Where would you move if you never had to go to the office again, but could still keep your job? 

The answer to this question is becoming more and more relevant to employees of Silicon Valley and other coastal tech hubs. 

Tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Twitter are closing their offices for the year—or even indefinitely—without missing a beat. Employers are reconsidering sky-high rents as much as their employees and so are all the other companies and tech professionals looking to emulate their success.

No matter where you live, the job market will be expanding, and the address on your resume is less relevant than ever.

In this edition of The Spark, you’ll find many of the companies that are hiring, growing, and making remarkable moves in the middle of the country. And at the end of this email, check out our new Igniting Potential section featuring links to resources on everything from better sleep to better management skills. 

Because while I hope something in this email fires up your excitement, I know that the real spark in the equation is… 




VCs Plan Remote Unicorn Hunting

Anywhere, USA

Don’t worry, these unicorns want to be found. On Tuesday the Wall Street Journal reported that venture capital firms are slowly warming up to the new remote world. Accel, First Mark Capital, and Sequoia Capital all spoke about remote seed rounds and what makes them comfortable with investing from a distance.

Smaller rounds are more attractive right now. Meeting founders online means conversations over video are taking the place of introductory dinners. But at the core, investors are still looking for the authenticity and passion that will help a startup attract talent and drive business. Being untethered from the physical in the search for unicorns is new, but not impossible.

Bracing Up Support for Healthcare Workers

Nashville, TN 

Smiles are getting delivered to more doorsteps than ever. SmileDirectClub is putting the technology it uses to print aligners and retainers to use supporting its local community. The company is now providing direct-to-order face shields and plastic respirator face masks to health care organizations. They are also offering free access to their telehealth app so care providers can communicate remotely with patients free-of-charge.

SmileDirectClub has the capacity to produce 7,500 face shields per day and has supplied medical facilities and governments across North America with over 35,000 masks since March. They will even send two free face masks to organizations who want to check out the product. Learn more and get in touch on their website.

Optimism Among Midwest Startups

Chicago, IL

“They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.” Even though 61% of Midwest startup CEOs expect we won’t return to normal until 2021, two-thirds of are “a little-to-very optimistic.” In fact, 45% of the Midwest’s B2C CEOs and 30% of B2B CEOs report business has been positively impacted by the pandemic. These are just some of the findings from a Sandalphon Capital survey of Midwest startup CEOs in late April & early May.

MedTech and B2B tech companies selling to SMBs have been the most negatively impacted sectors of the startup market. Still, only 19% of the startups who participated in the survey reported very or extremely negative impacts. This is great news for those who are growing and allows us to find and elevate the members of our community who need support the most.

Tips to “Startup” Economic Recovery

Bentonville, AR

Startups established 5 years or less created 2.6 million jobs for college graduates from 2010-2017, while more established firms reported a net loss of jobs at the same time. Yet 33% fewer people work at young startups today than in the year 2000. This tension reveals that we know startups can lead economic recovery by creating high-paying, high-skilled tech jobs, but action must be taken now to help them do so. 

That’s why the National Venture Capital Association teamed up with think-and-do tank Heartland Forward to share strategies to boost the 20-state Heartland startup community and spur faster national economic recovery.

One important finding: cities need to forego financial incentives that lure in large firms and take steps that strengthen the existing innovation in their area. These include enabling local dealmakers and promoting early stage risk capital networks. Read the report for the full list of tips that can get the startup engine running better in your community.

Pitch Night Alumni “Startups to Watch”

Detroit, MI 

Don’t take your eye off the ball! Several of the startups Powderkeg has been covering in depth for years were recently named as Top Midwest Startups to Watch in 2020 by Purpose Jobs, a Detroit-based startup community organization. Here are a few of our faves:

  • Cloud subscription manager Zylo ranked #4
  • Data engineering software Astronomer ranked #9
  • B2B podcast platform Casted ranked #12
  • Customer lifecycle management software MetaCX ranked #15
  • Learning management system Lessonly ranked #17

Congrats to all our friends for continuing to kick butt and take the future by storm! Startups in Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Pittsburg, Columbus, and Cleveland rounded out the list, demonstrating more heartland cities where big things are happening in startups.

Environmental Compliance App Raises $3.1M

Indianapolis, IN 

It’s time for an audit—do you know where your files are? If you’re an Encamp customer, the answer is yes. The end-to-end EHS compliance solution recently closed a $3.1M Series A round led by Allos Ventures and High Alpha Capital, with participation from IU Ventures. This investment round will allow the product’s reporting and organizational capabilities to be expanded, making increasingly complicated environmental regulations easier to track and meet.

Encamp launched in 2018. They currently work with more than 170 customers overseeing 2,500 facilities across the country.

COVID Won’t Keep These Cities Down

Anywhere, USA

Forget walkability—this is about viability. Forbes recently reported on a study by Moody’s Analytics that identified the ten US cities most likely to recover quickly from the economic impacts of COVID-19. We were excited to see quite a few mid-tier cities show up as contenders, such as Boise, Idaho; both Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina; Provo, Utah; and Madison, Wisconsin.

Though the report didn’t officially rank the locations, Forbes did identify key economic recovery elements like an educated workforce, a blossoming tech hub, the presence of a university, and even architecture.  

Got 30 seconds? Share some good news with us. The Powderkeg team will share the best stories in an upcoming virtual event, on social, or in a future blog.

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