Montana

CBS National News: Why Montana is Experiencing a Tech Boom

CBS National News: Why Montana is Experiencing a Tech Boom

Meg Oliver, alumna of the University of Montana Journalism School and Correspondent for CBS News in New York City, read 15 Montana Companies to Watch in 2017 and was inspired to do a story that aired across the country on May 4, 2017.

The first link below is the segment that aired on the digital network CBSN. The second link is a web extra, a feature that stations tease after the story, it runs on station websites across the country. Click images below to play videos.

Why Montana is Experiencing a Tech Boom

High-paying jobs in Montana come with some unique perks

 

Montana Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Study: Missoula and Bozeman Have Some of the Highest Levels of Entrepreneurship in U.S.

Montana Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Study: Missoula and Bozeman Have Some of the Highest Levels of Entrepreneurship in U.S.

April 17, 2017

MISSOULA – Conversations about entrepreneurship often focus on Silicon Valley, Boston or other major metropolitan areas, yet Missoula and Bozeman, Montana enjoy some of the highest levels of entrepreneurship in the nation in terms of startup and high-growth companies, as well as spinoff activities, according to a report funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Missoula and Bozeman rank 9th and 12th highest in startup rates among 394 areas in the U.S., and the proportion of high-growth firms is particularly high in Bozeman, higher than Denver (9th in the nation) and almost compatible with Washington, D.C. (1st in the nation), according to the report. Montana also demonstrates vibrant spinoff activities originated from RightNow Technologies and clusters of photonics companies in Bozeman, with former RightNow employees creating at least 15 companies and the photonics cluster generating a series of companies every decade since the 1980s.

“A New Frontier: Entrepreneurship Ecosystems in Bozeman and Missoula, Montana” is the first-ever study of the Montana ecosystem and is important because there have been few studies of entrepreneurship in small towns and rural areas. The report is a result of joint research by the Montana High Tech Business Alliance, MonTEC, the Blackstone LaunchPads at the University of Montana and Montana State University, and Kansas researchers Yasuyuki Motoyama, Ph.D., Emily Fetsch and Sharah Davis and is based on 42 interviews of Montana entrepreneurs and support organizations and a survey of 178 companies in the region.

“This report overturns common assumptions about entrepreneurship in smaller metros and rural areas,” said Christina Henderson, executive director of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance and a co-author of the study. “Montana’s recent startup boom shows that disruptive technology is bringing high-paying jobs to rural communities, that Montana’s high quality of life and beautiful landscape are a magnet for knowledge workers, and that it is possible – even common – for entrepreneurs to build global businesses in very small towns.”

The study found that Montana’s high level of entrepreneurship is leveraged by dense networks of active local support organizations – non-profits, university-related organizations, government and successful entrepreneurs serving as mentors to a younger cohort of entrepreneurs.

Active non-profit business support resources ranged from universities (University of Montana and Montana State University), industry networks (Montana High Tech Business Alliance and Montana Photonics Industry Alliance), publicly funded organizations (Montana Manufacturing Extension Center) and other organizations such as Montana Code School or 1 Million Cups.

“This report examines what’s behind thriving entrepreneurial communities in places outside expected hubs and reinforces the idea that anyone can start a company regardless of where they live, or of their gender, race or economic background,” said Victor Hwang, Vice President of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation.

The University of Montana and Montana State University were mentioned by entrepreneurs as top business resources, particularly the Blackstone LaunchPads located at both universities; business incubators MonTEC at UM and TechRanch at MSU; and events such as the Business Startup Challenge that is affiliated with the University of Montana.  Montana entrepreneurs also relied on both universities, as well as other colleges in the region, to supply a steady number of graduates with critical thinking skills and processes to fill jobs at their rapidly growing high-tech firms.

“Montana is the Treasure State, and among our treasures are the innovators, entrepreneurs and those who pursue their passion with bold enthusiasm,” UM President Sheila Stearns said. “Helping build businesses and opportunities in Montana is exciting and benefits our students, alumni and Montanans across our state.”

In addition, entrepreneurs mentioned many active role-model entrepreneurs who have successfully run companies and mentored the next generation of entrepreneurs, including Greg Gianforte, founder of RightNow Technologies.

“What we achieved with RightNow Technologies was the result of Montana’s entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic,” Gianforte said. “You can’t find it anywhere else in the world, and the results of this study prove it. The talent being harnessed here from Bozeman to Missoula to our rural communities has made Montana a leader in start-ups and job creation. It’s proof that there’s no better place to build a business and enjoy our incredible way of life.”

