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You can almost smell the Pumpkin Spice Lattes as we near the official start of fall 2020 (which is Sept. 22, in case you were wondering). And things are looking up for tech and startups between the coasts.  

A new report shared by TechRepublic shows that 81% of tech workers are seriously considering moving to a place that’s more affordable, which means more fuel for growth and innovation in the Mighty Middle. Other insights from the report suggest more opportunities in the realm of remote work, which also seems to be fueling entrepreneurship across the country. 

New business applications are up nearly 70% this year over 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And a new report from Fundera exposed that all 15 of the top cities for women entrepreneurs can be found outside of the hubs of NYC and Silicon Valley, across all industries.

One industry that has seen particularly rapid growth in 2020 is Agtech, which has already brought in $2.6 billion in investment dollars this year. And based on some of the other numbers we discuss later in this email, you’ll see why this is one of the top opportunities in tech right now.

So grab your PSL, your coffee, or your favorite beverage and enjoy this week’s fresh brew of startup stories and tech trends in this edition of The Spark.

In This Issue:

  • 👣 The Nomads of Tech Talent
  • 👸 Women Thriving in the Unvalley
  • 🌽 Agtech Investment on the Rise

—Matt


TOP STORIES

👣 The Nomads of Tech Talent

Are tech office jobs going the way of the dodo? They will if tech workers have anything to say about it. A new report shared by TechRepublic says that the vast majority of tech talent are taking the “work from home experiment” as an opportunity to re-evaluate their lifestyles. 61% of tech workers have gone fully remote, and that means more freedom in terms of location.

The same report says that 81% of tech workers are seriously considering moving to a place that’s more affordable than the big tech hubs—and why not, with remote work now the standard?

Is it time to hedge your bet? Part of this lifestyle overhaul means taking freelance work. 74% of all tech workers (and 84% of Millennials) would consider taking freelance work in light of the pandemic. That lines up with the shift in job opportunities, as 4.8 million Millennials have lost their jobs while freelance job openings went up 25% in Q2 of this year.

In other words: welcome to the new world.

👸 Women Thriving in the Unvalley

It’s a woman’s world between the coasts. According to a new report from Fundera, all 15 of the top cities for women entrepreneurs can be found outside of the typical hubs of NYC and Silicon Valley. The report took a look at the percentage of local entrepreneurs that are women, plus wage data, living expense, and job growth to compile its list of the best places for women entrepreneurs to set up shop. This included growing tech hubs like:

  • #7 Durham, North Carolina
  • #9 St. Paul, Minnesota
  • #11 Houston, Texas
  • #12 Boise, Idaho

She’s got her mind on her money. While the findings came before the pandemic, a surge in entrepreneurial activity in 2020 means there’s never been a better time to build a business. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (via Inc.com), new business applications are up nearly 70% this year over 2019. 


It seems that 2020 might be the year to turn that side hustle into your main gig, and it’s encouraging to see so many women founders thriving between the coasts.

🌽 Agtech Investment on the Rise

Talk about profits you can eat. In the last five years, investment in agtech has exploded. According to data accumulated by Crunchbase, investors have pumped $4 billion into this growing industry in each of the last two years. That’s no surprise, since estimates on the total assets under management of food and agricultural fund managers is up to a staggering $130 billion.


That’s big business, and it’s changing the way global markets are thinking about the opportunities at the nexus of old-school farming know-how and bleeding edge tech.

No more dumped milk, please. The pandemic seems to have made a major impact on agtech investing, as $2.6 billion has already been invested this year. According to Seana Day of Better Food Ventures, that might be because the pandemic has shed light on inefficiencies in the food industry, like wasted milk early on in the quarantine. 

Case in point: Farmers Business Network, a startup dedicated to digitizing the supply chain for farmers, closed a Series F round of $250 million just this month.

Speaking of the great things happening in Agtech. Keep an eye out for the super easy, 1-minute applications for the 2020 Tech Culture Awards. We’ll be recognizing the best company cultures in tech between the coasts, and we want that to include you!


EXPLODING WITH OPPORTUNITY

Top fundings, acquisitions, and IPOs between the coasts. 

Atlanta, GA

  • Rev.io announced an undisclosed growth equity investment led by Primus Capital. This recent investment by Primus will support Rev.io in its goal to drive scalability across its operations.

