February 7, 2019 Member Newsletter
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Montana High Tech News

The Lawyers Behind Montana’s Biggest Tech Deal:

Dorsey & Whitney’s Missoula law office combines local and international expertise to serve Montana startups and major corporations

Dorsey & Whitney Partner Jack Manning speaks at a Montana High Tech Business Alliance Roundtable at Foundant Technologies in February 2018. Manning is on MHTBA’s Board of Advisors and helps many entrepreneurial organizations around the state. Photo by Paige Pavalone, Pistol Creek Photography.

By Katy Spence

Raised in a two-room shack without running water or electricity, Jack Manning never imagined that he would one day be the lead attorney for the largest business acquisition in Montana’s history.

Manning is a partner with Dorsey & Whitney, named one of the top 25 U.S. firms for mergers and acquisitions (M&A) for 24 consecutive years by Thomson Reuters. Dorsey’s had a hand in many of Montana’s biggest business transactions, but the 2012 Oracle acquisition of RightNow Technologies in Bozeman for $1.8 billion was the largest by far.

Not only did Manning represent RightNow in that deal and in its prior IPO and venture rounds, but he has represented dozens of tech and other companies around the state, including many that were founded as a result of the RightNow acquisition. Other clients include some of the fastest-growing tech companies in the state such as QuiqLumenAd, Bridger Photonics, and WebBuy/Complete.

Manning was raised on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in northeastern Montana and is a member of the Sioux Tribe. By age 12, Manning’s family had moved to Bozeman, where he played three sports at Bozeman High School. Due to his athletic and academic skills, he was recruited to the Ivy League by Dartmouth College where he played football. In January 2017, Manning was inducted into the Montana Indian Athletic Hall of Fame for his exceptional athletic career.

In 1975, Manning graduated from Stanford Law School and went to work for a large New York City law firm for six years before moving back to Montana to join Dorsey, first in its Great Falls office and then in its Missoula office.

About half of Manning’s practice has been M&A, though he also works on stock and venture capital financings, IPOs, and other complex business deals. With more than 40 years of experience, Manning possesses a depth of industry knowledge that few others in the Big Sky State do.

Read more

From the Executive Director:
The Evolving Economic Outlook for High-tech Montana

Paul Gladen, director of the UM Blackstone LaunchPad and Montana Code School, Tom Stergios from ATG – acquired by Cognizant in 2018, and Robert "Tino" Sonora, Associate Director/Director of Health Care Research at BBER, talked with facilitator Tom Severson, president of First Interstate Bank about the economic impact of entrepreneurship in high-tech and manufacturing at the February 1st Economic Outlook Seminar in Missoula. Photo by Christina Henderson/MHTBA.
By Christina Henderson

I moved to Montana eight years ago, in January of 2011, after my husband landed his dream job with the U.S. Forest Service in Missoula. I had never been to Montana before we flew out to look for a house, but I was up for an adventure. I figured it wouldn’t be that hard to get a job and that surely the economy in Montana would be better than Michigan, given the problems in Detroit. I was wrong.

The first event I attended after moving to Missoula was the 2011 Montana Economic OutIook Seminar, hosted by the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER). The theme was the aftermath of the great recession. I learned that Montana was 49th in the nation for wages, ahead of only Mississippi. The closure of mills in Frenchtown and Bonner had hit Missoula hard, eliminating hundreds of high-paying jobs and casting a pall over the community.

My optimism took a further hit as I sat next to a job counselor for a local employment agency. He warned that I should expect a pay cut and that some candidates searched for years before finding a job in Montana. It was hard, as a trailing spouse and a newcomer, to realize how limited my opportunities could be.

Thankfully, after a few months, BBER hired me as their marketing director to plan the Montana Economic Outlook Seminars in 2012. The job gave me access to Montana’s premier economists, and I grilled them about Montana’s low wages. I became obsessed with the question of how Montanans could get high-paying jobs. I used the UM employee tuition waiver to go back to school for my MBA and wrote articles for Montana Business Quarterly examining the outsized impact of high-growth companies on job creation.

