By Christina Henderson
On December 3, 2019, C2M beta, the corporate accelerator of Blackfoot Communications, announced the graduation of three companies from its inaugural 2018 cohort and introduced three more technology startups that joined the program in 2019.
Blackfoot featured all six cohort companies at a showcase event held November 12 at the Zootown Arts Community Center in Missoula. The audience included business and technology leaders from across Montana as well as out-of-state guests from Arizona and Portland, Ore.
Blackfoot launched C2M beta in the spring of 2018 to accelerate private sector support for the rapidly growing technology base in Montana and the Northern Rockies. The name C2M beta is inspired by Blackfoot’s tagline – (C)onnecting (2)to (M)ore, which can mean people or technology or both – and the “beta” phase of testing software before it is released to the public.
“C2M beta has become a platform for Blackfoot to play a larger role in the growing regional technology economy, as well as engage with businesses developing products and services that can be delivered ‘over the top’ of our robust telecommunications network,” said Jason Williams, CEO of Blackfoot.
The 90-day C2M beta program brings together leaders of startups and corporations to build connections and better solutions for their users. A team of seasoned executives joins each participating startup to help take it to the next level, offering mentorship in areas like technology commercialization, legal and financial expertise, software development and solutions engineering.
C2M beta co-founders include Joe Fanguy, VP of Strategic Development at Blackfoot who previously served as Director of Technology Transfer at the University of Montana; Jeremy Brown, Development Manager for Tarkio Fund who brings more than 10 years of experience as a corporate attorney, and Doug Odegaard, a technology entrepreneur who is currently a Senior Automation Engineer at Q2ebanking in Austin, Texas and President of intraLogix.
The C2M beta accelerator is equity-free and fee-free for the startups. C2M beta selects each cohort in the spring/summer and while some participants are invited to co-locate, companies do not have to be on-site.
“This year’s cohort was geographically diverse, with startup companies representing Missoula and Bozeman in Montana and Orlando, Florida,” said Joe Fanguy, Blackfoot VP, Strategic Development. “Our efforts to successfully bring together companies working on complex problems related to blockchain, telehealth and cloud computing show how far the program has come in such a short time.”
Three of the C2M beta companies – Prime Labs, Audience Awards, and Patient One – have also been recognized as Montana High-growth Companies to Watch or Montana Startups to Watch by the Montana High Tech Business Alliance.
In their showcase presentations, the six founders emphasized the importance of C2M beta in the growth of their startups.
“I’m really appreciative to everyone in C2M beta, because this is massively helpful,” said Rob Smith, CEO of Prime Labs in Missoula. Founded in 2017 by Smith, a University of Montana Computer Science Professor, Prime Labs has been awarded multiple grants to support commercialization of its data visualization software for mass spectrometry, including a National Science Foundation SBIR grant for $225,000 and a Phase II SBIR grant for $750,000.
Participants from out of state said that Blackfoot’s C2M beta is competitive with national accelerator programs like TechStars or The Farm with Comcast and is unique in providing startups with access to the expertise of a mid-tier telecommunications firm.
“We have the opportunity to do any number of accelerators,” said James Cowan, Founder and CEO of Florida-based telehealth startup Docity. “We chose this one for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that it gave us the opportunity, as a startup company that works with Internet Service Providers, to see how it works on the inside.”
The 2019 C2M beta cohort includes:
- Blocky (blocky.rocks), Bozeman, Mont., helps companies secure user data with blockchain
- Docity (docity.com), Orlando, Fla., is redefining healthcare through secure telehealth services
- Prime Labs (primelabs.ms), Missoula, Mont., supports data visualization for drug discovery instrumentation
The 2018 C2M beta cohort included:
- Audience Awards (theaudienceawards.com), Missoula, Mont., is a digital platform to connect filmmakers with brands through film contests
- Cartalytics (cltix.com): Missoula, Mont., transforms data into dynamic visual maps and graphs
- PatientOne (patientone.health), Missoula, Mont., improves healthcare through an automated patient engagement platform
In addition to benefiting high-potential startups, C2M beta also provides a corporate innovation experience for the Blackfoot executive and management teams.
“Our engagement with early-stage companies really helped us think a lot about being more agile, ourselves, as a corporation,” Williams said. “As a direct result of the C2M beta experience, we are seeing great cultural progress with interdisciplinary teams working on complex opportunities focused on the future of Blackfoot.”
About the Author: Christina Quick Henderson is Executive Director of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance and adjunct professor of entrepreneurship, management and organizational behavior in the College of Business at the University of Montana.
About the Publisher: Launched in 2014, the Montana High Tech Business Alliance is an nonpartisan nonprofit association of more than 225 high tech and manufacturing companies and affiliates creating high-paying jobs in Montana. For more information, visit MTHighTech.org or subscribe to our biweekly newsletter.