Gone are the days when headline-making tech acquisitions and IPOs come only out of Silicon Valley and New York City. Local tech and entrepreneurship communities are thriving across the U.S. in cities like Atlanta, Nashville, Raleigh-Durham, and Indianapolis. And savvy venture capitalists--within and outside of the coasts--are seizing the opportunity.

Notable examples include AOL founder Steve Case's Rise of the Rest tour, which was designed to invest in the innovative startups beyond the coasts from their fund, Revolution Ventures. And in 2013, two former-Silicon-Valley venture capitalists moved to Columbus, Ohio, to start venture capital firm Drive Capital, raising $250 million to invest in the innovative companies growing in middle America.

As more entrepreneurs decide to start up in the Heartland, big exits from businesses started in landlocked states are becoming the norm rather than the exception. From cyber security firms to cloud computing providers, business intelligence applications to customer insights companies, we've listed 13 of the largest, wave-making tech exits over the past five years from companies headquartered between the coasts.

These are all unicorn exits, meaning they were acquired or IPO'd at valuations of more than $1 billion. The exits and their corresponding returns are exactly why many venture capitalists and angel investors are now looking beyond Silicon Valley for their investments. Get to know them:

1. Sensus

Location: Raleigh, North Carolina
Deal type: Acquisition
Sale price: $1.7 billion in cash
Sold to: Xylem in August 2016


Sensus operates in the internet of things (IoT) space, manufacturing sensor-equipped smart meters for the public utilities industry. Its equipment gathers data and analyzes usage of water, gas, and electricity throughout the U.S., Europe, and China. The company sold to Xylem, a water technology provider from New York that wanted to further modernize its products with systems intelligence solutions. This exit added to the already long list of tech acquisitions and IPOs in the area, thanks in part to the Research Triangle Park (RTP), the largest research park in the U.S.

2. ExactTarget

Location: Indianapolis
Deal type: Acquisition
Sale price: $2.5 billion in cash and stock
Sold to: Salesforce in June 2013


ExactTarget's automated email software let marketers send event-triggered, one-to-one customer communications to drive engagement and increase sales. It was a pioneer in automated marketing technology, and its acquisition by San Francisco-based Salesforce helped fan the flame of an already-vibrant tech economy in Indianapolis. Salesforce continues to grow its Indianapolis office and Indiana's largest and fastest-growing tech employer according to its CEO, Marc Benioff.

3. Video Gaming Technologies

Location: Greater Nashville Area, Tennessee
Deal type: Acquisition
Sale price: $1.3 billion in cash and stock
Sold to: Aristocrat Leisure Limited in July 2014


Video Gaming Technologies, or VGT, is a leading North American developer, manufacturer, and distributor of video casino games. Its purchase by Australian casino game manufacturer Aristocrat Leisure Limited helped put Franklin and nearby Nashville on the map for its already thriving community for launching and growing tech companies.

4. Sourcefire

Location: Columbia, Maryland
Deal type: Acquisition
Sale price: $2.7 billion
Sold to: Cisco in July 2013


Sourcefire was a cybersecurity provider for enterprise IT infrastructures acclaimed for its agile security principles that minimized network security risks. Cisco, which is traditionally known for manufacturing corporate network hardware, recognized that hacking and data leaks were becoming growing customer concerns. It acquired Sourcefire to add infrastructure security software to their portfolio of hardware products.

5. GrubHub

Location: Chicago
Deal type: IPO
Valuation after IPO: $2+ billion
Went public: April 2014


GrubHub taps into the growing market for food delivery services with an app that lets users order delivery or carry out from nearby restaurants. The app currently lists 50,000 restaurants in 1,100 U.S. cities and London, and the company maintains offices in New York and London in addition to its Chicago headquarters. GrubHub already has seven acquisitions under its belt and is likely to continue scaling since the online food ordering trend shows no signs of stopping.

