This article is the second in a three-part series. The first article featured Montana Startups to Watch in 2018. A final piece will highlight top tech and manufacturing employers in Montana. The 2018 Montana High Tech Industry survey was released on March 1.
By Christina Henderson and Katy Spence
In 2017, the Montana High Tech Business Alliance published our inaugural list of Montana tech companies to watch.
This article is still is still one of our most heavily-trafficked pieces of content and has spurred multiple news stories. Many of the businesses highlighted in 2017, like onX in Missoula, Bridger Aerospace in Bozeman, PFL in Livingston, and GTUIT in Billings, have continued a steep trajectory of job growth and investment.
Experts at Next Frontier Capital, Frontier Angels, Montana Manufacturing Extension Center, Montana State University Blackstone LaunchPad, and University of Montana Blackstone LaunchPad helped us create this list of fast-growing companies to watch in 2018.
To select the 12 finalists, we looked for companies with five or more employees that fit at least two of the following criteria:
- Plan to expand operations or add a significant number of jobs in 2018
- Steep revenue growth and/or are working in a high-growth sector
- Poised to launch high-potential products or services
- Own or are developing valuable intellectual property
- Recently landed major clients or entered new markets
- Have management teams led by experienced entrepreneurs or top experts in their fields
- Recently secured significant investment
Chad Nybo, CEO
What they do: Healthcare software
Why we’re watching them: Founded in 2011, CrossTx is a cloud-based healthcare platform that streamlines communication and collaboration for a patient’s care team. Organizations are now looking to provide “whole-person care,” a healthcare approach that not only builds clinical care teams for individuals but also includes community services such as non-emergency medical transportation and behavioral health services.
CEO Chad Nybo, a Bozeman native and Montana State University grad, is the former Lead Developer at RightNow Technologies. He said CrossTx anticipates significant growth in the Bay Area, adding a number of California counties to their large list of clients across the country. Current clients include Santa Cruz County, Health Access San Antonio, and rural hospitals across Montana and Illinois.
With the huge amount of interest, Nybo expects revenue to increase up to 10x in 2018 and is planning to hire 20 or 30 people to help manage the growth. Most of these employees will be engineers based in Bozeman. The company currently has nine employees.
The platform has been mostly bootstrapped and received $735,000 in angel funding from Frontier Angel Fund 2 in early 2017.
CrossTx is like Facebook for personal care, Nybo said. Individuals enrolled in participating areas can invite different providers to view their medical information and make recommendations using a more holistic approach. Nybo said this platform eliminates unnecessary phone calls and faxes, allowing care providers to provide the best patient experience possible.
The platform also provides business measures and outcome reporting so the client can measure successes and track where corrections need to be made. For example, if a large number of patients are referred to participate in children’s behavioral programs, CrossTx can measure if the number of detentions at schools in the area decrease.
The company recently secured a partnership with Uber Health, which will allow providers to schedule non-emergency medical transportation for their patients within CrossTx. This partnership will help minimize the 3.6 million missed appointments in the U.S. each year.
Diamond B Technology Solutions, Billings
James Bennett, CEO
Scott Roller, CTO
Jim Kelly, VP of Business Development
Aaron Ramage, VP of Projects and Administration
What they do: Integrated software systems
Why we’re watching them: Many of America’s oldest industries — oil, gas, railroads, and agriculture — hold the most potential for technological disruption. Diamond B Technology Solutions (DBTS) is on the forefront of this transformation.
According to CTO Scott Roller, DBTS builds end-to-end software solutions for oil and gas operations that increase efficiency by using integrated sensors, as well as solutions that interface with railroad systems. Major clients include Haliburton, Cenex Harvest States, Bakken Transload, Crescent Point Energy, BNSF, and Canadian Pacific. DBTS currently works in Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming.
The company also supports innovative startups. DBTS built the software that remotely monitors the separation units for GTUIT, an Billings-based energy company that cuts emissions and puts flare gas to use instead of burning it as waste. (GTUIT was on the inaugural list of Montana Companies to Watch in 2017.)
