I bet I’m not the only one who’s been staying up late this week.

So go ahead and grab that extra cup of coffee, because I have some important tech stories you may have missed amidst the election buzz (and a little extra election context for you, too). 

As it turns out, night owls are in good company right now in the tech industry. In a recent post, one Silicon Valley CEO shared that his employees are sending 52% more messages at night than they were in pre-pandemic times. In today’s email, you’ll learn more about how this data can help Unvalley companies attract top talent.

And although climate change might be a sensitive subject in political circles this year, it’s not controversial in the VC world. A recent report showed that investment in climate tech is growing at a faster rate than overall VC funding. As it turns out, saving the world is also good for the pocketbook (do people still use pocketbooks?)

Keep reading to learn more about these stories and more, in this issue of The Spark:

  • 📅 Election vs. Tech
  • 💪 America’s Got Talent
  • 🌞 Climate Tech Surge

– Matt


📅 Election vs. Tech

In this heated national political season, tech companies have been taking steps to support voters, handle misinformation campaigns, and prevent confusion on election day and beyond. 

Social media juggernauts like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are not only figuring out how to deal with misinformation, they’re also mapping out worst-case scenario plans. Google also banned all ads related to the U.S. election after polls closed on November 3rd. 

Your ballot is your ticket. In the Mighty Middle, one tech company took unique steps to incentivize voting. Indianapolis-based music startup Mandolin gave voters access to a series of virtual concerts if they submitted a selfie proving they voted

The #iVoted Festival was billed as the largest single-day digital concert in history, and the event gave participants access to over 600 online performances.

Voters get a Fast Pass. Ever wish you could easily get the wait time at your polling station, so you could pick the right moment to vote? A coalition of Midwest SaaS companies, including Anvl, Lessonly, and Springbuk, partnered together for this year’s election to launch a website that reported wait times at six voting stations in Marion County, Indiana. 

The coalition’s goal was to make it easier for people to exercise their right to vote, as well as reducing wait times by spreading out the flow of voters on the big day. Springbuk’s VP of Technology, Roger Deetz, celebrated the coalition’s successful efforts earlier this week with a well-deserved celebration.

Speaking of well-deserved celebrations…your team has been through a lot this year. Showcase their efforts, earn national recognition for your company culture, and help attract tech talent by applying for the 2020 Tech Culture Awards

Let’s celebrate!🥂

💪 America’s Got Talent

Dear Abby for CEOs? Tech talent is leaving the coasts and headed for greener pastures in the Mighty Middle – and West Coast leaders are noticing. Last week, Alex Circei, the CEO of San Francisco-based Waydev, published an article offering employers advice on how to retain talent amidst the turbulence of the current tech climate. 

Circei advised companies to give employees flexibility to manage their days a little differently than usual. As employees juggle family responsibilities and shift personal and social habits because of the pandemic, their work behavior is changing, too. One survey within Waydev showed that since the pandemic began, employees have been sending 52% more instant messages between the hours of 6 PM and midnight.

Circei also recommended that companies encourage remote employees to maintain social connections using informal meetings that mimic the emotional benefits of water cooler conversations.

Remote workers still got swagger. Leaders who want to know even more about what job seekers want (and need) right now should definitely dive into the results of Jobvite’s recently-published Recruiter Nation Survey. This survey gives you a cutting-edge look at the biggest things top talent is looking for right now.

One standout point from the report: Job seekers are still confident! Half the recruiters in the survey reported that since the onset of the pandemic, they’ve seen a moderate or higher increase in the amount of candidates negotiating for higher salaries.

Nearly two-thirds of recruiters also said their stress levels have increased since COVID-19 hit – and one-fifth of those recruiters reported that their stress has gone up drastically.

Recruiters and CEOs are taking note of the changes in the job landscape due to the pandemic – and that means big opportunities for Unvalley companies. What can you do to make your workplace as attractive as possible for top talent?