 

Entrepreneurs in Montana also mentioned various supports provided by government.  In sharp contrast to cases in other larger cities where government and regulations were often mentioned as being a barrier to entrepreneurship, Montana entrepreneurs reported referrals from Gov. Steve Bullock, Sen. Jon Tester, and Sen. Steve Daines and former Sen. Max Baucus and considered them “champions of entrepreneurship.”

According to Paige Williams, founder and CEO of The Audience Awards in Missoula, “The good thing about Montana being a small town is I know the governor.  I know Sen. Tester. Because it’s a small town, you get major access to your leaders.  And they really help support you in any way that they can and also talk about you a lot.”

“We recently learned Montana leads the nation in job growth. Our unemployment rate is nearing historic lows while more Montanans are at work than ever before,” said Governor Steve Bullock. “I’m pleased to see Missoula, Bozeman, and all of Montana recognized as leading engines of economic growth across the country. Our efforts to create a strong business environment are paying off for Montana businesses and workers through innovation, good-paying jobs, and economic success.”

According to Sen. Jon Tester, “There is no better place in the country to start a business, launch a career and create jobs than right here in Montana. Because of our top-notch workforce, friendly tax environment, and our unmatched access to outdoor recreation, this news once again shows that Montana is open for business.”

The study also found unique local assets that boost entrepreneurship levels, including:

  • Montana entrepreneurs have diverse backgrounds, coming from all over the country, with Silicon Valley or international experience;
  • Entrepreneurs in Montana seek out resources and mentors beyond their hometowns, often 200-300 miles away;
  • With exception of a few companies specifically working in the local environment, Montana entrepreneurs target national and international markets and procure their inputs globally;
  • Montana companies have a high level of workforce locally with a high retention rate built on the quality of life in the region.

Some interviewees used the term “Montana mystique” to describe what attracted entrepreneurs to the state and cited outdoor and recreational opportunities, mountains, hiking opportunities and proximity to great national parks.

According to Molly Bradford, cofounder and CEO of GatherBoard in Missoula, “People are outside walking their dogs, mountain biking, hiking, on the river, surfing on their lunch break.  That’s a celebration of balance that we don’t work to live and live to work, but both.”

A number of company founders expressed the common sentiment that Montana’s untamed landscape, and the type of people who are drawn to it, have shaped the state’s business culture and its inclination toward entrepreneurship.

Based on the survey findings, policy recommendations include:

  • Keep building the Montana-unique ecosystem for Montana companies;
  • Identify regional strategies for recruitment of qualified employees;
  • Review air access;
  • Expand the support networks beyond political boundaries.

To download the full report or executive summary visit: https://mthightech.org/montana-entrepreneurship-ecosystems/

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Additional 2017 Report Press Release Quotes from Montana Companies:

BOZEMAN

“The secret is out.  Montana is firmly planted on the start-up and technology map both nationally and internationally,” said Andrew Hull, founder and president of Elixiter in Bozeman. “In my last ten new business calls, every potential client knew exactly the location of Bozeman including the quality of work and lifestyle.  What was once a roadblock to client engagements in 2011 is one of our best-selling features. “A New Frontier: Entrepreneurship Ecosystems in Bozeman and Missoula, Montana” report is proof behind the swell of activity we sensed but couldn’t necessarily put numbers and research behind.”

  • Andrew Hull, founder and president of Elixiter

 

MISSOULA

“The high-quality workforce plays a major role in the growth of our state’s technology sector.  For ATG, this means a close partnership with the University of Montana, where ATG recruits graduates and alumni who have the opportunity to do world-class consulting work in Montana, have an exceptional standard of living, and still find time to go rafting and skiing on weekends.  The study findings show that entrepreneurship can thrive in small communities, not just in Silicon Valley.”

  • Tom Stergios, senior vice president of Strategy and Corporate Development and general manager of Advanced Technology Group’s Missoula office

 

“As a technology leader, Blackfoot is keenly aware of the role entrepreneurship and innovation play in Montana’s booming high-tech economy. We see it every day – whether it’s our customers, our employees or the companies we partner with in delivering leading-edge voice, data, cloud and technology solutions. We are proud to be part of the tremendous growth Montana has experienced in recent years and look forward to working with the Montana High Tech Business Alliance, Missoula Economic Partnership, the Missoula College and many others to support economic success for all business.”

  • Jason B. Williams, Chief Executive Officer, Blackfoot

 

“Montana’s entrepreneurs repeatedly speak about their commitment to community and their sense of place. This creates a highly collaborative and mutually supportive environment for entrepreneurs to grow and succeed.”

