Early Stage Montana announces 2019 regional finalists, wild card competitor

Early Stage Montana Chairman Pat LaPointe, third from the left, stands with the Billings Regional Showcase competitors after the May 14 event in Billings. On November 7, the finalist companies will gather in Missoula for the 2nd annual Early Stage MT Statewide Showcase to compete for a $50,000 investment provided by Frontier Angels. Photo by Julia Quigley for ESMT.

By Katy Spence

Within a year of competing, the top seven companies from the 2018 Early Stage Montana cohort have raised more than $6 million in growth capital and created more than 20 new jobs. Pat LaPointe, Early Stage Montana Board Chairman and managing director of Frontier Angels, expects even more from the newly-announced 2019 program finalists.

“We have equally high expectations for this group and more, given that we’re expanding to accommodate more companies this year,” LaPointe said.

Tech startups from all across Montana pitched their companies to judging panels in three regions. Judges assessed companies on dimensions such as leadership, the potential to create Montana jobs, and the effectiveness of their solution. With the final regional pitch competition wrapping up in Billings on Tuesday, Early Stage Montana has announced the finalists from each region and the wild card competitor, chosen by the Montana High Tech Business Alliance Board of Directors.

The winners of the regional showcases were:

  • DRIMS, a Missoula company, focuses on aiding disaster recovery programs around the world by offering a digital platform that streamlines communication and planning for all the various agencies involved with helping victims of natural disasters.
  • Charmed is not your typical dating app. The Missoula-based company actually complements numerous other dating services by leveraging artificial intelligence to provide messaging feedback and dating advice to individual users while they’re searching for a potential mate.
  • Vision Aerial, from Bozeman, is building sophisticated drones to assist in the inspection process of public and commercial infrastructure.
  • Tadpull, a Bozeman company, offers a software platform to help mid-market, e-commerce companies improve their digital marketing, resulting in better insights and increased sales.
  • DugalHealth is a Bozeman-based company working to transform the lives of those suffering from Type 1 diabetes with a software tool that helps individuals more closely track their eating habits by using machine learning tools that determine proper insulin dosages.
  • RavenCSI, a Billings company, is striving to help healthcare organizations improve customer retention and health outcomes by speeding up the feedback cycles from patients to administrators to caregivers.

MyShippingPost is the 2019 wild card competitor and hails from Butte.

Like they did for the 2018 ESMT competition, the MHTBA Board of Directors chose a wild card competitor from the runners-up of each regional showcase. After reviewing the pitches, the MHTBA representatives chose MyShippingPost, a Bozeman company with software and tools to make shipping packages easier and less expensive, as the seventh competitor.

From June 3-7, these finalists will receive free, intensive training during the HyperAccelerator program. They will work with more than 50 business mentors on every aspect of their business, from product strategy and sales plans to financial planning and fundraising strategies. At the 2018 HyperAccelerator, entrepreneurs pointed to the invaluable opportunity to connect with business mentors and build lasting relationships with them beyond the week-long program.

LaPointe said the mentorship experience is vital to prepare young tech businesses for faster and better growth.

“Companies are much more likely to be successful if they have seasoned entrepreneurs and mentors helping guide them, avoiding the pitfalls that often cause businesses in the early stages of growth to stall and ultimately fail,” LaPointe said.

LaPointe added that the success of last year’s companies led the Early Stage Montana team to expand the program and add an additional HyperAccelerator in September, which will help additional tech businesses who didn’t attend a regional showcase or who needed more time to hone their pitches.

The regional pitch competitions were held in Missoula (pictured), Bozeman, and Billings this year.

It all leads up to the 2nd Annual Early Stage Montana Statewide Regional Showcase in Missoula on November 7, hosted by the Missoula Economic Partnership. Ten finalist companies will compete for a $50,000 investment provided by Frontier Angels.

Last year’s showcase featured business experts and investors from around the region coming together and discussing topics such as business incubators, financing, and industry development. Sellout and Superior Traffic Services tied for first place and split the $50,000 prize.

Read the full press release from ESMT.

About the Author: Katy Spence is the Communications Director for the Montana High Tech Business Alliance. She worked previously with the Missoula Current and Treesource, and has an Environmental Journalism Master’s Degree from the University of Montana.

About the Publisher: Launched in 2014, the Montana High Tech Business Alliance is an nonpartisan nonprofit association of more than 375 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.

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