In 2012, RightNow Technologies in Bozeman sold to Oracle for $1.8 billion. At BBER, data showed the sale of RightNow created an almost 80 percent increase in wages in Gallatin County that year. The effects continue today as the Bozeman area continues to lead the state in wages and economic growth.

I saw that entrepreneurship, particularly in high-tech and manufacturing, could be the answer to Montana’s lack of jobs and low wages. And when I found out that a group of Bozeman technology leaders was going to form the Montana High Tech Business Alliance and hire an executive director, I just felt this pull – that’s my job. That’s what I’m supposed to do.

Recently, I received an email from a man named Mark who is working for a tech company in Vermont. He wants to move to Billings to be near family and was wondering what job openings there might be there in 2019. I was able to send him links to tech jobs as well as the names of four companies. It felt good to share opportunities with someone who wants to apply their talents in Montana.

I have continued to attend the annual BBER Economic Outlook Seminar, and it has been fun to watch as high-tech receives more space on the program each year. In 2019, BBER is hosting local industry panels in the 10 Montana cities on their schedule, and the Alliance was invited to recommend speakers from high-growth companies in each location.

In Missoula on February 1st, Alliance members Tom Stergios from ATG – acquired by Cognizant in 2018, Paul Gladen, director of the UM Blackstone LaunchPad and Montana Code School, and facilitator Tom Severson, president of First Interstate Bank in Missoula, discussed the economic impact of entrepreneurship in high-tech and manufacturing and the hundreds of high-paying jobs being created in Missoula and beyond.

Grant Kier, the new president of the Missoula Economic Partnership, underscored Missoula’s growth in multiple industries. Empty mill sites in Missoula, particularly at Bonner, are host to new companies with more employees collectively than the number of workers employed by the original mill.

Congressman Greg Gianforte attended the seminar in Missoula. In his opening remarks, he cited data from the Alliance’s 2018 high tech industry survey as reported in BBER’s 2019 Economic Report - this sector is growing 9 times the overall Montana economy, pays twice the median wage, and represented $1.7 billion in revenue in 2017. Our 2019 survey will be released later this month, so stay tuned for the latest data.

It was striking what a different economic outlook I was hearing from the one presented in 2011. I am so grateful that, after having felt fear and uncertainty as a job-seeker moving to Montana, I have been privileged to help grow an organization writing a new story for our state’s economy.

Member News:

Zoot Enterprises wins Platinum and Gold AVA Digital Awards

Zoot Enterprises, a global fintech company providing advanced origination, acquisition, and decision management solutions, is pleased to announce that it has received four AVA Digital Awards for outstanding digital marketing activities and audio production.

AVA Digital Awards is an international competition for creative professionals and recognizes the planning, concept, direction, design and production of digital communication. Each year the Awards receive thousands of global entries for work ranging from digital campaigns and mobile marketing to audio and video production, website development and social media engagement.

Zoot was awarded in the following categories:
  • Audio production of ‘The Finance Frontier’ podcast – Platinum award
  • Web production of the web homepage – Platinum award
  • Website overall – Gold award
  • Zoot Enterprises blog – Gold award
Read the full press release.

AdvicePay closes $2M crowdfunded seed extension funding round, launches enterprise version

AdvicePay, a leading fee-Alan Moore and Michael Kitcespayment-processing platform designed exclusively for financial advisors, announced today a seed extension funding round of $2 million that bypassed the traditional venture capital investing route to instead be “crowd funded” from within the advisor community.

Proceeds from this innovative funding approach will be used to power AdvicePay’s growth plans, including the launch of a new Enterprise version to meet strong demand from the hybrid independent broker-dealer and large RIA marketplaces.

“We chose the innovative approach of crowdfunding with advisors versus going the traditional venture capital route to ensure that we would be able to stay focused on serving the needs of our core target market of financial advisors,” said AdvicePay co-founder and veteran financial advisor Michael Kitces. 

Read the full press release.