  • Paul Gladen, Director, Blackstone LaunchPad. University of Montana
15 Montana Companies to Watch in 2017

15 Montana Companies to Watch in 2017

By Christina Henderson

Here’s a quiz – how many high tech and manufacturing companies do you think we have in Montana?

On December 20, 2016, the Montana High Tech Business Alliance emailed our third annual survey of Montana tech companies with the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana to 242 Alliance member companies and 304 non-member companies in high-tech and manufacturing. That’s 546 total tech companies in Montana.

This doesn’t include the tech companies we haven’t found yet. We have to hunt them like rare wild beasts as they tend to hide in remote business parks and second floor offices without signage.

The Alliance is ramping up our efforts to raise the visibility of Montana’s many world-class businesses and related jobs that need to be filled. To kick things off, we’re highlighting 15 Montana companies to watch in 2017. To form this list, we looked for startups and growth companies that fit at least one of the following criteria:

  • steep revenue growth and/or working in a high-growth sector
  • received notable angel or VC investment
  • poised to launch high-potential products or services
  • plan to expand operations or add a significant number of jobs in 2017

Here are our picks in alphabetical order.

1. Ascent Vision, Bozeman

Ascent Vision founder Tim Sheehy was a Navy SEAL officer and Army Ranger who saw an opportunity to provide lower-cost aerial surveillance to government and industry. Launched in a barn in 2013, Ascent Vision formed a joint venture with Australian gimbal maker UAV Vision and in the first year grew from two people to 50 and multi-millions of dollars in sales. In late 2016, Ascent Vision broke ground on a 30,000 sq. ft. facility to meet high demand for sensors in unmanned aerial vehicles, maritime surveillance and self-driving cars.

2. Audience Awards, Missoula

Launched in 2013 by award-winning filmmaker Paige Williams, Audience Awards is a platform that connects brands to high-quality, user generated content through video contests and film challenges. Partnerships with GoDaddy, Hilton Worldwide and Kodak have brought Audience Awards recognition in Forbes, Entrepreneur and Inc. magazines. The company raised more than $500,000 in funding in late 2016 from Alliance of Angels and Victress Capital, expanding its offices and its team.

3. Centricient, Bozeman

Centricient closed a $6.5 million round in 2016 led by Venrock (venture capital arm of the Rockefeller family) and followed by Next Frontier Capital. Centricient is re-imagining customer service for a mobile world, connecting customers and enterprises through text messaging. The firm was founded by Mike Myer, the former CTO of RightNow Technologies which sold to Oracle in 2011 for $1.8 billion. Centricient also formed a partnership in 2016 with Helix Business Solutions, an Oracle Service Cloud solutions integrator, to sell and implement messaging to its customer base.

4. Clearas Water Recovery, Missoula

Clearas Water Recovery, maker of a patented biological wastewater treatment system, closed a $4 million series B round in 2016. The 40-person team has developed a scalable, algae-based system that purifies industrial and municipal wastewater to the highest regulatory standards and creates a useful byproduct. According to CEO Jordan Lind, Clearas earned $4 million in revenue in 2016, and has a backlog to reach $16 million in 2017 and $27 million in 2018. Lind is a 3rd generation Montanan, descended from sugar beet farmers, who co-founded a previous high-growth Missoula tech company as an MBA student at the University of Montana.

5. Elixiter, Bozeman

Founded by Billings native and RightNow Technologies veteran Andrew Hull in 2011, Elixiter is a marketing services firm focused on clients of the Marketo platform. Rapid expansion led Elixiter to relocate four times in four years. Since the company’s inception, Elixiter has averaged 100% year over year growth and landed on the Inc. 5,000 list of fastest-growing companies in 2016. Fortune Magazine ranked Elixiter number 52 on its inaugural list of 100 Best Workplaces for Women. The company has a team of about 40 consultants serving clients like FitBit, Aetna, Cisco, and Lynda.com.

6. Foundant Technologies, Bozeman

Co-founded in 2006 by MSU graduates who were early RightNow Technologies employees, software-as-a-service company Foundant Technologies helps philanthropic foundations streamline and simplify their grant proposal processes. Foundant was on the Inc. 5,000 list of fastest growing companies in 2014, 2015, and 2016 and named one of Outside Magazine’s Best Places to Work. By late 2016, Foundant had 50 employees, more than $4 million in annual revenue, and merged with Washington firm Smalldog to offer the promising new CommunitySuite – financial solutions for community foundations.

