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June 13, 2019 Newsletter
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Montana High Tech News

Local broadband companies cite need to work together to make Montana best-connected state

“I have two goals at [Montana Telecommunications Association],” Geoff Feiss, General Manager (center), said. “Removing barriers to deployment, that’s one, and accelerating and facilitating the deployment of broadband infrastructure.” Photos by Photos by Marissa Irene Photography and Katy Spence/MHTBA.

By Katy Spence

It’s often said that technology removes geography as a barrier to running successful tech companies, but infrastructure still provides challenges in the most rural states. Montana is the fourth largest state in the US, but it ranks at 48 in terms of population density. Connecting people in sparsely-populated areas through fiber, broadband, and phone service is an ongoing objective for both utility companies and the tech companies who use their services.

In April, a group of Montana executives gathered in the new Nemont Billings Office (formerly Parsec Data Management under Diamond BTS) to discuss the state and future of telecommunications in rural Montana.

 

Broadband: “Challenges of distance and density”

According to Broadbandnow.com, Montana is ranked at 48 in terms of connectivity with 77 percent of the state having access to broadband. While that number is up from its rank of 50 in 2018, Geoff Feiss, General Manager of the Montana Telecommunications Association (MTA), wants it go up even more.

I have two goals at MTA,” Feiss said. “Removing barriers to deployment, that’s one, and accelerating and facilitating the deployment of broadband infrastructure.”

MTA works on behalf of independent rural telecommunications service providers in Montana. In addition to supporting deployment of high-speed internet in rural areas, MTA also lobbies at the state and federal levels, performs public policy analysis, and holds annual meetings and educational opportunities for its members.

Feiss said MTA member companies have deployed 25,000 miles of high-speed fiber optic cable in Montana. The main fiber “backbone” is owned by Vision Net, a consortium collectively owned by nine MTA member companies.

While MTA companies are investing more $100 million each year in rural infrastructure, Montana’s low population density means there are few customers, and they don’t live near each other in rural areas. The number of customers averages out to fewer than three households per square mile.

“We got a whole lot of distance between lightbulbs, as Conrad Burns used to say,” Feiss said.

MTA estimates that it costs an average of $30,000/mile to dig and install fiber, with fluctuations depending on terrain.

Read more

Meet a member of the MHTBA team: Maddy Ouellette

Maddy Ouellette is the newest intern for Montana High Tech Business Alliance, as well as the only Bobcat in the office. Nonetheless, she is excited to explore Missoula for the summer and work as the Membership and Events Intern. As she approaches her senior year of college studying business marketing at Montana State, Maddy hopes to pursue a career in event marketing, ideally in the nonprofit sector. In her spare time, Maddy enjoys interning for Bobcat Athletics as well as hiking around in the mountains. 

Member News:

SoFi brings high tech to high altitude

SoFi provides a variety of products to help “get your money right,” everything from loans to investments to checking and savings. Its products occupy a virtual space; there are no branches, for example, only a fully featured mobile app and website. Behind the scenes, SoFi’s offices bridge eight states representing diverse geographies. Photo via Choose Montana.
By Choose Montana

Five years ago, a fast-growing personal finance company expanded from the ocean breeze of California to the mountain air of Montana, bringing a wealth of high-tech jobs to a workforce of talented software engineers ready for a new opportunity.

It started with David Thompson. Now a vice president of engineering at SoFi, Thompson initially signed on with the company as a remote employee — one of its first in Montana. Offered the chance to move from Helena to San Francisco, Thompson proposed an alternative: bring San Francisco to Helena.

It worked, and shortly SoFi would have an office in a charming, vibrant town nestled between Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks full of western history, world-class biking trails and some of the best geocaching around.

“We got to find a lot of key resources very quickly for engineers that were looking for something like this,” said Thompson. “There hadn’t been a San Francisco-type company move into Helena. So that was really interesting. We were able to pull some great talent very quickly together and start the office.”

Today, 140 staff in Helena form a large core of the company’s engineering department, which continues to grow with another dozen openings recently posted to its career website.

Read more.

Frontier Angels Executive Director Pat LaPointe elected to Board of Directors of Angel Capital Association

Pat LaPointe, Managing Director of Frontier Angels, Director of Early Stage Montana, and Montana resident has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Angel Capital Association (ACA), the world’s leading professional association for angel investors.  ACA provides public policy advocacy, professional development, resources, and networking on behalf of its more than 14,000 member angel investors across North America.
 
