Investors are taking a second look at the middle of America

JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon was in the small city of Bentonville, Ark. this week. So were (or still are) more than 350 others, including Pharrell Williams, Chelsea Clinton, the president of the Ford Foundation Darren Walker, Trek Bicycle president John Burke, and a slew of venture capitalists and governors. 

They’re here to talk about investing in the middle of America—chatting about drones, mountain bike trails, hydrogen, and, naturally, Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter (which, by the way, Musk tweeted this morning is on hold; it’s unclear whether he meant it as a joke). The gathering is the second edition of the Heartland Summit, a program backed by the late Walmart founder Sam Walton’s family members. The mission: Build out the center of the country.

“Things are bubbling in ways that aren’t visible to most people,” Steve Case, CEO of Revolution, whose Rise of the Rest seed fund solely invests in companies outside of California, New York, and Massachusetts, told me in an interview ahead of the Summit. 

There had already been momentum in some of these smaller cities around the country: Places like Tulsa, Memphis, Fort Worth, or Montgomery. But particularly with the pandemic, some remote workers are starting to gravitate to new places around the U.S.—whether it be due to a program like Tulsa Remote that offers cash incentives to make a move, or perhaps simply a sheer desire to try something new (Exhibit A for that one: Myself).

Venture capital funding, in particular, has been surging in regions outside of Silicon Valley over the last couple years—with states like Vermont, Montana, or Iowa seeing their levels of investment notch up by more than 200% in 2021, per Pitchbook.

It’s happening in Northwest Arkansas, where startup accelerators like Plug and Play have opened an office, Walmart is partnering with drone startups, and tech companies like farmland investing startup AcreTrader are raising millions and enticing talent from big cities.

There have been, and continue to be, big initiatives underway to build out the ecosystems in some of these regions—whether it be the $38 million 36-mile paved trail connecting cities in Northwest Arkansas or the $465 million privately funded “Gathering Place” park in Tulsa. At the Summit, Arkansas Governor Hutchinson laid out initial plans between the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma to develop what they call a “hydrogen hub” that looks at new forms of sustainable energy. The three states are working on a joint application to the U.S. Department of Energy for federal funding to develop pilot programs, Hutchinson said.

But there’s still a lot of work to be done. JPMorgan’s Dimon said that about 20-30% of society has been left behind in America, a key reason why the bank has set aside $1 billion in community financing for underserved communities. Clinton pointed out on a panel how more than a million Americans still rely on well water.

“There are systemic issues—like the lack of connectivity that really connects inner-city communities and rural communities. That is where bias exists in this country. We cannot be a part of a country that succeeds in the 21st century, when literally millions of people do not have connectivity,” Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, said while presenting at the Summit.

You have to wonder what political issues like a potential overturn of Roe v. Wade might mean for some of this momentum—particularly the incoming female talent pool in some of these states around the country that, like Arkansas, are set to ban most abortions should the Supreme Court decide to overturn it.

Regardless, mayors in these states are gearing up for growth—and investors and foundations seem ready to deploy more dollars.

Until Monday, 

Jessica Mathews
Twitter: @jessicakmathews
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Jackson Fordyce curated the deals section of today’s newsletter.


- Observe, a San Mateo-based data observability platform, raised $70 million in Series A-2 funding from Sutter Hill Ventures, Capital One Ventures, and Madrona Ventures.

- Oasis Pro, a Darien, Conn.-based fintech and blockchain firm, raised $27 million in Series A funding from investors including UDHC, Blizzard the Avalanche Fund, Inveniam, Redwood Trust, TrustLabs, Mirae Asset Venture Investment, Gate Ventures, LedgerPrime, and StableNode

- MARA, a Lagos and Nairobi-based Pan-African crypto exchange, raised $23 million in funding from investors including Coinbase Ventures, FTX, Day One Ventures, Distributed Global, TQ Ventures, and others. 

- StackHawk, a Denver-based application security platform, raised $20.7 million in Series B funding. Sapphire and Costanoa Ventures co-led the round and were joined by investors including Foundry Group and others.

- Altro, a San Francisco-based online credit building platform, raised $18 million in funding from investors including Pendulum, Dick Parsons, Marcy Ventures, Citi Ventures, Black Capital Fund, and Concrete Rose Fund.

- Pharrowtech, a Leuven, Belgium-based wireless broadband hardware and software developer, raised €15 million ($15.62 million) in Series A funding led by Innovation Industries and was joined by investors including imec.xpand, Bloc Ventures, and KBC Focus Fund.