7. Girlzilla, Malta

Misty Kuhl’s vision for Girlzilla – a marketplace for women’s used outdoor gear – earned her a spot as a Native Entrepreneur in Residence and $125,000 in funding from New Mexico Community Capital, as well as a seat at Obama’s 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Palo Alto. An enrolled tribal member (Gros Ventre) of Montana’s Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, Kuhl graduated (cum laude) from Montana State University as a first-generation college student. She then relocated to Albuquerque, NM where she was a small business owner, whitewater rafting guide, and REI sales lead. Kuhl moved her company home to Malta, Montana in 2016 in the hope of bringing sustainable economic opportunity to her community. The Girlzilla platform is slated to launch in 2017.

8. GTUIT, Billings

GTUIT was Montana’s fastest growing company last year, reaching the 203rd position on Inc. magazine’s 2016 Inc. 500. The firm grew 1,894 percent over three years and earned $10.9 million in revenue in 2015. GTUIT was Launched in 2011 by three engineers with decades of experience in the Bakken oil fields. After convincing their first customer to fund the prototype, the co-founders developed a process that cuts emissions and puts flare gas to use instead of burning it as waste. In 2015, GTUIT received equity investment from Caterpillar Oil & Gas and an award of excellence from the World Bank Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership.

9. LMG Security, Missoula

After earning degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from MIT and writing the world’s first textbook on Network Forensics, Sherri Davidoff launched LMG Security in 2008. LMG is a cyber security consulting, research and education company experiencing fast growth in a hot field. LMG’s global clients include government agencies, health care organizations, and Fortune 500 companies. Davidoff teaches at industry knowledge centers like SANS and Black Hat and has been featured in Wired Magazine. The LMG team has doubled in size over the last three years to 25 employees and climbing. The firm just purchased a new building on the Clark Fork River in Missoula.

10. Montana Precision Products, Butte

Montana Precision Products was created in 2013 when SeaCast Inc. and General Electric formed a 50-50 joint venture to build parts and castings for GE’s jet engines. SeaCast was owned by Butte natives and brothers Bert and Mike Robins, who continue as owners of Montana Precision today. According to General Manager Chris Eurich, Montana Precision has around 135 employees in Butte. The company invested $1.5 million in new technology in 2016 and plans to grow its workforce by 50 percent in the next three years to meet growing demand for more fuel-efficient LEAP jet engines.

11. onXmaps, Missoula

Eric Siegfried launched onXmaps in 2009 as a new graduate of Montana State University’s College of Engineering to solve his frustrations finding accurate land ownership maps while hunting in Montana. He started making GPS plug-ins and later launched the ROAM app for hunting and backcountry recreation. Siegfried bootstrapped a $500 initial investment into a multi-million dollar enterprise employing 65 people. Thanks to the ROAM app’s popularity, onXmaps is expanding its offices in 2017 and plans to have 200 employees in Missoula in five years.

12. Orbital Shift, Missoula

After earning a Master’s in Computer Science and an MBA from the University of Montana, Orbital Shift founder and serial entrepreneur Kevin O’Reilly relied on bootstrapping and early customer feedback to fine tune his SaaS products in online workforce management. Today over 40 percent of Orbital Shift users log into the software every single day. In late 2016 Orbital Shift closed a $1.25 million Series Seed round led by Next Frontier Capital and added an office in Bozeman.

13. PFL.com, Livingston

Founded in 1996 by CEO Andrew Field as a traditional print shop, PFL went online in 1999 with the first ever e-commerce site for commercial print – PrintingForLess.com. PFL landed on the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies three times and was featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and on CNBC for its innovative HR policies. Two decades later, the firm has 225 employees and is evolving into a marketing technology company. PFL has developed a popular SwagIQ gifting plugin for Salesforce and carved out a niche MarTech category called Tactile Marketing Automation that’s on track for steep growth in 2017.

14. Spika Design and Manufacturing, Lewistown

Lewistown native Tom Spika started his company in 2001 as a two-person shop on the family farm. Today Spika Design and Manufacturing is a multi-million dollar company, designing and building aviation maintenance equipment for global markets. Spika was Montana Exporter of the Year in 2013. The firm now employs 60 people, including Tom’s daughters Katie Spika (COO) and Bekhi Spika (Marketing Director), and is developing innovative programs to attract and train local talent for high-paying jobs. A 6,000 square foot expansion in 2016 is accommodating new contracts and engineers.

