Newsletter January 19, 2017
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Montana High Tech News

By Christina Henderson

Here’s a quiz – how many high tech and manufacturing companies do you think we have in Montana?

On December 20, 2016, the Montana High Tech Business Alliance emailed our third annual survey of Montana tech companies with the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana to 242 Alliance member companies and 304 non-member companies in high-tech and manufacturing. That’s 546 total tech companies in Montana.

This doesn’t include the tech companies we haven’t found yet. We have to hunt them like rare wild beasts as they tend to hide in remote business parks and second floor offices without signage.

The Alliance is ramping up our efforts to raise the visibility of Montana's many world-class businesses and related jobs that need to be filled. To kick things off, we’re highlighting 15 Montana companies to watch in 2017. To form this list, we looked for startups and growth companies that fit at least one of the following criteria:
  • steep revenue growth and/or working in a high-growth sector
  • received notable angel or VC investment
  • poised to launch high-potential products or services
  • plan to expand operations or add a significant number of jobs in 2017
Here are our picks in alphabetical order.

1. Ascent Vision, Bozeman

Ascent Vision founder Tim Sheehy was a Navy SEAL officer and Army Ranger who saw an opportunity to provide lower-cost aerial surveillance to government and industry. Launched in a barn in 2013, Ascent Vision formed a joint venture with Australian gimbal maker UAV Vision and in the first year grew from two people to 50 and multi-millions of dollars in sales. In late 2016, Ascent Vision broke ground on a 30,000 sq. ft. facility to meet high demand for sensors in unmanned aerial vehicles, maritime surveillance and self-driving cars. Photos: Ascent Vision

2. Audience Awards, Missoula

Launched in 2013 by award-winning filmmaker Paige Williams, Audience Awards is a platform that connects brands to high-quality, user generated content through video contests and film challenges. Partnerships with GoDaddy, Hilton Worldwide and Kodak have brought Audience Awards recognition in Forbes, Entrepreneur and Inc. magazines. The company raised more than $500,000 in funding in late 2016 from Alliance of Angels and Victress Capital, expanding its offices and its team. Photo: Audience Awards

3. Centricient, Bozeman

Centricient closed a $6.5 million round in 2016 led by Venrock (venture capital arm of the Rockefeller family) and followed by Next Frontier Capital. Centricient is re-imagining customer service for a mobile world, connecting customers and enterprises through text messaging. The firm was founded by Mike Myer, the former CTO of RightNow Technologies which sold to Oracle in 2011 for $1.8 billion. Centricient also formed a partnership in 2016 with Helix Business Solutions, an Oracle Service Cloud solutions integrator, to sell and implement messaging to its customer base. Photos: Centricient

4. Clearas Water Recovery, Missoula

Clearas Water Recovery, maker of a patented biological wastewater treatment system, closed a $4 million series B round in 2016. The 40-person team has developed a scalable, algae-based system that purifies industrial and municipal wastewater to the highest regulatory standards and creates a useful byproduct. According to CEO Jordan Lind, Clearas earned $4 million in revenue in 2016, and has a backlog to reach $16 million in 2017 and $27 million in 2018. Lind is a 3rd generation Montanan, descended from sugar beet farmers, who co-founded a previous high-growth Missoula tech company as an MBA student at the University of Montana. Photos: Clearas Water Recovery

5. Elixiter, Bozeman

Founded by Billings native and RightNow Technologies veteran Andrew Hull in 2011, Elixiter is a marketing services firm focused on clients of the Marketo platform. Rapid expansion led Elixiter to relocate four times in four years. Since the company’s inception, Elixiter has averaged 100% year over year growth and landed on the Inc. 5,000 list of fastest-growing companies in 2016. Fortune Magazine ranked Elixiter number 52 on its inaugural list of 100 Best Workplaces for Women. The company has a team of about 40 consultants serving clients like FitBit, Aetna, Cisco, and Photo: Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez, Bozeman Daily Chronicle

6. Foundant Technologies, Bozeman

Co-founded in 2006 by MSU graduates who were early RightNow Technologies employees, software-as-a-service company Foundant Technologies helps philanthropic foundations streamline and simplify their grant proposal processes. Foundant was on the Inc. 5,000 list of fastest growing companies in 2014, 2015, and 2016 and named one of Outside Magazine’s Best Places to Work. By late 2016, Foundant had 50 employees, more than $4 million in annual revenue, and merged with Washington firm Smalldog to offer the promising new CommunitySuite - financial solutions for community foundations. Photos: Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez, Bozeman Daily Chronicle and Foundant Technologies.