🌞 Climate Tech Surge

Can VC help us reach zero emissions? According to PwC’s recent “State of Climate Tech Report,” investment into climate tech is growing at a faster rate than overall VC funding. Even though climate change is a sensitive topic during this year’s U.S. election season, climate tech is showing no signs of slowing. 

In fact, 6¢ of every VC dollar invested in 2019 was in climate tech deals (totaling $16B for the year).

The growth over the last decade has been jaw-dropping – venture capital investment in this sector increased from just $418 million in 2013 to $16.3 billion in 2019.

Sustainable investors took to social media with glee after PwC released the report, including Sophie Purdom, the founder of an agtech company who invests in early-stage climate tech companies.

Hot under the collar for climate tech? These five Unvalley startups are ones to watch:

If the latest reports are any indication, investors and job seekers interested in climate tech aren’t just tilting at windmills. Jump on board this electric car now to see what happens in this sector over the next few years.


Top fundings, acquisitions, and IPOs between the coasts.

Austin, TX

Baltimore, MD

  • Apkudo, a Baltimore, MD-based provider of supply chain automation solutions for connected devices, announced it has raised $14 million in Series B funding. Harbert Growth Partners and MissionOG led the round with participation from existing investors.

Holland, MI

Los Angeles, CA

  • MarketerHire, a talent marketplace and hiring platform, announced it has raised $3 million in funding. The round was funded with participation from the founders and senior executives at several leading digital brands, including Zillow, Thrive Market, FabFitFun, Seamless, and others. 

Newport, RI

Stamford, CT

Raleigh, NC

  • Finmark, a technology company that provides financial planning and modeling software for startups, announced it has raised $5 million in seed funding. The round included investors IdeaFund Partners, as well as Bessemer Venture Partners and Draper Associates.

St. Louis, MO

  • Capacity, a helpdesk powered by artificial intelligence, announced it has raised $11 million in Series C financing. Rice Park Capital Management led the round.
  • Benson Hill, a crop design platform to develop healthier and more sustainable food and ingredients, announced it closed $150 million in Series D funding. The Wheatsheaf Group and GV led the round.


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

  • Callibrity, a custom software developer, is hiring Java and .NET developers.
  • Narwal, a team of automation and data experts, is hiring engineers, developers, data analysts, and more. 

Indianapolis, IN

  • Greenlight Guru, a medical device quality management company hiring an account executive and several product development roles. 
  • CleanSlate Technology Group, a provider of enterprise tech consulting services, is hiring solutions and cloud architects, consultants in different programming languages, a senior business development professional, and more.

Nashville, TN

  • Blueprint Title, a tool to streamline residential real estate closings, hiring escrow officers, business development professionals, and more. 
  • Built Technologies, a construction financing platform, is hiring bilingual customer support reps, operations analysts, a VP of Sales, a Head of Finance, and many other roles in-between. 
  • naviHealth, a tool to preserve the post-acute care continuum, is hiring inpatient care coordinators, product managers, quality consultants, a national accounts director, and more.

Remote or Multiple Locations 

  • Cordial, a content marketing platform, is hiring a product marketing manager, sales director, engineering, and more.
  • Unum ID, an identity verification tool, is hiring multiple senior developers and a VP of Enterprise Sales.


Get the lowdown on even more compelling companies, stories, and events to help you reach your full potential…

  • Founder and Managing Partner of Backstage Capital, Arlan Hamilton recently announced and shared a documentary called “jOURney,” showing her journey to becoming a VC leader and Founding Backstage Capital. Watch it here>>
  • UNMET announced its first UNMET Founders conference taking place November 16 through December 7, 2020. The conference will create a venue for traditionally underrepresented founders, specifically women, and diverse founders, to raise venture funding. Check it out>>
  • This year Powderkeg is hosting its first official virtual conference. It’s going down December 17-18 and will feature some of the best tech, leadership, and innovation happening beyond Silicon Valley. Join the waitlist>>

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!