NYT & TODAY Show recognize LMG Security's Sherri Davidoff as an industry leader

During the last month, LMG Security's team has been featured as security experts and cybersecurity industry leaders in a variety of national and local news, including NBC's TODAY Show.

Founder & CEO, Sherri Davidoff, was featured as the protagonist in Jeremy N. Smith's new book Breaking & Entering: The Extraordinary Story of a Hacker Called 'Alien.'

Here are some of the highlights of the coverage:
  • The TODAY Show aired a five minute segment on Davidoff as a leader and pioneer in the cybersecurity industry, and gave a behind-the-scenes look at the LMG team conducting real phishing tests. Watch the clip
  •  The New York Times called Davidoff, a.k.a. 'Alien', a "security badass" while reviewing the book.
  • The Missoulian published a story on the new book as well as Davidoff's thoughts on the differences between data privacy expectations and reality.
  • Seattle's KIRO Radio interviewed Davidoff about the book, as well as today's cybersecurity challenges, from ransomware to data privacy.
Learn more about LMG Security on their website.

Experis' parent company ManpowerGroup named World's Most Admired Company by Fortune Magazine for seventeenth year

ManpowerGroup (NYSE: MAN), the leading global workforce solutions company, has been named one of Fortune Magazine's 2019 World's Most Admired Companies for the 17th time, receiving top scores for Social Responsibility and Global Competitiveness.

"We're pleased to be recognized as a leader in our industry and one of the world's Most Admired Companies by Fortune," said Jonas Prising, ManpowerGroup Chairman & CEO. "This recognition of our global expertise and commitment to doing well by doing good is particularly meaningful as we know it's important to our people and our clients. We know from our research too that purpose matters to all, from boomers to millennials. This accolade is testament to our people who are delivering on our commitment to connecting millions of people to meaningful work, upskilling them and developing inclusive work environments every day."

Read the full press release.

Ruffatto Challenge launches new Missoula businesses; apply now for 2019 competition

Jenny Sheets’ Storysquares software is set to launch later this year, and will target high school juniors and seniors, guiding them through the college application process. (Photo via Missoula Current)
By Mari Hall/Missoula Current

Jenny Sheets’ business idea flowed naturally from a decade of teaching students the fundamentals of writing.

She realized that teaching grammar and spelling wasn’t enough, and felt called to make a change.

Her idea motivated her to enter the John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge, a competition for University of Montana students with entrepreneurial ideas.

The John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge encourages students to pursue an entrepreneurial ideas to determine if it has a viable market in Montana. The student creates a business plan, a pitch deck, and presents the package to 50 judges, who provide feedback.

The grand prize is $15,000 and can be used to launch the business.

Read the full story.

Helena student robotics team to compete in world championship in Houston, looking for community support

Team Fusion 4133 is a Helena-based robotics team with eight student members. The team has qualified for the World Championships in Houston and is looking for community support to help get there. Photo via Team Fusion 4133.
Helena-based student robotics group Team Fusion 4133 recently won the 1st Place Inspire Award at the FIRST Tech Competition at Montana State University, earning them a spot at the World Championship competition in Houston in April. Team Fusion 4133 is one of tens of thousands of competing teams from around the world. 160 teams qualified for the competition in Houston, and the Montana team will compete against students from 13 different countries.

The team was founded in 2010 as an independent student/mentor-based robotics team for students from grades 7 through 12. Each year, the team competes in the FIRST Tech Challenge, which aims to inspire young people to pursue science and technology, especially in leadership capacities. For each FIRST competition, the team designs and builds a new robot to compete in a unique set of challenges.

The team is looking for community support. Between the costs of travel, lodging, building the robot, and shipping it to Houston, the team will need to raise almost $20,000.

Coach Mike Ellis said this is a great opportunity for community members to invest in the future of science and technology in young students in Montana, and for students to be exposed to a greater depth of technology.

“This is an amazing opportunity for their team to go and participate in this Championship,” Ellis said. “For new, younger members on the team, this will be a new, exciting, and life-changing event for them.”

