts that almost 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas thirty years from now, that doesn’t mean mega-cities are in everyone’s future.

As we’ve mentioned in past issues of the Spark, the Midwest leads top rankings for tech salaries, affordability, and just plain good living. Austin, Texas now leads the tech world in salary growth, while cities like Boulder, Chicago, and Ann Arbor continue to emerge as tech hubs.

👽Take Me to Your VC Leader

Who are the most active VCs outside of Silicon Valley? A recent analysis from CB Insights shared the most-active venture capital firm in each state. On one hand, it’s great to see that local funds are investing in local economies, but the heavy-hitters are still primarily focused on coastal tech startups.

For instance, even though the Midwest is home to 10% of startups in the United States, the region receives less than 5% of all VC funding, while the states of New York, California, and Massachusetts draw in 78% of the total funding.

Talk about an opportunity for investors! It’s looking like the trend of remote investment will continue to create wealth for the VCs willing to look beyond their own backyard.

To be clear, the lack of investment hasn’t stopped the Midwest economy from booming—in fact, with a GDP of more than $4.2T, the region is bigger than Germany or the UK. But this narrow focus does prevent venture capital firms from finding more unicorns. As we’ve reported on before, venture funds don’t just have the power to spread the wealth around the nation, but when they fail to do so, they end up missing out too. Major cities in the middle of the country like Chicago are growing as tech hubs because they prioritize economic diversity—and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

🛢️Rupture In the Tech Talent Pipeline

It’s 2020. Do you know where your highly-skilled talent is? The answer might be “blocked from receiving a work visa.” 

New and continued restrictions on H-1B and other work visas were implemented Monday, with Trump claiming this move protects Americans’ access to jobs during economic recovery. Around 525,000 jobs are filled by foreign workers holding visas each year. 

But tech companies as diverse as Amazon, Google, Twitter, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and more point out the move is actually making the tech economy less competitive and less diverse.

Over half of the top 25 most valuable tech companies in the US were founded by a first- or second-generation American, according to 2018 estimates. Around 85,000 “high-skilled” H-1B visa spots are available to foreign nationals each year, allowing companies to staff global-caliber talent at companies in the US.

🎉Juneteenth Claims its Rightful Recognition

Juneteenth has been a holiday since 1865, but it’s finally gained the national prominence it deserves this year. Square and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was the first tech leader to give his employees a paid holiday, with Facebook, Google, Amazon, Google, Lyft—and of course, Powderkeg—all taking their own steps to commemorate the day the last slaves in the Union were made aware they were free.

While the formal recognition of Juneteenth on many company calendars is a step in the right direction, it takes action to make a more equal tech industry a reality. 

If it surprises you to learn it took two years after the Emancipation Proclamation for that news to break, you can hear more from our friend Ruben Harris at Career Karma about the inequality that persists today.

He shared on last week’s Livestream of The Spark that more than 42 million people are currently jobless, including a disproportionate number of women & people of color. This is just one example of why the movement for racial equality must be sustained today, and is showing up especially in the tech community, as we’ve covered in the past few weeks.

Ruben is one of the community leaders taking his own steps to create change in the tech community. His Reskill America campaign is targeted at educating members of underserved communities to fill the tech talent pipeline with more diverse candidates and bring down systemic inequality one new hire at a time. Well…hopefully a little faster. True equality has been a long time coming.

🤖AI Startups Break Funding Records

Artificial intelligence isn’t so artificial these days. These startups raised a record $26.6 billion in 2019, a 20% increase in funding to the sector. Some of the top AI startups in the US are between the coasts, innovating AI problem-solving in industries like healthcare, finance, and even rental properties. Here are some of the smarty-pants:

Chicago is one of the top cities for AI startups, with companies like Narrative Science and Tempus among the leaders using this science for a smarter tomorrow. Whether it’s information processing or healthcare diagnosis, a lot of decision-making today is being informed by analysis that is faster and more inclusive than the human brain can carry out. Of course, humans are still needed to bring nuance, empathy, and other tools to the table.

As Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott explores in his book “Reprogramming the American Dream,” the automation of more tedious and repetitive tasks frees up the human potential to do more and become more, the anywhere untapped potential exists.


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.

Technical Project Manager (Anonymous Profile)
Location Preference: Indianapolis, Remote 

This person is a driven problem solver and servant leader who is looking for an organization that wishes to start up and scale an RPA department. As a program manager, this person led development teams to identify, built, and deployed over 115 process automation saving the business over $5M / Year in labor savings.

Allen Fowler
| Web Developer / Software Engineer
Location Preference: Chicago, Indianapolis, Lafayette, or Remote

Allen has 10+ years of experience with full-stack full-SDLC projects using Microsoft stacks to create tools for warehouses and employee recognition/customer loyalty programs. He is interested in learning new technologies and cares about creating a product that fits the user’s needs so well that it removes problems and expands capabilities.

Kelley A. Rios-Arifi, PMP
| Training Manager
Locations: Open to relocation for the right opportunity

Kelley skillfully and expertly assesses, analyzes, designs, and implements curriculum with a focus on the vision of the organization. She makes goals relatable, and easy to understand, to motivate learners. She’s a Certified Project manager with extensive knowledge and expertise in managing multiple projects and management experience, with a keen ability to stay organized and superior communication skills.

Sam Nichol
| Sales Leader
Locations: Indianapolis, Remote

Sam is a sales leader and individual contributor with 10 years in a management role, with a track record of success in both roles. Is looking for a new opportunity with a company that is progressive, passionate, and seeing healthy growth and expansion. He likes to be challenged and works well in a team-oriented environment. He’s looking for a company that needs an experienced sales professional ready to drive growth.

Want an intro or know someone who would?

Request an intro or refer someone >>


Top fundings, acquisitions, and IPOs between the coasts.

Atlanta, GA
  • The software platform Steady has announced a $15 million Series B investment round. Steady, which advocates for gig economy workers through its data service, received the investment primarily from Recruit Strategic Partners. 
Chapel Hill, NC
Chicago, IL
 Indianapolis, IN
  • announced that it has been acquired by Novi Group LLC, an investment group led by Fred Luddy and Greg Bell. The company helps businesses transform with workforce analytics.
Los Angeles, CA
Mason, OH
Scottsdale, AZ
Washington, D.C.


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:
Denver, CO
  • Guild Education is a continuing education provider hiring in departments like sales, finance, student coaching, marketing, and of course technology.
  • JumpCloud is the world’s #1 cloud directory service hiring developers & engineers, product managers, and customer success professionals.
Indianapolis, IN
  • Centric Consulting is a business consulting firm hiring business development and technology practice leads among other positions.
Nashville, TN
  • Campaign Monitor is an email marketing platform hiring backend and frontend developers, a VP of Global Enablement, and a Director of Growth & Experimentation among other roles.
  • naviHealth is a senior-centered healthcare platform hiring an IT security administrator, multiple types of developers, and in leadership positions including human resources, finance, and analytics.
Pittsburg, PA
  • Duolingo is a language learning app hiring a Head of Data Science, multiple engineering and developer roles, Spanish Language Managers, marketers, financial professionals, and more.
Raleigh, NC:
  • Abrigo supports community financial institutions through tech and is hiring engineers, database administrators, product managers, and more.
  • LearnPlatform is an eLearning software hiring in development, product management, and marketing positions.
Multiple Locations/Remote:
  • Passport is a parking payment and enforcement platform hiring multiple types of analysts, developers and engineers, and implementation consultants.
  • GitLab is a DevOps lifecycle tool hiring engineers, sales professionals, accountants, and more.


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

  1. LinkedIn Top Voices on Building a LinkedIn Sales Strategy that Gets Results  
  2. Reskill America: Helping You Find a Career in Tech
  3. Kill Systemic Racism in Tech by Creating Systemic Change
  4. Coronavirus Survival Guide for Startups
  5. TechPoint ‘Best of Tech’ in Indiana
  6. DemandJump Offers Free Insights Into Potential Employers

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 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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