15. ViZn Energy, Columbia Falls

Ron Van Dell had stints at GE and Dell Computer and was CEO of three startups in Austin and Silicon Valley before coming to Montana to join ViZn Energy as president and CEO in 2014. During Van Dell’s tenure, the industrial-scale battery manufacturer has grown from about 15 employees to more than 60 scientists, engineers, and software technicians working on the forefront of the clean energy revolution. ViZn previously raised over $37 million in independent investments and was closing up another $25 million round of funding in late 2016.

 

These are just a few of the Montana companies we’ll be keeping an eye on in the coming year. Who would you add to the list?

 


 

Christina Quick Henderson is executive director of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance, a statewide membership organization made up of more than 300 high tech and manufacturing firms and affiliates. Search for Montana career opportunities at MTHighTech.org/jobs.

 



Internet Marketing Powerhouse Hagadone Digital Accelerates High-tech Growth in Western Montana: Q&A with Kimberly Weaver, Multimedia Specialist, Kalispell

Internet Marketing Powerhouse Hagadone Digital Accelerates High-tech Growth in Western Montana: Q&A with Kimberly Weaver, Multimedia Specialist, Kalispell

Quick Facts:

Company: Hagadone Digital Montana

Locations: Kalispell, Montana. Hagadone also has offices in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Beloit, Wisconsin; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Waterloo, Ontario (Canada).

Industry: Digital Marketing, Website Design, SEO and Social Media

Founded: 1999

Employees: 3 in Montana 50+ Internationally

Key Leaders: Darah Fogarty, Multimedia Specialist, Kalispell and Kevin O’Day, Multimedia Specialist, Missoula

hdmt-logo-copy

What does your company do?

At Hagadone Digital Montana, we create innovative, customized digital marketing solutions designed to build your business and brand online.

As a full service Internet marketing agency:

  • We create and expand the reach of your brand identity.
  • We develop your online voice to resonate with consumers.
  • We establish your business as an in-the-know industry expert.

We are Montana grown and invested in the future of our state. We believe that local businesses power the fire of innovation, and our purpose is to add fuel to that fire. We’re here to help.

 

Kevin O'Day of Hagadone Digital in Missoula.

Kevin O’Day of Hagadone Digital in Missoula.

What do you like about Montana?

What don’t we like?! The mountains. The people. The entrepreneurial spirit. The bright future.

What is special about your company?

We are dedicated to bringing global advantages to Montana companies.

Connect:

www.hagadonedigital.com

facebook.com/hagadonedigitalmontana

Instagram: hagadonedigitalmontana

Twitter: @hagadonemontana

About the Publisher: The Montana High Tech Business Alliance is a statewide membership organization made up of more than 300 high tech and manufacturing firms and affiliates. Search for Montana career opportunities at MTHighTech.org/jobs.

 



Why Fast-growing Workiva is a Best Workplace for Technology, Millenials: Q&A with Jeff Trom, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer

Why Fast-growing Workiva is a Best Workplace for Technology, Millenials: Q&A with Jeff Trom, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer

Quick Facts:

Company: Workiva

Locations: Workiva has 16 offices. Two of our developer-focused offices are in Montana – 448 East Main St., Bozeman and 140 S. 4th Street West, Unit #2, Missoula

Industry: Software as a service (SaaS)

Founded: 2008 (formerly WebFilings)

Employees: 1,200


jeff-trom-lg

 

 

“Montana is an exciting place to be, especially for a technology company…Bozeman has a lot to offer with its vibrant community and fast-growing tech industry. Big Sky and other rich outdoor experiences are plentiful in the local area, as are friendly people and adventure enthusiasts.”

– Jeff Trom, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Workiva

 

 


How did Workiva get started?

We founded Workiva in 2008 under the name WebFilings and released our first cloud-based software solution in 2010 to modernize business data processes. We changed our company name to Workiva in 2014 to keep pace with growing demand for our solutions from finance, risk, compliance and audit teams.

What does your company do?

Workiva (NYSE:WK) created Wdesk, a cloud-based productivity platform for enterprises to collect, link, report and analyze business data with control and accountability. The platform’s proprietary word processing, spreadsheet and presentation applications are integrated and built upon a data management engine, offering synchronized data, controlled collaboration, granular permissions and a full audit trail. Wdesk helps mitigate enterprise risk, improve productivity and give users confidence to make decisions with real-time data.

What industry does your company serve?

  • Banking
  • Consumer goods and retail
  • Energy and utilities
  • Entertainment
  • Higher Education
  • Insurance
  • Investments
  • Life sciences
  • Manufacturing
  • Services
  • State and local government
  • Technology
  • Transportation

Who are your customers?