- Cushion, a San Francisco-based bank and credit card fee negotiation company, raised $12 million in Series A funding led by Rose Park Advisors and was joined by investors including Flourish Venture, Vestigo Ventures, TSEF, Green Cow Venture Capital, and CMFG Ventures Discovery Fund.

- SureCam, a St. Louis-based dash cameras and fleet management company, raised $11.5 million in funding led by Lewis & Clark Capital and was joined by CCA Financial

- LandGate, a Denver-based marketplace and data provider for commercial land and solar, wind, minerals, water, and carbon offsets, raised $10 million in Series B funding led by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources and was joined by Kimmeridge

- Satori, a San Francisco-based decentralized derivatives platform for Polkadot, raised $10 million in seed funding. Polychain Capital and Blockchange Ventures led the round and were joined by investors including Jump Crypto, Gavin Wood, Coinbase Ventures, Portal, Acala, Astar, Parallel, and Clover.

- AiTA Bio, a New York-based bio-MEMS drug delivery company, raised $8.5 million in Series A funding led by Hammerstone Capital, BlackPoint Partners, SkyView Investment Advisors, and others.

- SimpliFed, an Ithaca, N.Y.-based virtual breastfeeding and baby feeding telehealth platform, raised $6 million in seed funding. Morningside Ventures and The Venture Collective led the round and were joined by investors including NY Ventures, Elizabeth Street Ventures, Waterline Ventures, and 3CC

- Xage, a Palo Alto-based zero trust security company, raised an additional $6 million in Series B funding from investors including SCF Partners and Overture Climate Fund.

- BalkanID, an Austin-based identity governance and administration platform, raised $5.75 million in seed funding from investors including Uncommon Capital, Afore Capital, Sure Ventures, and other angels. 

- Mission Zero Technologies, a London-based direct air capture technology startup, raised $5 million in seed funding from investors including Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Anglo American

- Sudozi, an Austin-based financial software developer, raised $4.3 million seed in seed funding led by Pear VC and was joined by investors including S3 Ventures and Mischief

- Based, a Los Angeles-based Web3 communication solution, raised $2.5 million in pre-seed funding from investors including Progression Fund, Collab + Currency, Hannah Grey VC, Franklin Templeton Blockchain, Palm Tree Crew, GFR, and other angels.


- A-Gas, backed by KKR, acquired Halon.US, an Anaheim, Calif.-based fire suppression company. FInancial terms were not disclosed. 

- Arctic Glacier, backed by Carlyle Group, acquired North Star Ice, a London, Ontario-based packaged ice products supplier. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- Bansk Group agreed to acquire a majority stake in amika, a Brooklyn-based hair care brand, and Eva NYC, a Brooklyn-based hair care brand. Financial terms were not disclosed.  

- CLEAResult, backed by TPG, acquired ChooseEV, a Edmond, Wash.-based electric vehicle market awareness and education tools provider. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- Clearview Capital acquired WorkWell Occupational Medicine, a Longmont, Colo.-based occupational healthcare provider, and HealthQuest Medical & Conspire!, a Colorado Springs, Colo.-based occupational healthcare provider. Financial terms were not disclosed.  

- Levine Leichtman Capital Partners acquired a majority stake in GLAS, a London-based institutional debt administration services provider. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- Mammoth Holdings, backed by Red Dog Equity, acquired Jax Kar Wash, a Bradenton, Fla.-based car wash business. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- Spring Lane Capital invested $35 million into Soluna Computing, an Albany, N.Y.-based developer and operator of data centers. 

- TEAM Partners recapitalized Nexbelt, a Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.-based belt company. Financial terms were not disclosed.


- SK Capital agreed to acquire Valtris, an Independence, Ohio-based chemicals company, from H.I.G. Capital. Financial terms were not disclosed.


- Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment acquired Redbox Entertainment, an Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.-based movies-to-rent streaming service. The deal is valued at $31 million, according to Bloomberg.

- Verbit acquired U.S. Captioning, a De Pere, Wis.-based closed captioning services provider for national TV stations, networks, producers and programmers. Financial terms were not disclosed.


- NovaQuest Private Equity, a Raleigh, N.C.-based private equity fund, raised $500 million for a fund focused on life sciences and pharmaceutical services companies.

- Elsewhere Partners, an Austin-based venture capital firm, raised $175 million for a second fund focused on B2B software companies. 


- Elsewhere Partners, an Austin-based venture capital firm, promoted Sloane Child and Nick Stoffregen to principal.

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