Headquartered in Billings, Diamond B Technology Solutions is the technology arm of parent company Diamond B Companies Inc. (DBC). Led by CEO James Bennett, collectively, Diamond B Companies employ more than 250 people.
Launched in 2012, DBTS employs a core team of six people and hires contractors as needed. Another branch of DBC, data center Parsec Data Management, allows DBTS unique capabilities in creating hosted solutions for clients.
DBTS has two key new applications poised for growth in 2018. The first is ProCertX, which helps oil and gas companies meet safety and compliance goals by tracking the movements of truck drivers and instantly verifying they are properly trained and certified. ProCertX is one of many DBTS solutions that were initially developed internally to support DBC’s diverse businesses and are now available commercially, Roller said.
Through TechLink, DBTS has also exclusively licensed technology from the US Army laboratory at White Sands, New Mexico to launch a second new product at the end of April. LR-x is a newly-patented software application that rapidly assesses and predicts the spread of airborne hazards. Using real-time weather conditions or forecasts from from public and private weather sensors, the software can model the likely path of toxic plumes from chemical or radiation leaks or wildfires in under five minutes. According to Roller, LR-x will help clients like emergency first responders, fire departments or oil and gas companies save lives and prevent injury by improving communication and increasing situational awareness.
Hoplite Industries, Inc., Bozeman
Anthony Cochenour, Founder and President
What they do: Cyber security software
Why we’re watching them: In the late 2000s, digital forensics analyst Anthony Cochenour saw that his industry had bred a lot of bad habits, including a reactive approach to cyber attacks and gaps in popular security products like firewalls. He formed Hoplite Industries, Inc. in 2013 to take a holistic approach to addressing these issues.
Hoplite starts by looking behaviorally at malware and breaches to improve detection and remediation, and then applies automation to help clients spend less time managing security. The solution has proven popular with customers in banking and finance, healthcare, education, civilian government, and manufacturing.
Cochenour worked previously as as a network engineer for Cisco Systems. A graduate of Montana State University, he also counts himself as part of Bozeman’s “RightNow Mafia,” a group of former employees of RightNow Technologies who are now launching, scaling, and investing in new ventures in Montana. RightNow sold to Oracle in 2012 for $1.8 billion.
Today, Hoplite Industries has bootstrapped its way to tens of millions of dollars in revenue. The company saw a 6x increase in percentage growth in 2015, its first production year, a 4.5x increase in 2016 and 2017, and is on track to grow 5x or more in 2018.
Hoplite has nearly 20 employees in Bozeman, Montana and a couple of team members in D.C. and New York. Cochenour anticipates 10-15 percent headcount growth in 2018.
Hoplite was awarded a master patent on the technology in 2016 and has two more patents to file in 2018 covering the AI-specific applications. This year, the company is focused on refining its core product and making it more relevant, attractive, and useful for customers.
Cochenour and his team cooperate with international law enforcement on finding the people responsible for cyber security attacks. Hoplite also hosts its own cloud services and anticipates making a major internet infrastructure enhancement in the Gallatin Valley in 2018.
IronCore Labs, Bozeman and Boulder
Patrick Walsh, Co-founder and CEO
Bob Wall, Co-founder and CTO
What they do: Data control for enterprise cloud software
Why we’re watching them: In an era of heightened concern around data security and privacy, SaaS vendors are encountering new barriers to sales. In particular, these firms face changing customer expectations related to customer control of data and protection from hacking. They must also comply with new privacy requirements in both the U.S. and Europe.
IronCore Labs’ technology allows SaaS vendors’ clients the ability to control their own potentially sensitive data. Enterprise, small-, and medium-size business clients can enjoy the flexibility and cost-savings of cloud-based software while maintaining the security and privacy they and their consumers demand, speeding up the sales cycle.
IronCore Labs co-founders Patrick Walsh and Bob Wall have extensive experience in cryptography and SaaS applications. Walsh was a Senior Software Executive for eSoft, RightNow, and Oracle and earned a B.S. in Information and Computer Science from UC Irvine. Wall was a Software Engineer for RightNow and Chief Architect for the Oracle Service Cloud and holds masters degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from Montana State University.