It took us just five years to have more than 65 percent of the FORTUNE 500® use our Wdesk productivity platform. Thousands of organizations use Wdesk for risk, compliance or management reporting. For example, since January of 2016, many of our customers have reported notable successes with Wdesk that resulted in significant time and financial savings, including Bel Fuse, JLL Income Property Trust, Upland Software, New York Life Insurance Company, and Integrated DNA Technologies.

An independent study conducted by Forrester Consulting focused on “The Total Economic Impact™ of Workiva Wdesk.” The study showed that a large global manufacturer reaped more than $640,000 in benefits and cost savings, as well as reducing data collection and aggregation by 90 percent.

Who do you hire?

The main characteristic we look for in an applicant is the ability to demonstrate our values. Our values are: being committed to greatness, action driven, customer centric and being part of a team.

What is special about Workiva?

Workiva has won several awards, including:

  • Number 4 of 10 Best Workplaces in Technology by Great Place to Work® and Fortune Magazine
  • Ranked 34 of 100 Best Workplaces for Millennials by Great Place to Work® and Fortune Magazine
  • One of the Fastest Growing Companies in North America on Deloitte’s 2015 Technology Fast 500™ List

Customer Success

Our customer satisfaction scores are greater than 95 percent and our customer retention rates exceed 97 percent. People send our teams flowers and candy because we’ve made the process so much easier.

One differentiating factor is our customer success and support model. Every customer is assigned a dedicated Customer Success Manager, who works directly with reporting teams to streamline their processes and ensure accurate and timely development of their documents. Because customers work with the same Customer Success Manager every time, we are able to understand not only our customers’ processes but also the nuances of the data—essentially making them an extension of our customers’ reporting team.

HAM – Culture

Human Asset Management (HAM) is similar to other HR models, except that it focuses first on improving the quality of life for employees. This is the key: the extra level of care for employees that increases customer satisfaction and retention.

Workiva created a HAM Advisory Group, consisting of employees at all levels from across the company. This group has regular meetings where employees present ideas and make suggestions for improvement. Subcommittees work independently and then take their findings directly to executive management.

workiva-logo-digital_and_web

What are your plans for the future?

Our ambition is to redefine the way enterprises work. As the market grows and changes, so will Workiva to ensure the Wdesk will remain the best productivity platform for enterprises to collect, link, report and analyze business data with control and accountability.

Why are you in Montana?

Montana is an exciting place to be, especially for a technology company. According to a recent study conducted by the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research, employment and revenues in Montana’s high-tech industry are growing at rates seven times that of the statewide economy, with salaries in the high-tech sector increasing 30 percent faster than other sectors. There are high-quality people in Montana as well. We rely on our relationships with the State Universities in Bozeman and Missoula to grow our teams from interns to full-time employees who are invested in Workiva and in Montana.

What do you like about Montana? Your community?

Bozeman has a lot to offer with its vibrant community and fast-growing tech industry. Big Sky and other rich outdoor experiences are plentiful in the local area, as are friendly people and adventure enthusiasts.

What do you do for fun outside of work?

Bozeman’s diverse environment and changing seasons allow us to pursue a wide variety of outdoor activities in the local area. My family and I enjoy hiking Sypes Canyon Trail, skiing at Bridger Bowl, biking the Jackson Creek route, camping at Bear Canyon and other outdoor activities.

Connect:

Workiva Website

Workiva Facebook

Workiva Linkedin

Workiva Twitter

Workiva Instagram

 

Read More:

In Wake of IPO Workiva CTO Reveals Secrets of His Company’s Success

 

About the Publisher: The Montana High Tech Business Alliance is a statewide membership organization made up of more than 300 high tech and manufacturing firms and affiliates. Search for Montana career opportunities at MTHighTech.org/jobs.

 



KOA Takes a High-tech Approach to Outdoor Hospitality: Q&A with John Adams, AVP of Information Services, Kampgrounds of America, Billings

KOA Takes a High-tech Approach to Outdoor Hospitality: Q&A with John Adams, AVP of Information Services, Kampgrounds of America, Billings

koa-logo2

Quick Facts:

Company: Kampgrounds of America (KOA)

Location: Billings, MT

Industry: Outdoor hospitality

Founded: 1962

Employees: 75

Key Leaders:

John Adams, AVP of Information Services, Kampgrounds of America (KOA), Billings, MT

Pat Hittmeier, President & CEO

Toby O’Rourke, Chief Franchise Operations Officer

John Burke, Chief Financial Officer


“KOA is a very special place.  As someone who has bounced around to different companies and across different industries, I can say that KOA is, hands down, the best company I’ve ever worked for.  I like to describe it by saying “We’re serious about what we do, but, we never take ourselves too seriously.”

