Midwest startup

How the Midwest Startup and Tech Scene Boomed in 2021

What’s happening in the Midwest has been years in the making, but there’s no doubt that 2021 was a huge year for Midwest startups.

From major funding rounds to explosive IPOs, new funds to new HQs, the Midwest experienced significant growth for its emerging tech hubs in Detroit, Columbus, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh (to name a few).

Based on all this recent funding, rapid expansion (in both head count and offices), IPOs and the path to IPO, and unique product launches, we’ve compiled the top startups to watch in 2022.

Let’s dive into some highlights from the year as we look ahead to the top startups to watch in 2022.

Huge Midwest startup funding rounds

This year, startups in Detroit, Columbus and Chicago saw some hefty funding rounds.

Detroit Startup StockX raised $155 million. In Ann Arbor, telehealth startup Workit Health recently raised $118 million in Series C.

Workit Health cofounders, Robin McIntosh and Lisa McLaughlin

Chicago’s ShipBob raised $200 million. SptonOn, a Chicago- and Detroit-based startup also raised $300 million and acquired Appetize.

In Columbus, Olive raised $400 million just seven months after raising $225.5 million and reaching unicorn status. Other notable funding rounds out of Columbus include Path Robotics’ $156 million, Forge Biologics $120 million Series B, and Lower’s historic $100 million Series A round.

In Ohio, VC funding surpassed $2B in September 2021 according to PitchBook. In 2020, that number was only at $1.13B. While about 66% of that funding has gone to startups in Columbus, Cincinnati had some major wins this year, too. Coterie Insurance just raised $50 million and CinCor Pharma raised a historic $143 million Series B round.

And in Michigan, between 2016 and 2020, VC funding has grown 885%. And it’s just the beginning.

Big HQ moves in the Midwest

Joining the likes of Upstart and Veeva Systems, many coastal companies are looking toward the Midwest to grow their second HQ.

For insurtech startups Huckleberry and battleface, as well as fintech startup River Financial, that city was Columbus.

Columbus is a rapidly growing insurtech and fintech hub with top startups and tech companies located there: Root, Beam Dental, Branch, Bold Penguin, Matic (who also moved to Columbus in 2018), Lower, Upstart and Klarna (who opened its Columbus office in 2015).

Milwaukee is another city poised to be a hot spot for second HQs. This year, two Silicon Valley companies, Marathon Machines and OpenGov, opened new offices in Milwaukee.

Rapid growth

While some of our favorite companies aren’t startups anymore per se (hello Duo Security, KLA, Dynatrace), they play vital roles in the tech community and contribute to its growth. Many still have that startup mentality and are great tech companies to work at. And they’re rapidly growing, too! Dynatrace hired their 3,000th employee this year — and it’s just the beginning.


KLA is rapidly growing in Ann Arbor, too. This Silicon Valley-based tech company opened their second headquarters in Ann Arbor: a new, state-of-the-art campus dedicated to AI and engineering. They’re rapidly hiring in Ann Arbor for these high-tech jobs.

In Columbus, 4 companies announced major expansions that will create nearly 1,200 new jobs in Columbus. Bark and Upstart both announced the creation of over 500 jobs each. On top of that, Path Robotics also announced a big expansion to their HQ and the addition of 140 new jobs.

Midwest startups IPO and acquisitions

Following Root’s historic IPO at the end of 2020, perhaps the biggest Midwest IPO of 2021 is Duolingo. The language-learning app based out of Pittsburgh went public in July with a valuation of $3.7 billion.


Another Midwest-based tech company that went public this year was Bark, that company in Columbus that’s hiring 500 new people to join the team. Bark went public via SPAC with a $1.6-billion valuation.

In Detroit, Benzinga was recently acquired by Beringer Capital for $300 million. And Ann Arbor’s Wisely was acquired by Olo. Another big acquisition out of Ann Arbor was that of ProQuest, a software solution of data analytics for academic research. The company was acquired by Clarivate Analytics for $5.3 billion.

Originally published by Purpose Jobs. 

Previous Article
growth challenges

A New Business for 2022? Learn How to Ace Growth Challenges

Next Article

Cellular-Enabled PC Connectivity Ensures Business Never Stops

Related Posts
Read More

Entrepreneurs: How to Focus Ruthlessly and Win in 2022

New and aspiring entrepreneurs often fall victim to impatience and imperfection. When something’s not working perfectly to their standards (or worse, fails), they take it personally and don’t know how to move on to better iterations after the setback. But that’s what startup life is all about. To win, you have to learn how to...
wjr business beat
Read More

WJR Business Beat: Customer Service is King (Episode 350)

On today's Business Beat, Jeff discusses survey results on how underwhelmed people are by customer service these days despite it being the greatest opportunity for small businesses to rise to the top. Tune in to the Business Beat, below, to learn more about the survey:   Tune in to News/Talk 760 AM WJR weekday mornings...
wjr business beat
Read More

WJR Business Beat: Industry Sectors Facing Major Change In 2022 (Episode 348)

On today's Business Beat, Jeff talks about sectors undergoing sustained disruption and what it means for entrepreneurs. Tune in to the Business Beat, below, to learn more:   Tune in to News/Talk 760 AM WJR weekday mornings at 7:11 a.m. for the WJR Business Beat. Listeners outside of the Detroit area can listen live HERE. Are...
StartupNation Radio feature
Read More

StartupNation Radio with Shay Berman on Building a Business From Scratch

On this week’s episode of StartupNation Radio, Jeff Sloan talks with Digital Resource’s Shay Berman about how he built his company from the ground up and the importance of hiring the right people. Tune in to the StartupNation Radio show with Berman to learn about his journey: Shay Berman, the founder and president of Digital...