Launched in 2015, IronCore Labs raised a $1.5 million seed round in May 2017 led by Bozeman-based Next Frontier Capital, with participation from Blue Note Ventures, PV Ventures, v1.vc, and several private investors.
In early 2017, IronCore Labs graduated from Techstars Boulder, a prestigious global business accelerator program. Wall said the relationships with both Techstars and Next Frontier Capital fed into one another and empowered IronCore Labs to stay in the Rocky Mountain West.
IronCore Labs has split its footprint between Montana and Colorado with employees divided evenly between the two states. Company headquarters, sales and business development are predominantly located in Boulder, while most of the engineering team is in Montana. Wall said IronCore Labs plans to add at least two to three more employees in Montana and Colorado in 2018.
The team is licensing its technology to large enterprise SaaS companies and is within a few months of making the technology available to a wider audience. IronCore Labs has a provisional patent on its data control, security, and privacy technology and is in the process of submitting several more patent applications.
Ryan Hansen, CEO
What they do: Marketing technology
Why we’re watching them: When LumenAd launched in 2014, founder Ryan Hansen didn’t imagine the company he started in his basement would be on track to grow to 100 employees by 2020. LumenAd is about to hire their 50th employee and has a pending grant application with the Montana Department of Commerce to create even more new jobs.
LumenAd is an advertising technology company that serves regional marketing agencies across the United States. Measuring the impact of modern media can be time-consuming and expensive. LumenAd simplifies the management of complex digital media campaigns with their own software platform, INDEX. This allows agencies to focus on other priorities like strategy and creative development. Most of their customers are outside of Montana.
The company has been bootstrapped. In 2017, LumenAd’s revenue grew 300% over the previous year, and Hansen said it’s on track to grow 200% more in 2018.
Hansen has an M.B.A. from the University of Montana and formerly served as the Vice President, Operations at Geographic Communication Systems. Previously, he worked at the Montana World Trade Center and the Montana Community Development Corporation.
LumenAd is hiring for virtually every position, Hansen said, including roles in operational support, sales, HR, finance, ad operations, software, and more. Hansen said the company is investing in an in-house data science team to incorporate machine learning tools into the INDEX platform.
For the time being, LumenAd’s growth is from managing media, but Hansen said the market is trending towards companies doing these services in-house. By 2019, the company plans to roll a version of INDEX as an SaaS platform, empowering agencies to manage their own media.
OppSource, Bozeman and St. Paul
Mark Galloway, Co-founder and CEO
Daniel Metzger, Co-founder and CRO
What they do: B2B sales engagement software
Why we’re watching them: As OppSource founders Mark Galloway and Dan Metzger searched for capital and talent to scale their St. Paul, Minnesota-based software company, Montana’s robust tech ecosystem and relatively affordable cost of doing business made Bozeman an attractive staging ground for their next phase of growth. OppSource opened a Bozeman office in May 2017 as part of a $1.2 million round of venture capital funding led by Next Frontier Capital.
OppSource now employs 16 people in its two offices. Eight employees work from Bozeman in sales, marketing and customer experience roles, including Metzger, who lives in Ennis, Montana. OppSource is on track to grow the SaaS portion of its revenue between 40 and 60 percent in 2018 and intends to add employees as customer growth continues.
The co-founders launched OppSource in 2008 after helping to successfully scale other enterprise software firms. Both Galloway and Metzger were executives at Lawson Software, which went public and sold to Infor corporation in 2011. Galloway was a VP at Adaytum Software, acquired by Cognos, later acquired by IBM. Metzger helped auxillium reach a $100M exit and also worked with nQuire, acquired by Siebel Systems which was acquired by Oracle.
OppSource’s software streamlines the B2B sales and engagement process for companies who use an inside virtual sales model (as opposed to call centers or field sales), Galloway said. Since the 2017 investment, OppSource has been expanding the product to incorporate AI/machine learning around sales conversions and engagements.