– John Adams, AVP of Information Services, Kampgrounds of America (KOA), Billings, MT


How did KOA get started?

In 1962, local Billings’ businessman, Dave Drum, recognized that people needed a place to stay as they drove across Montana on their way to the Seattle World’s Fair.  He carved out a few campsites, built some bathhouses and a small general store, and the rest, as they say, is history.

What does your company do?

KOA is the world’s largest system of independently owned and operated campgrounds.

Who are your customers?

KOA serves two primary customers, each of whom share equal importance; the Guest (camper), and our Franchisees.

Who do you hire?

KOA has numerous hiring needs.  Like any business, we hire accountants, marketers, internal IT support, etc.  In the “special skills” areas, we hire for expertise in many areas: camping operations, hospitality, facilities, business development, merchandising, Franchisee relations, customer and technical support.

From a technical perspective, we are always seeking software developers with experience in Microsoft and web technologies (AngularJS, CSS, C#, SQL Server, etc.).  With plans to expand our technical offerings, we will be adding additional developers in the near future, as well as database and reporting roles as we grow our data warehouse and business intelligence initiatives.

What is special about your company?

KOA is a very special place.  As someone who has bounced around to different companies and across different industries, I can say that KOA is, hands down, the best company I’ve ever worked for.  I like to describe it by saying “We’re serious about what we do, but, we never take ourselves too seriously.”

Is there a story that best illustrates what you do and why you do it?

Why is a campground company in the Montana High Tech Business Alliance?  A fair question.  In our role as a Franchisor, we provide goods and services to our Franchisees for the efficient running of their operations.  One of the key components, along with our world-class marketing, is our proprietary campground management system, KampSight.

The KampSight software began development in the mid 90’s, and took on its current form in the early 2000s.  Our current software is a centralized AS/400 based system and is run by all of our nearly 500 Franchise locations.  Starting in 2014 an initiative began for a ground-up re-write of KampSight to bring it into a more modern technology stack, and to position the architecture to both flexible and extensible to more rapidly meet changing Franchisee needs.

What are your plans for the future?

KOA initiated a “Brand-Positioning” program in 2013.  Brand Positioning is a Guest facing initiative designed to help visitors better understand the amenities they are likely to receive at any KOA they choose.  Whether Journey, Holiday, or Resort, Guests can count on the amenities that are available to meet their vacationing needs. By end of year 2016, we’re hoping to have nearly 300 KOA’s fully branded.

From a corporate perspective, our plans are to continue to grow KOA both as a Franchise system, as well as through our Corporately Owned Properties (COP) division.  KOA prides itself on helping entrepreneurs recognize the dream of business ownership.

From a technical and services perspective, launching our new KampSight software (K2) is our top priority.  Beyond K2, KOA plans to expand the breadth of offerings to our Franchisees in all areas of operation: Marketing, Technology, Business Services, Support, etc.  In addition, KOA plans to develop a corporate data-warehouse and implement Business Intelligence (BI) tools to enhance the analytic capabilities of both individual Franchise operations and overall system performance.

Why are you in Montana?

KOA was founded in Billings in 1962.  Montana is an outdoor-centric state filled with friendly, hospitable people.  Those things are at the core of what KOA stands for, and Montana is the perfect place for us.

What do you like about Montana? Your community?

In a word… Everything!

What do you do for fun outside of work?

I am an avid musician, golfer and movie buff.

Is there anything else you want us to know?

You may notice that I always capitalize Guest and Franchisee – this isn’t bad grammar, it’s done to remind myself of the importance of those two constituencies to KOA.

Connect:

KOA Website

John Adams’ Linked-In

KOA Facebook

KOA Twitter

KOA Instagram

 

About the Publisher: The Montana High Tech Business Alliance is a statewide membership organization made up of more than 300 high tech and manufacturing firms and affiliates. Search for Montana career opportunities at MTHighTech.org/jobs.

