Start Here: Your Map to Montana’s Tech Startup Ecosystem

The secret’s out: living in Montana no longer means sacrificing a high-paying career or entrepreneurial ambitions. As an industry, tech is growing nine times the rate of the state economy and fostering lucrative businesses.

Do you dream of being a part of Montana’s next success story? If so, we want to make it as easy as possible for you to find what you need to get there. We’ve compiled all our best resources into one place – a road map for how to get connected to Montana’s entrepreneurial community.

Pitch Competitions

Photo via Montana High Tech Business Alliance

John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge

The statewide John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge is hosted by the University of Montana College of Business in Missoula. This is an annual spring competition where students from any college in Montana can pitch new entrepreneurial ideas. The 16 final teams will have the chance to win up to $50,000 in awards, present their idea to over 250 business professionals, and network with other entrepreneurs. Submissions are at the beginning of every year. Learn more on the website.

Early Stage Montana

Early Stage Montana is a non-profit organization working to connect startups in the tech industry with mentorship and investment. Entrepreneurs compete in three regional events in Missoula, Billings and Bozeman, and seven are selected to participate in the HyperAccelerator, a crash course mentorship program. From there, finalists compete in the Statewide Showcase for a chance at a $50,000 investment. 2019’s Statewide Showcase will be in Missoula on November 7. Learn more on the Early Stage Montana website.

The Shark PITch Competition

Innovate Montana connects entrepreneurs to resources through their annual Innovate Montana Symposium held around the state. The Symposium also includes The Shark PITch, where five businesses compete for the $10,000 grand prize. Competitors must be Montana-based, for-profit businesses at any stage of development. Learn more on the Innovate Montana website.

Startup resources

Photo via MSU Blackstone

Small Business Development Center (SBDC)

The SBDC seeks to provide tools and guidance to help Montana small businesses succeed. They offer free one-on-one counselling on startup business plans, financial help, and marketing guidance. The SBDC also offers low-cost business training. They have 10 locations across the state: Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls, Havre, Helena, Kalispell, Miles City, Missoula, and Wolf Point. Learn more on the SBDC website.

Blackstone LaunchPad at Montana State University

Blackstone LaunchPad is a non-profit organization established at MSU to encourage a stronger regional entrepreneurship ecosystem. It offers direct venture support and mentorship free of charge to students and staff on campus as well as alumni. Learn more on MSU’s Blackstone website.

Blackstone LaunchPad at University of Montana

UM’s Blackstone LaunchPad seeks to secure an entrepreneurial culture within the Montana University System community. Its services are free to students, staff, and alumni and offer individual coaching and venture creation support. Learn more on UM’s Blackstone website.

Montana Procurement Technical Assistance Center

The Montana Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) aims to connect Montana businesses with government customers by assisting small businesses through the contracting process. Montana PTAC offers consulting, training, and networking to help these small businesses find, bid, and win government contracts. Learn more on the Montana PTAC website.

Accelerators & Incubators

Early Stage Montana’s HyperAccelorator

Early Stage Montana is a non-profit organization working to connect entrepreneurs in the tech industry with mentorship and investment. The HyperAccelerator is an incubator program that offers free mentorship to Montana-based tech business entrepreneurs seeking help. Companies can learn more and apply on the Early Stage Montana website.

C2M Beta

C2M Beta is a technology accelerator that partners with startups and innovative corporations to create impact in the Rocky Mountain region. C2M’s 90-day program is offered at no fee and is open to companies across the U.S. Previous participants include PatientOne and Audience Awards. Learn more on the C2M website.


Photo via Montana High Tech Business Alliance

Hellgate Venture Network

Hellgate Venture Network facilitates informal networking among entrepreneurs and advisers engaged in building growth businesses in Montana. Founded in 2009 by Dawn McGee (Goodworks Ventures) and Paul Gladen (UM Blackstone LaunchPad), entrepreneurs can seek peer-to-peer support and mentorship with no fee or membership required. Meetings are held once a month. Free beer is provided, but advance RSVP is required. Learn more on the HVN website.

1 Million Cups (Missoula)

1 Million Cups was founded in 2012 and has since reached more than 180 communities nationwide to encourage entrepreneurs with the tools and resources to grow their businesses. Every week, entrepreneurs present business ideas to the local community and learn how those around them can support their business in it’s growth. Join Missoula’s 1 Millions Cups on the first and third Wednesday of each month from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the Southgate Mall in the Leonard and Bonnie Hamilton Community Room. For more information, visit the 1 Million Cups website.

1 Million Cups (Bozeman)

1 Million Cups is a free program designed to educate, engage and inspire entrepreneurs around the country. Started in 2012, 1 Million Cups gives entrepreneurs the tools and resources to grow their businesses. At weekly meetings, entrepreneurs can pitch their businesses to receive feedback and network. Join 1 Million Cups in Bozeman on the first Wednesday of each month at 9:00 a.m. at Red Tractor Pizza on Main Street. For more information and application to present, visit the 1 Million Cups website.

Mile High Innovation Network

The Mile High Innovation Network facilitates informal networking opportunities — both online and in-person — among entrepreneurs and community leaders engaged in building growth businesses in Butte and Southwestern Montana. For more information and future meeting dates, visit the Mile High Innovation Network Facebook page.

MT Programmers

MT Programmers is a growing community of Montana programmers, headquartered in Bozeman, Montana. Their goal is to create a rewarding and fun network of diverse programmers. Billings offers Remote Fridays every Friday at MoAV Coffee and Missoula offers Coffee and Code and Chat every Monday at Liquid Planet downtown, to encourage face-to-face networking. For more information, visit the MT Programmer website.


If you’d like to add a resource to the list, please submit suggestions here. To become a member of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance, learn more and join here.

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