Released in February 2018, the new OppSource Aptitude sales engagement platform transcribes conversations between buyers and sellers. The software then uses automation and machine learning to analyze prospect sentiment, mine data for hidden insights, capture best engagement practices, ensure timely follow up, and reduce the burden of data entry on the sales team. As B2B companies find it increasingly difficult to reach prospects, automating key stages of the process significantly accelerates sales, Galloway said.
Pocket NC, Bozeman
Matt Hertel, Co-founder
Michelle Hertel, Co-founder
What they do: Design and manufacture desktop CNC milling machines
Why we’re watching them: For Matt and Michelle Hertel, founding Pocket NC in 2011 was a way to make their vision for a desktop five-axis CNC milling machine a reality. The couple was inspired by developments in desktop 3D printing, an additive process, and they saw similar potential for CNC milling, which is subtractive.
But launching a startup was also their ticket to live and work in Montana. Michelle is a Billings native and graduate of Montana State University with degrees in Engineering and Spanish. Her husband Matt is from Bozeman and earned a machining degree from Helena College.
After graduation, the couple found jobs in Seattle working for Boeing and its suppliers. For two years, they spent evenings and weekends designing and prototyping the machine in their one-bedroom apartment. In 2013 they left their day jobs to work full-time on Pocket NC, living in Matt’s parents’ basement in Bozeman.
In 2015, the Hertels launched one of Montana’s most successful Kickstarter campaigns. Pocket NC surpassed the $70,000 goal within the first hour and sold out within the first week. The campaign raised a total of $355,000 in pre-orders from 280 backers. Pocket NC delivered all 100 units on schedule. They launched a second successful Kickstarter for a machine shield in 2016 but have since relied on bootstrapping for funding.
In the last few years, Pocket NC has evolved beyond its reputation as a Kickstarter company for makers and hobbyists to serve mainly businesses and universities. Clients include NASA, Siemens, Gillette, MIT, Princeton, and UCLA. Revenue in 2017 grew 24 percent over 2016.
In 2018, Pocket NC has seven employees and is hiring two more. They received a design patent for their first machine and have another patent pending on the Pocket NC V2, which was released in September 2017.
Pocket NC is now designing a bigger machine to be released in 2019. In February 2018 they purchased a large 5-axis mill for manufacturing and are on the lookout for a new shop to accommodate production.
James Woodson, MD, Founder and CEO
Cynthia Lencioni, Chief Operating Officer
Kris Kaull, Chief Marketing Officer
Erich Hannan, Chief Technology Officer
What they do: Mobile healthcare communications
Why we’re watching them: For a patient experiencing a stroke or a heart attack, every minute is crucial to survival. Yet many emergency healthcare teams still coordinate care with outdated technology such as radios, fax machines, and pagers.
Pulsara has created a real-time communications platform that connects everyone, from EMS to the critical care teams in the hospital, quickly and securely through mobile technology. Since adopting Pulsara, hospitals see between 20 to 46 percent decrease in patient treatment times, which studies equate to better patient care.
In their most recent funding round, Pulsara raised just over $5 million. The company’s customer base has grown to include clients in 20 states and Australia, with contracts in nearly 11 percent of U.S. metro areas with populations of 250,000 or above. From 2016 to 2017, Pulsara’s recurring revenues grew over 150 percent. Pulsara has just over 30 employees, about 20 of whom work in the company’s Bozeman headquarters.
Pulsara founder James Woodson, MD is a board-certified emergency physician who saw the need for new technology while working at a hospital in Longview, Texas. In 2012, Woodson developed a beta version of the software to provide faster treatment and better communication for patients having heart attacks and strokes. Based on these results, Woodson launched Pulsara in 2013.
The talent and thriving tech economy in Montana convinced Woodson to relocate Pulsara to Bozeman. Woodson’s first Montana hire was COO Cynthia Bradford Lencioni, who previously held leadership positions at a mobile healthcare company and Stanford University School of Medicine. The Pulsara executive team also includes Chief Marketing Officer Kris Kaull, an Montana State University grad and critical care flight paramedic who created the website paramedic.com and co-founded EMS1.com, now the largest online paramedic resource, and Erich Hannan, Chief Technology Officer, who most recently hailed from RightNow Technologies/Oracle.
