Hope you saw the launch of The National Tech Culture Awards yesterday. 

I’m excited to see so many amazing startups, scaleups, and tech enterprises around the country have already applied (more on those companies in a future email). 

This year’s awards will help these tech employers navigate three of the biggest tech mega-trends in tech in 2020.

Dive deeper into these Mega-trends and more in this edition of The Spark:

  • 💻 The Rise of Remote Culture
  • ⚖️ An Important Balancing Act
  • ✈️ One-way Ticket to the “Mighty Middle”
  • 🏙 The Steel City for Startups

— Matt

P.S. If you haven’t already claimed your spot for the Culture Awards, you can still get your application in and it takes less than 15 minutes to complete: Apply for the Tech Culture Awards>>


💻 The Rise of Remote Culture 

Microsoft’s CEO says remote work can feel like ‘sleeping at work’. But for most, remote culture is here to stay and it’s changed company culture forever. 

In fact: 

  • 76% of founders say they’ve seen an increase in productivity during the pandemic work-from-home requirements. 
  • 70% of venture-backed founders said they’d allow some or all of their employees to continue working from home after opening the offices. 
  • 66% of founders are reconsidering their investments in office space entirely.

An IBM study confirmed findings. IBM conducted a survey of 18,000 people in May and June and over half of the respondents — 61% — said they would prefer to continue working remotely following the pandemic.

That said, 72% of remote workers do not have a dedicated workspace. Experts believe creating a home office space can vastly improve mental wellness under these conditions. 

Which brings us to our next Tech Mega-trend…

⚖️ An Important Balancing Act

It’s no secret that the pandemic has reset workers’ concept of work-life balance. But this reset has brought about some interesting new trends.

  • 86% of remote workers in the US are actually satisfied with current arrangements
  • 47% are even “very satisfied,” even if that means “having to work from their bedrooms or closets.”

A pre-pandemic survey of 1,200 conducted by videoconferencing company Owl Labs found that 91% of respondents believe remote work had improved their work-life balance, while 79% said it had increased their productivity and focus, and 78% said it had provided them with less stress. 

Roughly two-thirds of workers said they would prefer to work remotely full-time following the pandemic.

Studies show remote work could be a big plus for mental health — but it could also obliterate any semblance of work-life balance.

The potential for burnout is being worsened by stresses related to childcare, yet 59% of employees are also uncomfortable taking time off. Companies are working to democratize the workplace by flattening hierarchies and giving employees more avenues for input to address these issues long-term. But will it be soon enough?

If you’re struggling at home, just know you’re not alone. Boulder-based VC Brad Feld has also had his share of difficult moments and wants you to know from the top down that it’s okay if you’re not okay.

✈️ One-way Ticket to the “Mighty Middle”

Zuckerberg says that 75% of Facebook employees are interested in leaving the Bay Area.

Meanwhile, 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.

According to real estate and investment firm CBRE, the Mighty Middle is officially a top collective place for tech talent. Cities throughout our region were ranked all over the 2020 Scoring Tech Talent list. Some heavy hitters in the top 10 included: 

  • Washington DC (#2)
  • Austin TX (#6)
  • Denver CO (#7)
  • Atlanta GA (#9)

Startups and other tech companies will benefit as more Unvalley cities explore incentives to attract more tech between the coasts. 

  • Savannah, GA offers as much as $2,000 to remote tech workers
  • Tulsa, OK is offering $10,000 cash and other incentives to 250 remote workers
  • Alabama’s Shoals Region also offers $10k in cash to remote workers that move to their area
  • One city, in particular, that’s doubling down is Philadelphia, where it’s hoped the pandemic will actually push talent into their emerging tech market, unlike Silicon Valley where the tech exodus continues. 

And if you need even more reasons to believe in the Mighty Middle, take a look at the Inc. 5000 List of America’s Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs. Three Middle Coast companies made the top 10 alone, with Atlanta’s Onetrust nabbing the top spot. 


Top fundings, acquisitions, and IPOs between the coasts. 

Atlanta, GA

  • Lucid Scientific, an Atlanta, GA-based biotechnology tools company announced it completed a $3 million in seed financing. The round was led by Dynamk Capital with participation from the Georgia Research Alliance’s Venture Fund. 

Columbus, OH

Denver, CO

  • Denver based Engrain has closed a $3.7 million in new funding. The round was led by RET Ventures along with participation from existing investors. 

Detroit, MI

Indianapolis, IN

Frisco, TX

  • Payrix, a fintech-focused company announced an extension of its Series A financing. The round was led by Blue Star Innovation Partners and Providence Strategic Growth.

Plano, TX

San Diego, CA

  • Seismic, a sales enablement and marketing orchestration platform announced it has closed a Series F round of $92 million. The round was backed by the Permira funds to accelerate Seismic’s rapid innovation, international growth, and M&A activity.

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:

Chicago, IL 

  • Aclaimant is an insurance startup that focuses on reporting workplace injuries. Currently, hiring in sales, development, and implementation.
  • G2 is a platform to share business software reviews in real-time. Currently, hiring marketers, engineers, and product specialists.

Denver, CO

  • Flatfile helps data migrate between applications, hiring engineers, and designers.
  • Snapdocs is a digital mortgage closing platform. Currently, hiring implementation managers, engineers, a director of marketing, product designers, sales staff, and more.

Indianapolis, IN:

  • Zylo is a cloud subscription-manager platform, hiring engineers, business development, data analyst roles.
  • Mandolin is a concert livestreaming platform. Currently, hiring engineers and developers.

Pittsburgh, PA:

  • Aspinity is a maker of ultra-low-power analog machine learning processors. Currently, hiring engineers and developers.
  • ForAllSecure is an advanced security testing solution, hiring for several engineering roles.
  • ArgoAI is a self-driving technology platform company. Currently, hiring engineers, business operations, and IT professionals.

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

🏙Unvalley Spotlight

Pittsburgh, PA: The Steel City for Startups

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

In the last decade, Pittsburgh has undergone a dramatic transformation and tech makeover, earning a reputation as one of the country’s “most livable” cities. Pittsburgh now ranks among the top cities in the United States for eco-friendly building space and is named a top “Next Tech” city. Once the center for steel, iron, and glass production, Pittsburgh has become a tech leader in medicine, education, health care, robotics, software engineering, and industries. Dive in to see how the growth is happening in the Steel City.

Key Tech Facts About Pittsburgh, PA:

Awards and Accolades:

  • In 2019, Pittsburgh was ranked #3 as the most livable city in the United States according to an annual report from the Economist.
  • In CBRE’s 2018 Scoring Tech Talent Report, Pittsburgh ranked #5 on the list of top tech talent markets.
  • Pittsburgh ranked #9 out of 35 metro centers nationwide that are becoming booming innovation centers, according to a new report by the Brookings Institution.

Check out what’s smoldering in this thriving foundry of innovation.

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!