Ellis said that sponsors will be able to add their name to the team’s website and banner that will travel with them to Houston.

For more information about the team or competition, visit the website. For more information about sponsoring the team, contact Mike Ellis at 406-502-1067 or mail a donation to 316 Fuller Ave Helena, MT 59601. Team Fusion 4133 is a 501c3 non-profit.

Last call for Big Sky Dev Con talk proposals

The deadline for submitting talk proposals for Big Sky Dev Con 2019 is fast approaching. Submissions will close at midnight Friday, Feb 8.

Topics can range from programming languages, development environments, and user interaction design, to running your tech business and operational tips. BSDC organizers encourage all interested parties to submit presentation topics through this form

If you have questions, please feel free to reach out to one of the BSDC Organizers at

The conference will be held at The Commons in Bozeman, MT on Saturday, June 8.
Montana High Tech Business Alliance: Lobbyists scramble during Legislature to improve Montana's economic climate (Billings Gazette)
Blackfoot Communications, First Security Bank: UM professor interviews rock stars, economists and more for podcast on 'creativity and hustle' (Missoulian)
WGM Group: Missoula housing prices hit record high; panelists offer potential solutions (Missoulian)
ALPS, Montana Department of Commerce, Reflex Protect: Missoula companies get state grants to create 46 new high-wage jobs (Missoulian)
Blackmore Sensors and Analytics: Montana company stands out in the lidar crowd (Automotive News)
Missoula Economic Partnership: Economic outlook: Missoula making modest gains; global slowdown expected (Missoula Current)
Montana Instruments: New webcast: Learn how to quickly extract new information with temperature-dependent Raman and photoluminescence (LaserFocusWorld)
Pulsara: Pulsara and iSchemaView Unveil New RAPID Integration (Pulsara), Central Iowa EMS Directors’ Association receives 2018 Connected World Award (Pulsara)
Adelos: Trump, Dem talk of 'smart wall' thrills tech companies (The Hill)
Bozeman economy: Bozeman ranks #1 for strongest micropolitan economy (KZBK)
Missoula airport: Missoula airport launches VR tours of new facility as demolition work begins (Missoula Current)

Welcome New Members:

Experis, Duree Westover, Boise
The Insight Studio, Stefanie Sample, Missoula
Learn more about joining the Alliance.

Upcoming Events:

2019 Economic Outlook Seminars - Statewide. Seminars begin Jan. 29 and run through March 24. This year’s Economic Outlook examines the challenges of affordable housing. EOS 2019 will travel to ten cities across the state and provide a live webcast for other regions. This year, the seminar will visit Helena, Great Falls, Missoula, Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Kalispell, Sidney, Miles City and Big Sky. Find registration information and the full meeting schedule on the website.
Free Skilled Trades Workshop - Missoula. Feb. 8, 8:30am - 2:30pm. Missoula College’s West Campus (2795 37th Ave, Missoula, MT 59804). Are you looking for a well-paying, steady job in the Missoula area? Do you love working with your hands? Have you considered entering the skilled trades but have no idea where to begin? This workshop has the answers and resources you’re looking for! This workshop is open to women and non-binary and gender-diverse people who are aged 14+. We will have a maximum of 60 spots available for participants and pre-registration is required to hold your spot! Free with lunch provided. Learn more and register.
Pathways to Careers - Missoula. Feb. 11, 8:30 a.m. -11:30 a.m. at MCT. Businesses will be presenting career path options to approximately 80 school counselors and CTE teachers. For more information, read the flier or contact Kimberly Hannon at
Hellgate Venture Network meeting - Missoula. Feb. 14, 4:30pm, First Interstate Bank, 101 E. Front St, Missoula MT 59802. This HVN meeting will feature John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge Elevator Pitches. HVN facilitates informal networking among entrepreneurs and advisers engaged in building growth businesses in Montana. Future meetings will be on March 21, April 18, and May 16. Learn more on the HVN Facebook page.
CompTIA A+ Computer Certification - Hamilton. Feb. 19 - May 21, Tuesdays & Thursdays 5:30 - 9 pm, Saturdays 9 am - 4 pm. Bitterroot College CompTIA A+ computer program prepares students to function as computer professionals in multiple technical, business, and healthcare settings. This certification program is a Workforce Training Program which does not require college admission. Learn more.
1 Million Cups Bi-Weekly Meeting - Missoula. Feb. 20. Meets the first and third Wednesday each month at 9:00 am at The Loft, Missoula. 1 Hour Free Parking across the street in the city parking garage. 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.
2019 GRIT High School Trades Workshops - Missoula. Registration forms for Welding are due Feb. 25, 2019; Registration forms for Auto Mechanics are due April 1, 2019. This winter and spring, the GRIT (Girls* Representing in Trades) program is offering three 20-hour workshops for high school students in Missoula and western Montana! These in-depth workshops will cover carpentry, welding, and auto mechanics! In each workshop you’ll gain tangible skills through hours of hands-on practice, work as a team to complete projects and solve problems, build confidence and leadership skills, make new friends, and have lots of fun!  For more information and registration, visit this website.
Montana High Tech Business Alliance Reception - Bozeman. February 28, 2019, hosted by Rocky Mountain Bank.
1 Million Cups Monthly Meeting - Bozeman. March 6. 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. March 6. Meets the first and third Wednesday each month at 9:00 am at The Loft, Missoula. 1 Hour Free Parking across the street in the city parking garage. 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.
Big Sky Employment Fair - Missoula. Fair to be held on March 6, from 9:00am - 3:00pm in the University Center Ballroom (third floor). Second day interviews are available for registered employers from 9:00am - 3:00pm on March 7th, 2019 in the Career Services Office — Lommasson Center, Suite 154. This is an excellent opportunity for recruiters to network with students to fill employment opportunities. To register, please log into Handshake. Learn more and register.
2019 Manufacturing and International Trade Day - Helena. March 18, 6 pm -10 pm. Delta Hotels—Helena Colonial. Manufacturing & International Trade Day recognizes the importance of two economic drivers in Montana – exporting and manufacturing. Each year, this event celebrates achievements from these groups, and awards the Manufacturer of the Year. Please join the Montana Manufacturing Association, the Montana Chamber of Commerce, and our partners, at a dinner and reception that includes special guest, retired Senator and Ambassador Max Baucus. Learn more and register.
Montana High Tech Business Alliance Reception - Billings. April TBD, 2019, hosted by Diamond BTS.
Montana Code School Full-Time Course - Missoula & Bozeman. Full-time class dates: May 20, 2019 – Aug. 9, 2019; Sept. 16, 2019 – Dec. 6, 2019, Monday-Friday, 9 am - 5 pm. Part-time class dates: April 9, 2019 – Sept. 24, 2019; 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 Learn more here.
Montana High Tech Business Alliance Reception - Missoula. May TBD, 2019, hosted by Blackfoot.
Big Sky Dev Con - Bozeman. June 8, The Commons, Bozeman. A Montana state-wide tech conference for developers hosted by Montana Programmers. More information will be released on the website as it is available.
Past Newsletters: 
01/25/2019 - Jobs board reveals MT hiring trends; Legislature issues to watch; Workiva named Best Workplace; Blackfoot apprentices; XYPN aids furloughed workers
01/10/2019 - Figure brings dozens of jobs to MT; Apply for MT Exporter of the Year; Reg. for Economic Outlook Sem; Submit proposal for Big Sky Dev Con
12/27/2018 - 2018 Year in Review- 5 Trends Indicate Rosy Outlook for Montana's Tech Scene in 2019; Next Frontier Capital invests in new Bozeman company
12/13/2018 - High Tech Companies Partner with UM; New member directory; MWTC supports GDPR compliance; ChickTech inspires girls to pursue tech careers
Click to view more past newsletters.

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1121 E Broadway St, Suite 108
Missoula, MT 59802
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Montana High Tech Business Alliance · 1121 E Broadway St, Suite 108 · Missoula, MT 59802 · USA