Pulsara recently won “Best of 2017” in the 16th annual Mobile Star Awards program. In 2018, the team will add new functions to the platform to expand workflows beyond strokes and heart attacks to include any type of patient and allow transfers between hospitals. Healthcare teams will also be able to conduct HIPAA-compliant video consults.
Satic USA, Missoula
B.D. Erickson II, Founder and CEO
What they do: Solar and clean energy manufacturing
Why we’re watching them: Have you ever wondered why your cell phone gets hot when it’s charging? It may be due to electromagnetism picked up as electricity moves through a circuit. This “dirty” energy is less efficient, and excess heat can increase energy bills and shorten the life of devices and appliances. Missoula-based Satic USA has been building clean electricity products since 2008, with more than 14,000 units installed across the US and Canada.
Satic also offers electrically “clean” LED light bulbs and solar systems. In 2018, Satic will roll out its next generation of products with digital displays to demonstrate how much is being saved with the more efficient product.
This year, Satic anticipates a 50 percent increase in revenue over 2017 on top of a 36 percent increase in revenue from 2016. The company will add four full-time technicians this year to their team of nine. Satic also hires local independent contractors to install their systems.
CEO B.D. Erickson II came up with the business idea more than 10 years ago when he sold Asian-manufactured energy-efficient lighting to Middle Eastern clients. He didn’t see any reason why similar products couldn’t be made and sold in the U.S.
While Satic’s products are made in Montana, 99 percent of Satic’s customers are outside the state. Erickson said his company’s focus on exporting is part of a two-pronged approach to grow Missoula’s economy. The other part of Erickson’s plan is to pay employees competitive wages.
A full-time assembler at Satic can expect to start at $15/hr, with a $1/hour increase every 90 days for the first two years of employment. Talented employees can be hard to hold onto in a competitive place like Montana, so Satic is invested in making sure they stay.
Satic has found new markets in energy-hungry industries like cryptocurrency mining and indoor farming, which can benefit from using clean, more efficient energy. Erickson said the company anticipates growing into additional markets around the U.S. and Canada.
Evan Tipton, Founder / CEO
What they do: Marketing software
Why we’re watching them: As the world becomes more digitized, printed tour books and pamphlets lure fewer tourists to partake in vacation activities. The tours and activities sector is the fastest growing segment in the world’s largest industry, projected to be a $180+ billion dollar market by 2020, but it’s largely underserved by software companies. Missoula-based TOMIS (Tour Operator Marketing Intelligence Software) is providing a SaaS marketing intelligence/automation platform in addition to managed marketing services.
With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in tourism management from the University of Montana, Tipton has 10 years of experience in the outdoor tourism industry. He spent three years in Silicon Valley building a SaaS travel startup while also going through Stanford’s business accelerator program.
Founded in January 2017, TOMIS won Montana Small Business Development Center’s Shark Tank competition three months later. TOMIS is currently a marketing agency with a software assist and a waiting list of companies all over the world. Tipton said the agency also serves a number of Montana companies, such as Grizzly Hackle and Glacier Raft Company in Missoula. So far, all of TOMIS’ customers have found them, largely due to referrals from existing clients.
TOMIS automates marketing processes and analyzes data, making personalized recommendations for how to reach new customers. With TOMIS’ services, their clients increased their revenue by an average of $217,000 in 2017. Tipton said he loves working with a diverse range of companies and helping them grow.
As of March 2018, TOMIS itself has already tripled 2017 revenue and anticipates generating even more before the year is over. The company plans to hire nine more employees in 2018, bringing the team to a total of 35. Tipton said TOMIS is devoted to growing a locally-based team in Montana.
TOMIS just finished another round of investment directly from clients. Tipton said it was great validation to get $500,000 from customers who understand where TOMIS is heading as a company and want to be part of it.
By the end of this year, TOMIS will have finished its transition to a SaaS company with an agency assist. Tipton said the company will continue to focus on products and processes before the end of the year, at which point they will begin to aggressively scale.