7. Girlzilla, Malta

Misty Kuhl's vision for Girlzilla – a marketplace for women’s used outdoor gear - earned her a spot as a Native Entrepreneur in Residence and $125,000 in funding from New Mexico Community Capital, as well as a seat at Obama’s 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Palo Alto. An enrolled tribal member (Gros Ventre) of Montana’s Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, Kuhl graduated (cum laude) from Montana State University as a first-generation college student. She then relocated to Albuquerque, NM where she was a small business owner, whitewater rafting guide, and REI sales lead. Kuhl moved her company home to Malta, Montana in 2016 in the hope of bringing sustainable economic opportunity to her community. The Girlzilla platform is slated to launch in 2017. Photos: Girlzilla

8. GTUIT, Billings

GTUIT was Montana’s fastest growing company last year, reaching the 203rd position on Inc. magazine's 2016 Inc. 500. The firm grew 1,894 percent over three years and earned $10.9 million in revenue in 2015. GTUIT was Launched in 2011 by three engineers with decades of experience in the Bakken oil fields. After convincing their first customer to fund the prototype, the co-founders developed a process that cuts emissions and puts flare gas to use instead of burning it as waste. In 2015, GTUIT received equity investment from Caterpillar Oil & Gas and an award of excellence from the World Bank Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership. Photos: Larry Mayer, Billings Gazette and GTUIT

9. LMG Security, Missoula

After earning degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from MIT and writing the world’s first textbook on Network Forensics, Sherri Davidoff launched LMG Security in 2008. LMG is a cyber security consulting, research and education company experiencing fast growth in a hot field. LMG’s global clients include government agencies, health care organizations, and Fortune 500 companies. Davidoff teaches at industry knowledge centers like SANS and Black Hat and has been featured in Wired Magazine. The LMG team has doubled in size over the last three years to 25 employees and climbing. The firm just purchased a new building near the Clark Fork River in Missoula. Photo: Kim Zetter / Wired

10. Montana Precision Products, Butte

Montana Precision Products was created in 2013 when SeaCast Inc. and General Electric formed a 50-50 joint venture to build parts and castings for GE’s jet engines. SeaCast was owned by Butte natives and brothers Bert and Mike Robins, who continue as owners of Montana Precision today. According to General Manager Chris Eurich, Montana Precision has around 135 employees in Butte. The company invested $1.5 million in new technology in 2016 and plans to grow its workforce by 50 percent in the next three years to meet growing demand for more fuel-efficient LEAP jet engines. Photos: MT High Tech Business Alliance and Walter Hinick, The Montana Standard

11. onXmaps, Missoula

Eric Siegfried launched onXmaps in 2009 as a new graduate of Montana State University's College of Engineering to solve his frustrations finding accurate land ownership maps while hunting in Montana. He started making GPS plug-ins and later launched the ROAM app for hunting and backcountry recreation. Siegfried bootstrapped a $500 initial investment into a multi-million dollar enterprise employing 65 people. Thanks to the ROAM app’s popularity, onXmaps is expanding its offices in 2017 and plans to have 200 employees in Missoula in five years. Photos: onXmaps

12. Orbital Shift, Missoula

After earning a Master’s in Computer Science and an MBA from the University of Montana, Orbital Shift founder and serial entrepreneur Kevin O’Reilly relied on bootstrapping and early customer feedback to fine tune his SaaS products in online workforce management. Today over 40 percent of Orbital Shift users log into the software every single day. In late 2016, Orbital Shift closed a $1.25 million Series Seed round led by Next Frontier Capital and added an office in Bozeman. Photos: Orbital Shift

13., Livingston

Founded in 1996 by CEO Andrew Field as a traditional print shop, PFL went online in 1999 with the first ever e-commerce site for commercial print – PFL landed on the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies three times and was featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and on CNBC for its innovative HR policies. Two decades later, the firm has 225 employees and is evolving into a marketing technology company. PFL has developed a popular SwagIQ gifting plugin for Salesforce and carved out a niche MarTech category called Tactile Marketing Automation that’s on track for steep growth in 2017. Photos: PFL

14. Spika Design and Manufacturing, Lewistown

Lewistown native Tom Spika started his company in 2001 as a two-person shop on the family farm. Today Spika Design and Manufacturing is a multi-million dollar company, designing and building aviation maintenance equipment for global markets. Spika was Montana Exporter of the Year in 2013. The firm now employs 60 people, including Tom’s daughters Katie Spika (COO) and Bekhi Spika (Marketing Director), and is developing innovative programs to attract and train local talent for high-paying jobs. A 6,000 square foot expansion in 2016 is accommodating new contracts and engineers. Photo: Spika Design and Manufacturing

15. ViZn Energy, Columbia Falls

Ron Van Dell had stints at GE and Dell Computer and was CEO of three startups in Austin and Silicon Valley before coming to Montana to join ViZn Energy as president and CEO in 2014. During Van Dell’s tenure, the industrial-scale battery manufacturer has grown from about 15 employees to more than 60 scientists, engineers, and software technicians working on the forefront of the clean energy revolution. ViZn previously raised over $37 million in independent investments and was closing up another $25 million round of funding in late 2016. Photo: Jake Cook, Austin Business Journal
These are just a few of the Montana companies we'll be keeping an eye on in the coming year. Who would you add to the list?