LaPointe is a successful entrepreneur who built and sold three companies and then transitioned his passion to angel investing.  He has made over 100 investments and serves as an advisor to early-stage growth companies with a concentrated focus on data- and analytics-driven businesses and SaaS.  He is also a member of multiple angel groups including the Alliance of Angels (Seattle), Desert Angels (Tucson), E8 Angels (Seattle), Gopher Angels (Minneapolis), Rockies Venture Club (Denver) and Tech Coast Angels (Orange County).  LaPointe serves on multiple boards of directors and is an active volunteer with Yellowstone Forever and Gallatin Valley Land Trust.
 
"I am delighted to have a chance to serve the community of hundreds of thousands of angel investors nationwide, as well as those in my home state of Montana.  There are so many things ACA does to identify and share the practices that drive excellent investment outcomes for angels while simultaneously improving our ability to help entrepreneurs reach their goals and create growth and jobs in our local communities. From education to benchmarking to public policy influence, I hope to add to the already substantial impact ACA has in further professionalizing one of the most important asset classes in America,” said LaPointe.

Read the full press release.

Read the Missoula Current article.

Register now for July 2 Cybersecurity Workshop Training in Bozeman

Learn more and register on the website.
Montana High Tech Business Alliance, Advanced Electronic Designs: Business Briefs for June 9, 2019 (Bozeman Daily Chronicle)
Montana Department of Commerce, Missoula Economic Partnership, Satic USA, TOMIS: Missoula Economic Partnership: Local companies on hiring sprees but challenges remain (Missoulian)
Figure, SoFi: Tech company in Cannery grows Bozeman location (Bozeman Daily Chronicle)
Missoula Economic Partnership: Missoula Economic Partnership moves into new downtown digs (Missoula Current)
Pulsara: Vonage and Pulsara Partner to Enable Mobile Telehealth Capabilities (PR Newswire)
Cowboy Cricket Farms: Inside the company helping veterans launch their own startups, from farming crickets to selling matcha powder (Business Insider)
Dunrovin Ranch: Osprey watching helps seniors fight loneliness, with an assist from schoolkids (Missoula Current)
Yellowstone Forever: Yellowstone Forever head to resign; board treasurer named interim CEO (Bozeman Daily Chronicle)
Bozeman coworking space: Women’s coworking space to open in Cannery (Bozeman Daily Chronicle)
Gallatin County growth: New plan to address growth in area around Bozeman, Belgrade (Missoulian)
Missoula apprenticeships: Missoula considers apprentice incentive (Missoulian)
Rural jobs: Few state job creation grants go to rural Montana. Here’s why. (Missoula Current)

Welcome New Members:

MicroShiner, Cobey Williamson, Corvallis
MyVillage, Erica Mackey, Bozeman
Virga Capital, Rob Lateiner, Bozeman
Vision Aerial, Shane Beams, Bozeman

Upcoming Events:

Educators' Confluence - Missoula. June 14-16, Holiday Inn - Parkside, Missoula. Gather together with other PreK-12 educators to increase your resiliency and reconnect with yourself and your profession. This Confluence combines three themes — or “streams”— that contribute to that resiliency: Learning, Connecting & Rejuvenating. Dive into this refreshing experience to meet, mix, share, and collaborate with colleagues and stream facilitators. You’ll get to “go deep” into cross-cutting topics driving today’s most innovative practices. Learn more.
Lean Operations - Glendive. June 18. Participants leave with an understanding of and ability to implement basic lean skills and tools leading to cost reduction, on-time delivery improvement, quality improvements, and a culture of continuous improvement. More information coming soon. 
1 Million Cups Bi-Weekly Meeting - Missoula. June 19. Meets the first and third Wednesday each month at 9:00 am. Please note the new location will be in the Southgate Mall in the Leonard + Bonnie Hamilton Community Room, located in a hallway near JC Penney, in-between metroPCS and Tradehome. Start your morning with coffee and start your business with 1MC Missoula, a place to percolate your startup. Entrepreneurship runs through it. For more information visit the website or Facebook page.
Hellgate Venture Network meeting - Missoula. June 20. HVN facilitates informal networking among entrepreneurs and advisers engaged in building growth businesses in Montana. Future meetings will be on July 18, Aug. 15, and Sept. 19. Learn more on the HVN Facebook page.
Cybersecurity Workshop Training - Bozeman. July 2, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm, Free. Northrop Grumman, in collaboration with the USC Center for Economic Development and the Air Force Mentor-Protégé Program, is offering free cybersecurity training to small businesses nationwide. They are holding 40 workshops across the country, and the only workshop being held in Montana will be in Bozeman on July 2. The primary purpose of the all-day workshop is to ensure that small businesses are aware of the cybersecurity requirements mandated under the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) and understand the risks associated with safeguarding controlled unclassified information. Learn more about the Cybersecurity Workshop Training.
1 Million Cups Monthly Meeting - Bozeman. July 3. Meets the first Wednesday of the month at 7:30 am at Red Tractor Pizza, Bozeman. Creating conversation around Bozeman startups, business development, and economic growth in the most entrepreneurial state in the nation (plus, coffee). For more information and application to present, visit the website.
1 Million Cups Bi-Weekly Meeting - Missoula. July 3. Meets the first and third Wednesday each month at 9:00 am. Please note the new location will be in the Southgate Mall in the Leonard + Bonnie Hamilton Community Room, located in a hallway near JC Penney, in-between metroPCS and Tradehome. Start your morning with coffee and start your business with 1MC Missoula, a place to percolate your startup. Entrepreneurship runs through it. For more information visit the website or Facebook page.
Quote 2 Cast - Missoula. July 16-20. As with the previous summits, the general focus will be on emerging trends and best practices in Quote to Cash, and with celebrating our clients’ and partners’ successes. This year’s theme – Winning Through Diversity – will be woven into many of the sessions as we explore how diversity and inclusion can strengthen your teams and your organizations. Learn more.
Montana High Tech Business Alliance Reception - Bozeman. July 17, 2019, hosted by Zoot Enterprises.
Essentials of Lean - Missoula. July 17. Participants leave with an understanding of and ability to implement basic lean skills and tools leading to cost reduction, on-time delivery improvement, quality improvements, and a culture of continuous improvement. Presented in collaboration with Blackfoot. Learn more and register for Essentials of Lean.
National Science Foundation SBIR/STTR Program Director, Rick Schwerdtfeger visit - Bozeman. July 17 - 19. Montana companies and researchers will have the opportunity to learn more about NSF's SBIR/STTR proposal process and meet one-on-one with Dr. Schwerdtfeger. More info to follow from MTIP as it becomes available.
Big Sky Dreamin - Bozeman. July 18-19, the Rialto. A Salesforce conference in the Big Sky State. More information to follow.
Tech Bites: Cybersecurity for Montana Manufacturers - Missoula. August 15. Save the date!  More information on this "lunch and learn" event coming soon. Presented in collaboration with Morrison-Maierle Systems.
Montana Code School Full-Time Course - Missoula & Bozeman. Full-time class dates: Sept. 16, 2019 – Dec. 6, 2019, Monday-Friday, 9 am - 5 pm. Part-time class dates: Oct. 8, 2019 – April 14, 2020; Location: Missoula & Bozeman, Tuesday & Thursday for 6 months, 6pm – 9pm + 1 immersive weekend a month. Financing available. Montana Code School’s full-time immersive program gives you the skills and fundamentals you need to land a job as a full-stack Jr. Web Developer. Contact 406-219-1392 or talk@montanacodeschool.com. Learn more here.
UM Computer Science Career Fair - Missoula. October 17, 10am-4pm in the University Center (UC) atrium (the center portion of the building on the ground floor). The University of Montana Computer Science Department is hosting its annual campus-wide career fair for high tech full-time, part-time, and internship positions. Several hundred students attend from various majors. Companies interested in attending can register on the event's website.

Find more events at MontanaBusinessEvents.com.

Past Newsletters: 
05/16/2019 - ESMT announces 2019 finalists; MHTBA membership update; ATG graduates, hires AIM cohort; GoodWorks launches Evergreen; Purse for the People investment
05/02/2019 - Photos: Billings reception; Gatherboard & UM CS Dept launch app; MT Code School coming to Billings; Hellgate Venture Network Celebrates 10 years
04/18/2019 - Trends Impacting MT Tech Firms in 2019; Apply for TechCrunch Disrupt SF; Nominate Companies to Watch; Apply for ESMT
04/04/2019 - Missoula outdoor tourism marketing firm TOMIS raises $800k; Apprenticeships in MT; iResponse named American Indian Business of the Year; DBTS products
Click to view more past newsletters.
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