Last weekend, a New York Times headline posed the following question: “Can Tech Ecosystems Now Grow Inland?” (Spoiler: They can, and they have been for many years now.)

The Times story was based on an interview with AOL founder Steve Case, who observed: “I believe we’ve hit peak Silicon Valley. It’s not that the area won’t continue to attract innovators, but it won’t have the lead it has held for the last decade.”

I like to think of this article as a tribute to years of hard work – from investors, companies, rank-and-file employees, state and local officials and many others – to expand tech sector jobs and economic opportunity in the American heartland. One America Works was created in 2018 specifically to drive and support those efforts, in fact.

But there’s also a lesson in the Times story: What seems perfectly obvious to those of us already working in the Silicon Heartland is still breaking news for many other audiences. This presents us with a challenge and a tremendous opportunity. We need to inform and excite new audiences about this trend and the wave of momentum that’s building behind it. We can’t assume everyone sees what we see, or that tech sector growth in non-coastal cities has reached the point of being self-sustaining.

That is why I’m hoping you will join the OAW team and hundreds of attendees from the tech community for a major in-person event in Ohio in a few weeks. The Connecting the Coasts to the Heartland Conference will feature expert panelists in the tech space and a competitive pitch opportunity for founders to connect with investors. The event is filling fast but you can still RSVP here.

The capital of the Buckeye State and the surrounding region are notching win after win when it comes to tech sector investment and jobs. We’ve included just a few examples of those victories in this edition of the Mid-Point. But there’ll be so much more to discuss when we get together in Columbus on Oct. 19. See you there!

Inside this issue

  • The Next Silicon Valley Will Be in the US Heartland
  • Drive Capital Raises $1 Billion to Fund Midwestern Startups
  • Columbus, Ohio Is Quickly Becoming the Midwest’s Tech Hub
  • Nationwide Pledges $2M to Establish Ag-Tech Research Hub at Ohio State
  • Founders and Investors Convening in Columbus, Ohio on October 19

Steve Case, the founder of AOL, now an investor and philanthropist, led eight bus tours into cities like Detroit, Boise, Chattanooga, and Omaha. He did it to promote a trend he calls “the Rise of the Rest,” which he says will see the coastal dominance of tech unicorns broken by a crop of big startups from the US heartland. In the last 10 years, 1,400 new regional venture firms started in Rise of the Rest cities. There’s been a 600 percent increase in venture capital dollars going to these cities. During the pandemic, investors started opening their minds to Zoom pitches that could be not just from somebody in their backyard, but somebody somewhere else in the country. That has resulted in more coastal venture capital paying attention to what’s happening in these other cities. Read More

Drive Capital has amassed $1 billion in new venture funds, giving the Columbus, Ohio-based firm over $2 billion in assets under management to invest outside of Silicon Valley. “Most of America’s GDP is outside of California,” said co-founder Chris Olsen. In fact, every dollar invested in Drive Capital’s first fund in 2014 was turned into about $4. Drive has invested in several startups that later grew into billion-dollar companies, like insurance provider Root Inc. and language learning platform Duolingo Inc. If investors pay attention to businesses started outside of Silicon Valley, “America will be more competitive on an international basis than it’s ever been before,” Olsen said. Read More

Venture capitalists injected over $3 billion into Columbus over the past 20 years, particularly in healthcare and insurance startups. In 2021, investment essentially doubled, going from $583 million in 2020 to just over $1 billion, with half of those dollars going into two companies: healthcare technology company Olive and autonomous robotics company Path Robotics. So far in 2022, $110 million has gone into Columbus startups. Columbus has also caught the eye of enterprises, including Facebook, Amazon and now Intel, which announced earlier this year that it will build two chip factories outside of the city that will provide 3,000 company jobs. Read More

Nationwide, Central Ohio’s largest private company, has pledged an initial $2 million to establish the AgTech Innovation Hub at Ohio State University. Nationwide and Ohio State will work together to fuel research on mitigating the effects of climate change on crop production. “Agriculture is a part of Nationwide’s DNA, and we believe it’s important to invest in resources that pave the way for a vibrant and robust food supply chain. This innovation hub will be an incubator for those groundbreaking ideas,” Nationwide CEO Kirt Walker said. Read More