Member News:

ikuw Solutions' Apprentice Hive Code School Graduates Inaugural Class

Apprentice Hive Code School - ikuw Solutions
The Apprentice Hive is an accelerated technology program that develops fundamental skills in web programming, databases and agile product delivery. Click to watch video by Ndigena.
The Apprentice Hive Code School graduated its inaugural swarm on December 2nd, 2016. There were five graduates, one from Montana and four from Alaska. Three of the Alaskans traveled to Helena to attend the training at ikuw Solutions’ Helena training center, while the others attended the class remotely via the online, LiveRemote platform. All attended the graduation ceremony in Helena.

During the 12-weeks, students used a Microsoft technology stack to learn Web Development Fundamentals, Software Fundamentals, Database Fundamentals, Networking, Windows Desktop Administration and agile product delivery using Scrum. Some of them have already passed the Microsoft Technology Associate exams to earn the associated certifications. The next Apprentice Hive cohort will be using an open source technology stack based on Java Standard and Enterprise Edition. For more information, visit
Blackfoot Telecommunications Group. Montana's Broadband Network Growing at Unprecedented Pace, Transforming Rural Communities (Blackfoot Telecommunications Group News)
Blackfoot Telecommunications Group, Missoula Economic Partnership. Missoula Economic Partnership Plans Studies On Workforce, Entry-Level Housing (Missoula) 
Advanced Technology Group. Job-training grants go to Jore, 2 Missoula firms (Missoulian)
NorthWestern Energy. NorthWestern Says Grid Is Secure Despite Latest Cyber Threat (Missoula Current)
CTA Inc. New water display at children's museum has fun flowing in downtown Billings (Billings Gazette)
Audience Awards. Alliance of Angels invests in Audience Awards (Alliance of Angels Newsletter)
Blackstone LaunchPad Montana State University & Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship. Two MSU Blackstone LaunchPad ventures place in competitions, win prize money (MSU News Service)
Blackstone LaunchPad - University of Montana. Missoula-Based Mutual Fund Earns Top National Honors from The Wall Street Journal (Missoula Current)
Core Health. Speakers named for TEDx Bozeman 2017 (Bozeman Daily Chronicle) 
Missoula Economic Partnership. State Infrastructure More Than Roads and Bridges (Missoula Current) James Grunke: Session offers chance to push economic growth (Missoulian)
MSU College of Engineering and Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship. MSU pushes for Romney, against budget cuts (Bozeman Daily Chronicle) MSU has invaded the International Space Station (ABC FOX Montana)
MSU Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship. MSU faculty win $86,000 grant to continue interdisciplinary ‘Farm to Market’ course (MSU News)
Big Sky Code Academy. Progress: Big Sky Code Academy aims to get people jobs in tech sector (Missoulian)
Goomzee. Introducing New Branded Pay-As-You-Go Lead Capture Solution (Goomzee Blog)
Montana Tech. Montana Tech plans for growth (KTVH MTN News)
Next Frontier Capital. Local biotech raises $15 million for development of opioid alternative (Bozeman Daily Chronicle)
University of Montana and Veterans. Veterans Invited to Participate in Entrepreneurship Training Program at UM (UM News)

Upcoming Events:

Save the Date: Upcoming Alliance Member Reception in 2017
  • Bozeman, Tuesday, February 21, 2017, hosted by Rocky Mountain Bank.  Board of Advisor's meeting and CEO Roundtable 2:30-4:30 pm.
Montana Code Girls. Registration for January 2017 Session is now open. The January through May Session is focused on Technovation Montana. Click here for more information and to register.
MMEC Training, Events & Classes. Montana Manufacturing Extension Center is offering training, events and classes statewide, starting January 2017 through February 22, 2017. Click here for more details, official dates, times and featured trainings, events or classes.
Big Sky Code Academy Full Time Web Development Boot Camps - Bozeman and Missoula. Starting January 23rd, 2017 and ending April 21st, 2017. Join the Big Sky Code Academy's 3 month full time coding boot camps in Bozeman and Missoula. Classes are Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. Click here for more information about Bozeman's classes and Missoula's classes.
Big Sky Code Academy Part Time Web Development Boot Camps - Bozeman and Missoula. Starting January 24th, 2017 and ending June 22nd, 2017. Join the Big Sky Code Academy's 5 month part time coding boot camps in Bozeman and Missoula. Classes are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6:30pm to 9:30pm. Click here for more information about Bozeman's classes and Missoula's classes.
2017 Economic Outlook Seminar, The High-Wage Job Puzzle: Finding Montana's Place in the New Geography of Jobs. January 24, 2017 through March 15, 2017 at various locations statewide. Registration is now open for these seminars. Click here for exact dates, more information and to register.
The Secret Sauce That Turned Israel Into "The Start-Up Nation” - Missoula. Thursday, January 26, 2017, from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm at the University of Montana Gilkey Building. Organized by Montana World Trade Center and Accelerate Montana. Click here for more details and to register for this event
Shark Tank Live Pitch Business Plan Competition -  Helena. Apply by January 30, 2017 to pitch your business idea live with an audience of 400 or more attendees on March 13th and 14th, 2017. Alliance members have previously competed and judged this competition, including 2014's competition winner, Tampout. Click here for more information and to register.
1 Million Cups - Bozeman. Wednesday, February 1, 2017 at 7:30am at Red Tractor Pizza. Presenting Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, a full service legal firm offering expertise in intellectual property, banking, natural resources and more. Click here for more information
TEDx Bozeman. Featuring MTHBA member, Holistic Health Coach, Jackie Corcoran, at the Commons at Baxter and Love on Saturday, April 8, 2017. Tickets go on sale Wednesday, February 1, 2017. Click here for tickets and more information.
Montana Code School Full Time Immersive Courses - Bozeman and Missoula. Starting Monday, February 6, 2017 and Friday, April 28, 2017. Join the Montana Code School in Missoula or Bozeman for their full-time immersive program that gives you the skills and fundamentals you need to land a job as a full-stack Jr. Web Developer. Click here for more information and to register.
Montana Tech 9th Annual CareerSmart Fair. Wednesday, February 8, 2017, from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm, at the Student Union Building. Student and alumni are encouraged to attend. Click here for more information.
GoDaddy Video Contest for Small Businesses. Audience Awards hosts the Consummate Host - GoDaddy for Small Business Stories Video Contest. $21,500 in Cash Prizes to 10 Hard Working Innovators. Submission deadline is Monday, February 13, 2017 at 12:00 pm MT. Click here for more contest information.
Hellgate Venture Network - Missoula.  Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 4:30 pm at Berkshire Hathaway Downtown Missoula. Click here to RSVP.
Big Sky Code Academy Full Time Web Development Boot Camps - Helena. Starting February 20th, 2017 and ending May 19th, 2017. Join the Big Sky Code Academy's 3 month full time coding boot camp in Helena. Classes are Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. Click here for more information about Helena's classes.
Big Sky Code Academy Part Time Web Development Boot Camps - Helena. Starting February 21st, 2017 and ending July 20th, 2017. Join the Big Sky Code Academy's 5 month part time coding boot camp in Helena. Classes are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6:30pm to 9:30pm. Click here for more information about Helena's classes.
STEAMfest University of Montana. Tuesday February 28, 2017 through Thursday, March 2, 2017. A virtual career fair connecting Montana high school students with role models in STEM and the arts. Click here to register.
Montana Code School Part Time Immersive Courses - Missoula. Starting Tuesday, March 21, 2017 and ending Thursday, September 7, 2017. Join the Montana Code School in Missoula for their part-time immersive program that meets nightly, will sharpen your current development skills or the fundamentals that you need to land a job as a full-stack Jr. Web Developer. Click here for more information and to register
Recent Newsletters:
12/22/2016 - Engineer Turned Lawyer Helps Montana High-Tech Companies with IP, Patents: Q&A with William MacBride, Founder, MacBride Law
12/15/2016 - Bank of Bozeman Celebrates 10+ Years Supporting Montana Entrepreneurs; Next Frontier leads $3.5 million series A for Bozeman's Blackmore Sensors
12/09/2016 - Missoula's Sunburst Sensors Continues to Innovate in Wake of $2 Million Ocean Health XPRIZE; ikuw Solutions Graduates Coders from New 12-week Program 
12/02/2016 - Internet Marketing Powerhouse Hagadone Digital Accelerates High-tech Growth in Western Montana; UM President Royce Engstrom Steps Down
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