Matchmakers aren’t just for reality TV. In this issue of the Spark, we feature stories about how the tech community is doing more to connect underestimated founders with the heartthrobs of venture capital.

Chicago-based Sandalphon Capital is hosting from September 8-10. This three-day event serves to connect the Midwest’s hottest pre-seed, seed, and Series A startups and founders with angel investors and VC funds. Investors can each meet up to 50 startups via Zoom. It’s like a perfect round of speed dating when everyone in the room’s a 10.

With all this news catching our attention, it was only natural to make Chicago the subject of this week’s Unvalley Spotlight. Learn more near the end of this email about the fresh air of success constantly blowing in The Windy City.

In This Issue: 

  • 💻Tech Seeks Virtual Sanity
  • 🙌Silicon Valley Decentralizes
  • 🏙Windy City Startups (Unvalley Spotlight)



💻Tech Seeks Virtual Sanity

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but building the new

I think Socrates said that. And with COVID-19 shuttering the both literal and figurative doors for physical meetups, many tech events have turned toward the virtual side of things. 

Chicago-based Sandalphon Capital will be hosting, an online event that will allow pre-seed and series A startups to meet one-on-one with investors via Zoom. It’s open to a variety of industries including agtech, biotech, consumer packaged goods, edtech, enterprise tech, fintech, foodtech, healthcare, insurtech, life sciences, logistics/supply chain, manufacturing, medtech, real estate/proptech, retail and more. We’re excited to partner up on the event to help startups and investors everywhere.

Here are some other virtual events that startups can join to stay connected to new developments in tech between the coasts.

  • 36 | 86 Festival
    • A fully interactive digital experience hosted by Launch Tennessee that dives into 10 days, 40+ sessions, with countless speakers, conversations, and stories. Matt will be emceeing the Build track of the conference. 
  • The Black Is Tech Virtual Conference 2020
    • A virtual conference creating a platform for black and minority tech professionals, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts.
  • August Speaker Series with Angela Smith Jones
    • Live speaker series hosted by venture studio High Alpha featuring Angela Smith Jones and Scott Dorsey.

Another upcoming event is Powderkeg’s Tech Culture Awards, recognizing the top-rated company cultures at tech companies located between the coasts. Start thinking of who you’d like to nominate, since it’ll be a fast and easy process!

🙌Silicon Valley Decentralizes

Looking for a silver lining in 2020? It might be coming to your city soon. COVID-19 has impacted so many areas of life, and one that’s certainly not immune is the tech industry. 

For years, innovation has been centralized in traditional tech hubs like Silicon Valley, but with more companies moving to a remote environment, professionals are beginning to question the increasingly expensive cost of living of traditional tech hubs.

It’s also opening doors for up-and-coming cities. Industry leaders are already praising Midwest cities like Chicago as being new fertile land for tech disruptors to center their offices or employment hubs. 

Some bigger companies have already taken note, such as when General Electric chose New Orleans as their new home in 2012. A study has even found that the American Southeast has 25% more startups than California and 75% more than New York. As we continue to fight through the pandemic, the tech industry is showing that home is where you make it


Top fundings, acquisitions, and IPOs between the coasts. 

Atlanta, GA

  • Grubbly Farms, a startup specializing in insect-based snacks and feed for backyard chickens, closed $2.9 million in seed funding.

Austin, TX

Charleston, SC

  • The software company Palmetto, which provides simplified energy savings for homeowners, raised $29 million in its Series B funding round. 

Chicago, IL

Denver, CO

Jersey City, NJ

Nashville, TN

  • Possip, a tool connecting educators and parents, makes history as the first Tennessee company led by a black woman to raise $1 million in funding. 

Philadelphia, PA

Richmond, VA

Salt Lake City, UT

  • Whistic, a vendor security management platform, raised $12 million in Series A funding. 

San Diego, CA

Tampa Bay, FL


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 our Top Powderkeg Picks below:

Companies who are hiring:

Indianapolis, IN

  • Clear Software is an automation platform hiring a senior SAP architect and a senior developer.
  • Six Feet Up is a software development and cloud consulting company hiring a senior Python developer, a DevOps engineer, and a Plone/Zope/Django developer. 

Chicago, IL

  • Aclaimant is an insurance startup that focuses on reporting workplace injuries. Currently, hiring in sales, development, and implementation.
  • GoHealth is an online portal for finding health insurance coverage hiring for sales and marketing roles along with several engineering positions.

 Raleigh and Durham, NC

  • Smashing Boxes is a product development firm hiring digital designers and a principal software architect.
  • SignalPath is a clinical trial facilitation platform hiring a Director of Engineering, a software engineer, and a QA engineer.

Scottsdale, AZ

  • Paradox is an AI assistant hiring in product management and design, marketing, operations, engineering, and more.
  • Axway is an IT infrastructure platform hiring engineers, developers, analysts, and many more IT roles. 

Multiple Locations/Remote

  • Terminus is a B2B marketing platform hiring in sales, engineering, customer success, and more.
  • ZenBusiness is a business formation platform  hiring a corporate filing specialist, compliance specialist, front-end and back-end developers, and more part- and full-time roles.
  • CrossBorder Solutions are global AI tax experts hiring analysts, developers, service managers, a Director of Marketing, and more roles nationwide.
  • Expanse is an Internet collection and attribution platform hiring engineers, accountants, developers, and many leadership roles across IT and non-IT functions.
  • FormAssembly is an online form building platform hiring account executives, UX designers, a Director of Software Engineering, and more.

🏙Unvalley Spotlight

Chicago, IL: Over Two Centuries of Commerce Sustain Deep Opportunity for Tech Innovators

In this section of the Spark, we illuminate some of the biggest opportunities in tech beyond Silicon Valley. This week, we’re featuring Chicago, with Nashville on the list for next week!

“It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago. She outgrows his prophecies faster than he can make them,” Mark Twain once wrote of The Second City. 

Today, members of Chicago’s tech ecosystem want to make sure critics on the coasts hear this message loud and clear. Though the city is frequently left out of tech roundups and discussions of potential, residents and tech leaders know it’s just because critics are out of The Loop.

Home to the world’s biggest private tech startup incubator, 1871, Chicago continues to shatter its own tech investment records even in the middle of the pandemic. “We don’t have it all, but we are pretty close,” says Betsy Ziegler, CEO of 1871. Ready access to funding is just one of the elements that makes the city’s tech ecosystem healthy for startups and big businesses alike.

Chicago startups raised over $330M in July, up from $62M in April. The mix of global-level opportunity and innovation with a lower cost-of-living and excellent schools bring what is great about the Midwest to the forefront of success. A few of the biggest mergers and acquisitions in Chicago during recent years have been:

Finance and food processing have always played major roles in Chicago’s economy, so it’s no surprise that some of the city’s most successful tech startups have been in these industries. Jason Smith of rMark Bio tells us, “Over the last four years, there has been so much growth and so much tech and investments that are really coming into Chicago.”

Maybe word got out about another of the city’s nicknames, The City That Works? 

If you want to capture a little of Chicago’s magical optimistic work ethic for yourself, we were honored to feature Jason on a podcast about Solving Customer Needs Through Product.

Are you looking for more news in tech between the coasts? It’s free to sign up for our hand-curated newsletter, The Spark, delivered to your inbox each week with the tech news outside Silicon Valley you need to know. Sign up here!