Ryan Bartholomew, Co-founder / Managing Member
What they do: Media technology
Why we’re watching them: As online videos became more lucrative in the 2000s, some companies began to have problems with unauthorized usage of those videos. ViralHog Co-founder Ryan Bartholomew saw an opportunity to provide a monetized solution for people shooting popular videos and media companies wanting to broadcast them.
Bartholomew said his experience as the first Google AdWords customer for his live lobster business and as an early Amazon associate gave him connections and insider knowledge of the pay-per-click industry that helped launch ViralHog in 2014.
ViralHog uses programs, bots, and trend-spotting employees to identify potentially viral videos. ViralHog purchases the video from the original owner and gives them a cut of the profits when they sell it to media outlets. This model ensures the person who shot the video gets paid, and news outlets don’t have to worry about violating copyright law.
ViralHog’s clients include people all around the world– basically, anyone who can shoot video and upload it online. Its media clients include most major U.S. outlets, including NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, Discovery, ESPN, and MTV, who often show trending videos as part of their broadcasts.
One of ViralHog’s most profitable videos features a man punching a kangaroo who wouldn’t let go of his dog. It grossed more than $100,000 in revenue. If the video goes viral again, it can make even more money.
ViralHog has bootstrapped to date and has been profitable since the beginning, doubling revenue each year of operation. Bartholomew said the first three months of 2018 have been their best ever, and the company doubled employees in the last 1.5 years. ViralHog employs 15 full-time people in Montana and over a dozen contractors around the world. Bartholomew said the company is always on the lookout for for additional talent, including interns. In the coming year, ViralHog plans to release an app that makes it easier for people to upload and monetize their videos.
Bozeman gives ViralHog a distinct competitive edge in the business, Bartholomew said. Their largest competitors are in Los Angeles and London, where it is more expensive to do business. Clients have actually flown out to visit ViralHog because of the amenities Bozeman offers.
Jonathan Distad, Founding Partner
Peg Rifleman, Founding Partner
What they do: IT professional services
Why we’re watching them: With the prevalence of Salesforce’s customer relationship management (CRM) software and more open Salesforce positions than applicants in the U.S., companies have traditionally had to outsource support positions. Bozeman-based Zinovo has found a niche in providing high quality on-shore support for Salesforce for a fraction of the cost of hiring an employee.
Co-founder Jonathan Distad, a fifth-generation Montanan, has more than 15 years of experience in consulting. Co-founder Peg Rifleman is also an experienced consultant who specializes in Salesforce delivery. Together, they’re providing a valuable service in an area where few other companies are operating.
Founded in late 2017, Zinovo is self-funded and has been profitable “since almost month one,” Distad said.
Currently, Zinovo employs five people but has big plans to hire between 20 and 30 people in 2018, nearly all of whom will be in Bozeman. Distad said the company is looking for Salesforce admins and developers, but they’re also looking for finance-driven people who would be interested in working on Anaplan, a business planning platform, that will diversify their offerings.
Zinovo’s clients are large, global companies based in North America. Distad said being able to provide domestic support for Salesforce is important to Zinovo.
Distad said Zinovo is purposefully growing in Bozeman because people want to be there, even if not many Montanans are trained in Salesforce or Anaplan. To help develop their team, Zinovo is going to train employees in their own Zinovo Academy, which can teach new graduates how to use these in-demand platforms.
To nominate a high-growth company or top tech employer for publication in an upcoming list, email katy.spence[at]mthightech.org
About the Authors: Christina Quick Henderson has served as executive director of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance since its launch in April, 2014. She teaches in the University of Montana College of Business and holds an MBA from the University of Montana and a B.A. in English Education from the University of Iowa.
Katy Spence is Staff Writer and Digital Content Specialist for the Montana High Tech Business Alliance. She worked previously with the Missoula Current and Treesource, and she’s just finishing up the Environmental Journalism Master’s Program at the University of Montana.
About the Publisher: Launched in 2014, the Montana High Tech Business Alliance is an association of more than 325 high tech and manufacturing companies and affiliates creating high-paying jobs in Montana. Find high-paying Montana tech and manufacturing jobs by visiting MTHighTech.org/Jobs.