6. ExteNet Systems

Location: Lisle, Illinois
Deal type: Buyout/LPO
Sale price: $1.4 billion
Sold to: Digital Bridge Holdings in July 2015


ExteNet Systems designs, builds, and operates distributed antenna systems and small cell systems, which it leases out to wireless service providers who want to improve their service in venues such as sports stadiums. It was bought out by Digital Bridge Holdings, an investment group from Florida that also owns two wireless tower operators. The capital provided through the buyout allowed ExteNet Systems to expand offerings of their in-demand products.

7. Zayo Group

Location: Boulder, Colorado
Deal type: IPO
Valuation: $4.45 billion
Went public: October 2014


Zayo Group provides fiber optic infrastructure services and co-location facilities to data centers, internet content providers, and government agencies in the U.S. and Europe. It had been acquiring small telecommunications companies and their infrastructures for years prior to going public, banking on long-term returns as fiber optics slowly become the norm for digital communication. Shared investor optimism led to their highly successful IPO.

8. Datalogix

Location: Westminster, Colorado
Deal type: Acquisition
Sale price: $1.2 billion
Sold to: Oracle in December 2014


Datalogix connected offline purchasing data to social-media information to determine which online ads made consumers spend money at the store. Before it was acquired, its DLX Platform powered campaigns for 75 percent of online media companies, and it maintained offices in six major cities across the U.S. and in London. Oracle purchased the company to incorporate their data-driven, cross-channel marketing services into the Oracle Data Cloud.

9. Virtustream

Location: Bethesda, Maryland
Deal type: Acquisition
Sale price: $1.2 billion
Sold to: EMC in May 2015


Virtustream offers cloud computing management software and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) for enterprise businesses, IT service providers, and government agencies. Well-known companies such as Domino Sugar, Heinz, Kawasaki, Lexmark, and Scotts Miracle-Gro rank among its customers. It was acquired by EMC, a cloud storage company in Massachusetts, adding to the trend of major IT companies beefing up their cloud computing capabilities.

10. Interactive Intelligence

Location: Indianapolis
Deal type: Acquisition
Sale price: $1.4 billion in cash
Sold to: Genesys in August 2016


Interactive Intelligence was a pioneer in customer engagement software, integrating telecommunications systems with cutting-edge technology. Company founder Don Brown scaled the business from founding, through an IPO in 1999, and ultimately to a sale to industry Goliath, Genesys. Interactive Intelligence's cloud-based customer engagement software was a leader in the industry. Their innovative approach, combined with healthy revenue from on-premise clients, made Interactive Intelligence an inevitable acquisition.

11. Kenexa

Location: Wayne, Pennsylvania
Deal type: Acquisition
Sale price: $1.3 billion in cash
Sold to: IBM in August 2012


Kenexa provides a wide variety of software and services for employee recruitment and retention. It employed 2,800 people when it sold to IBM, with the vast majority of them based in 21 countries around the world. IBM acquired Kenexa as part of their move into the global talent management market, which gave the rebranded IBM Kenexa a great opportunity to increase its presence in the global HR space.

12. AirWatch

Location: Atlanta
Deal type: Acquisition
Sale price: $1.17 billion in cash
Sold to: VMware in January 2014


AirWatch's enterprise software platform helps IT administrators deploy and manage their employees' mobile devices, as well as the apps and content on those devices. Mobile device management (MDM) was in high demand by enterprise businesses at the time of acquisition, and more than 100 vendors were competing in the industry. VMware's purchase of AirWatch was a big step for the trend of consolidating MDM providers.

13. CoverMyMeds

Location: Columbus, Ohio
Deal type: Acquisition
Sale price: $1.1 billion
Sold to: McKesson in January 2017


CoverMyMeds provides an innovative platform that helps doctors and pharmacists complete prior authorization for prescription drugs. With help from local investment groups, CoverMyMeds rapidly scaled to a team of 500 with two offices in Ohio, attracting interest from health care giant McKesson. The acquisition is the first in excess of $1 billion for an Ohio tech startup and marks a huge victory for local organizations working to bring the state into the national tech spotlight.

These are just a few of the most notable examples of innovation beyond the coasts, and exceptional investments from savvy venture capitalists. As more investment dollars are poured into Middle America, and more companies are acquired or IPO'd, these lesser-known innovation hubs will continue to make headlines and create massive value in their industries.

Published on: May 1, 2017