Austin, TX

Boulder, CO

  • The Pro’s Closet announced it has raised $12 million in funding. The new funding will help move its headquarters and operations to a 137,000-square-foot facility. The round was led by Foundry Group and Edison Partners. Ridgeline Ventures and private investors joined the round.

Charlotte, NC

  • Mortgage platform Bundle announced it closed its first outside round of equity funding. The $250,000 raise included investments from Charlotte Angel Fund and other independent investors. You can hear more about Bundle on this episode of the Powderkeg Podcast. 

Chicago, IL

  • Zero Hash, a platform that provides infrastructure to settle digital assets in a completely automated and regulated way, recently announced a Series C funding round. The round was led by tastytrade with participation from Bain Capital TradeStation, CMT Digital and Monday Capital.

Denver, CO

  • Governance software for businesses, Honcho, announced it closed a $4 million Series A round of financing. The round was led by Fintop Capital with participation from several investors and entrepreneurs including Peter Thiel.

Indianapolis, IN

  • Fast-growing Sharpen Technologies secured $12 million in funding to continue company growth. This is the second round of funding received from Indianapolis-based Allos Ventures and others.
  • Information technology firm BCforward has acquired Minneapolis based tapQA, a quality assurance tech firm. BCforward says the addition will make it one of the largest consulting organizations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

Minneapolis, MN

Los Angeles, CA

Washington, D.C.

  • Manufacturing startup Xometry announced it closed a $75M Series E to expand its custom manufacturing marketplace. The round was led by T. Rowe Price Associates and included Durable Capital Partners LP and ArrowMark Partners.

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 our Top Powderkeg Picks below:

Companies who are hiring:

Cincinnati, OH:

  • Cloverleaf, an identity discovery and employee development platform for teams, is hiring for frontend and fullstack software engineers.
  • Differential helps companies build digital products, and is hiring a software developer to join the crew.

Denver, CO:

  • AMP Robotics, a company that creates robotic systems that sort recyclable material at a fraction of the cost, is hiring for engineers, operations, and sales roles.
  • Havenly is an online interior design company and e-commerce platform hiring for several roles including a full stack engineer and product manager.

Indianapolis, IN:

  • Covideo , a marketing-tech startup focused on personalizing video messaging, is hiring an account executive.
  • Codelicious, a curriculum platform for helping educators teach and accelerate computer science into classrooms, is hiring a junior developer, marketing analytics specialist, and several roles on the sales team. 

Minneapolis, MN:

  • Bright Health is a health insurance service platform designed to deliver quality healthcare experience hiring for operations, analytics, and sales roles.
  • Branch, a mobile-first technology that helps hourly workers get ahead financially, is hiring a customer success manager, engineers, and support representatives.
  • Skykit is a digital signage software platform currently hiring for multiple sales positions.

Multiple Locations or Remote:

  • Formstack is a data management platform hiring software and support engineers, a professional services manager, privacy analyst, and more.
  • Terminus is a B2B marketing platform hiring in sales, engineering, customer success, and more.

🏙Unvalley Spotlight

Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN: Twin Cities Brewing with Untapped Opportunities

In this section of The Spark, we illuminate some of the biggest opportunities in tech beyond Silicon Valley.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul area may not be as known for tech as San Francisco, but the city is seeing vast amounts of untapped potential in its rising tech scene. In the last several years, Minneapolis-St. Paul has become home to some of the country’s top accounting firms and nineteen Fortune 500 companies. The growth in the city is bringing in fresh new tech talent and building room for brand new tech companies. It’s hard not to consider becoming a part of the incredible tech ecosystem brewing in the Twin Cities.

Key Tech Facts About Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN:

  • 48 Minnesota-based early-stage startups received $495.1 million in venture capital in 2017, a 40% increase from 2016.
  • Some Fast-Growing Startups: Sezzle, Calabrio, phData, Flywheel.io
  • The Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area is home to nineteen Fortune 500 companies, more per capita than any other metro region.
  • Average salary for a local software developer: $84,188 per year.

Awards and Accolades:

  • In its 2020 City Rankings, Midwest Startups ranked Minneapolis as the #2 tech hub for startups.
  • U.S. News & World Report released its 2020 list of the best places to live in America and ranked Minneapolis-St. Paul as the sixth best city.
  • A new 2020 report by financial marketplace Fundera ranked the top 15 US cities for female business owners with St. Paul being ranked #9 on the list.

Learn more about what’s brewing in the Twin City tech scene.


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