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Amy Klobuchar and Steve Case agree—the Heartland is where it’s at for tech and innovation. 

And now there’s potentially a $2 billion investment on the table to help keep that momentum up. This potential is no surprise to anyone in Unvalley tech hubs, but sometimes it takes the coasts—and the international community—a little while longer to catch up. 

But you know what hasn’t taken the slow road to success? 

Insurtech companies during the pandemic downtown. They’re raking in the investment as they scale up in cities like Columbus and Austin to change the way this super-traditional industry works. 

And female tech founders, too—in cities like Houston and Chicago. They’re busting down barriers to funding and finding ways to benefit other women along the way. 

Inspiration is great, but it requires some perspiration to make things happen in challenging and changing times. That’s what this week’s Spark is all about. 

In this issue: 

  • 🐇The Heartland is Hoppin’
  • 💁The Future is Female Founders
  • 🌱Insane Insurtech Growth

-Matt


THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES

🐇The Heartland is Hoppin’

The Heartland drives American entrepreneurship. That’s what AOL co-founder Steve Case thinks, and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar agrees.

Klobuchar has sponsored the New Business Preservation Act, setting aside $2 billion in funds to match VC investments in start-ups—a pretty big bet!


And even the international crowd is onboard—welcome to Miami, folks.

Israeli tech companies are spreading out from the big tech hubs to the smaller cities of Tulsa, Cleveland, and Miami as they grow. 

American entrepreneurship still powers innovation across the globe, but we’re seeing a big shakeup in the cities where that innovation happens, and the world is noticing. 

75% of venture capital funding goes to New York City, Silicon Valley, and Boston—but the COVID pandemic has brought some major shifts in where people want to live and work. 

Looks like we’ll continue to see big shifts in where tech talent and businesses thrive. 

💁The Future is Female Founders

Women in tech are breaking down walls and building some cool things. They’re doing it from outside the coastal tech hubs, too. 

  • Allison Robinson created The Mom Project in Chicago to connect talented women with employers who value them. 
  • Carolyn Rodz founded Hello Alice in Houston to provide a learning platform for under-represented founders. 
  • And Heidi Gerding built Heitech Services in Landover, MI to supercharge government contracting. 

A stunning amount—forty percent of the leaders listed—are from tech cities between the coasts. Despite difficulties getting funding from VCs, these women are turning the tide—for themselves and their communities.


Black female founders and leaders are also leading the way. They represent 42% of net new female-owned businesses despite being only 14% of the female population. No wonder Taraji P. Henson tops the list of Entrepreneur’s top 100 powerful women

Check out the full lists in Inc. and Entrepreneur to get inspired. 

🌱Insane Insurtech Growth

Even COVID can’t keep ‘em down. 

Root Insurance (based in Columbus, OH) is filing for an IPO, while the Austin-based Zebra just hit a $100 million run rate. Investment in insurtech has been strong despite the broad economic downturn, says Deloitte, with a whopping $2.19 billion invested in the first half of 2020. 

The industry is on track for its second-biggest year of investments ever during the most challenging financial times in recent history. Insurance is an industry that’s long been ripe for a shake-up, and these startups are seizing the opportunity. 


And even better news? A majority of the most innovative insurtech companies are headquartered in the Unvalley. Just a few examples of this shining success: 

One particularly big hub for insurance companies, old and new? 

Columbus, OH has long been a home for traditional insurance companies—but now more and more upstart insurtechs are hitting the scene and thriving

We’re excited to see growth like this for next-gen companies and hubs like Columbus.


EXPLODING WITH OPPORTUNITY

Top fundings, acquisitions, and IPOs between the coasts. 

  • Atlanta, GA
    • Atlanta based Polygon.io, a financial data platform, announced it has raised $6 million in a Series A financing round. The round was led by e.ventures with participation from Green Visor Capital.
    • Popmenu, a digital marketing and ordering SaaS platform, announced it closed a $17 million Series B funding round. Bedrock Capital led the investment, with participation from existing investors Base10 Partners and Felicis Ventures as well as new investors Mantis Ventures and Chapter One Ventures.
  • Los Angeles, CA
    • VENN, a live-streaming network for gaming and entertainment, announced it raised $26 million in Series A financing. The round was co-led by BITKRAFT and new investor Nexstar Media Group with participation from WISE Ventures, Alumni Ventures Group, and others.
  • Newberry, IN
  • Phoenix, AZ
    • eVisit, a SaaS telehealth company, announced it closed $14 million in a Series A funding round. TVC Capital led the round with participation from current investors Kickstart Seed Fund, University Growth Fund, and Jeremy Andrus.
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • San Diego, CA
    • RayzeBio, a San Diego-based biotech company, announced it has raised $45 million in a Series A financing round. The round was co-lead by venBio Partners and Versant Ventures with participation from Samsara BioCapital.
  • St. Louis, MO
    • St. Louis-based Balto announced that it closed a $10 million Series A round of funding. The round was led by Sierra Ventures and joined by Jump Capital, OCA Ventures, Cultivation Capital, and others.
    • Textel, a cloud-based texting platform for contact centers, announced it completed a $4 million Series A funding round. Cultivation Capital led the round with participation from Stout Street Capital and Capital Midwest Fund III.

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 of our Top Powderkeg Picks below:

Companies who are hiring:

Charlotte, NC

  • AMTdirect, a lease administration and lease accounting software platform, is hiring engineers, BDRs, and a regional sales director.
  • Nascent, a provider of gate automation and related technologies, is hiring a product manager and several engineering positions.

Indianapolis, IN

  • Springbuk, a health analytics software, is hiring BDRs, an enterprise sales director, and a full-stack engineer.
  • myCOI, a SaaS-based certificate of insurance management solutions, is hiring a chief product officer, a sales account executive, and engineers.

Washington, D.C. 

  • Arcadia, a nationwide home energy platform, is hiring a director of product, a marketing research analyst, and a product design lead.
  • Sorcero, a language intelligence platform, is hiring several engineering roles, a VP of sales, and a finance & operations role.

Multiple locations or remote

  • CommScope, a portfolio of network infrastructure solutions, is hiring SDRs, a technical support engineer, and a process technician.
  • OhMD, a HIPAA compliant texting and telehealth platform, is hiring engineers, marketing, sales, and client success roles.
  • nCino, a cloud-based bank operating solution, is hiring engineers, client success specialists, BDRs, and other numerous roles.
  • Edify, a global cloud-based communications platform, is hiring engineers, developers, and a cloud database administrator.

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


🏙Unvalley Spotlight

Washington D.C.: The Nation’s Capital, a Home for Tech Talent

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

When it comes to tech, Washington D.C. stands out amongst the competition for its incredible growth potential, ranking in the top three nationally in the tech talent labor pool category. 

So what’s causing this growth spurt of fresh tech talent and startups? Read on to find out!

Key Tech Facts About Washington, D.C.:

Awards and Accolades:

  • In Business Insider’s 2020 list for Best U.S. Cities for Millennials, Washington, D.C. was ranked #3 for affordability and job opportunity.
  • In 2019, CBRE released a report ranking Washington, D.C. as the #3 best market in the U.S. and #4 overall for its ability to attract and grow tech talent.
  • According to a recent study by SmartAsset, D.C. has been named a top city for women in tech for the past five years.

Check out why our nation’s capital is one of the best places to launch a startup: Read More >>


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