 



Finding Space for Growing Tech Companies: Q&A with Robyn Erlenbush, Broker/Owner, NAI Landmark Real Estate, Bozeman and Southwest Montana

Finding Space for Growing Tech Companies: Q&A with Robyn Erlenbush, Broker/Owner, NAI Landmark Real Estate, Bozeman and Southwest Montana

Quick Facts:

Company: NAI Landmark Real Estate, ERA Landmark Real Estate and Intermountain Property Management

Location: Serving southwest Montana with offices in Bozeman, Big Sky, Livingston & Ennis

Industry: Real estate

Founded: ERA Landmark 1990 (current ownership), NAI Landmark Commercial 2008

Employees: 12

Key Leaders:
Robyn Erlenbush, Broker/Owner

Management team also includes Steve Olson, Kelly Bresnahan and Rachel Tasker

Associates include Kasey Harte, Cam Holt, Jason Leep, Rick Ojala, Chris Pope, Ryan Springer, and Jim Woods


robyns-photo-2

 

“[NAI Landmark] understands that technology and manufacturing businesses have a unique set of real estate needs beyond location and square footage. Our associates are knowledgeable about necessities like proximity to fiber, building security, transportation capacity, energy concerns and expansion capabilities.”

 

– Robyn Erlenbush, Broker/Owner, NAI Landmark Commercial Real Estate

 

 


How did NAI Landmark get started?

Robyn Erlenbush joined the sales staff of ERA Landmark Real Estate in 1982, working in sales and management positions until purchasing the company in October 1990. Erlenbush actively manages the business and brokerage concerns of her company. She acquired Intermountain Property Management and MontanaVacation.com in 2003, Western Land Office in Livingston in 2004 and Arrow Real Estate in Ennis in 2014. NAI Landmark Commercial was established in 2008.
 

What does your company do?

NAI Landmark is a full-service commercial real estate serving Southwest Montana with a high degree of competency in commercial leasing and sales of office, retail, industrial, land, and investment properties.NAI Landmark’s commercial real estate agents experience and credentials qualify them in all areas of commercial real estate, from 1031 tax-deferred exchanges to tenant representation, sale-leasebacks, business brokerage, building disposition and acquisition, land brokerage, development consulting and portfolio management.

 

Who are your customers?

NAI Landmark represents a local, regional and national client base that has been developed over 30 years of service as ERA Landmark Commercial. Whether you’re looking locally or thinking globally, our associates have the knowledge, experience and network to bring you real estate solutions.

 

What is special about your company?

NAI Landmark is the only real estate firm in southwest Montana that works exclusively with commercial real estate transactions. NAI Landmark differentiates itself from the competition by offering a high level of market knowledge, experience and connection to the business community.We take a team-oriented approach to all of our projects and focus on results for our clients. Our associates are dedicated to extensive education and have diverse backgrounds including banking, accounting, retail, and metro-area commercial sales and leasing.

 

What is special about your company?

NAI Landmark is the only real estate firm in southwest Montana that works exclusively with commercial real estate transactions. NAI Landmark differentiates itself from the competition by offering a high level of market knowledge, experience and connection to the business community.We take a team-oriented approach to all of our projects and focus on results for our clients. Our associates are dedicated to extensive education and have diverse backgrounds including banking, accounting, retail, and metro-area commercial sales and leasing.

 

Is there anything else you want us to know?

We understand that technology and manufacturing businesses have a unique set of real estate needs beyond location and square footage. Our associates are knowledgeable about necessities like proximity to fiber, building security, transportation capacity, energy concerns and expansion capabilities. From finding your first formal operating space, to outgrowing your location, to expanding to multiple sites, NAI Landmark associates have the knowledge, experience and network to bring you real estate solutions.

 

Connect:

Company Websites and Social Media:

NAI Landmark Website

ERA Landmark Website

NAI Landmark Facebook

NAI Landmark Twitter

NAI Landmark LinkedIn

About the Publisher: The Montana High Tech Business Alliance is a statewide membership organization made up of more than 300 high tech and manufacturing firms and affiliates. Search for Montana career opportunities at MTHighTech.org/jobs.

 



SoFi’s Helena Team Serves 150,000+ customers, $10 Billion in Loans: Q&A with Megan Smith, Human Resources Manager

SoFi’s Helena Team Serves 150,000+ customers, $10 Billion in Loans: Q&A with Megan Smith, Human Resources Manager

Launched in 2011, SoFi is a San Francisco-based financial technology (fintech) startup that raised $1 billion in 2015 and has financed $10 billion in loans. SoFi’s core software engineering team is based in Helena. Directors of Engineering David Thompson and Matt Conroy plan to grow their Montana team to 100+ developers.

Quick Facts:

Company: SoFi

Location: Helena and San Francisco

Industry: Financial Technology

Founded: 2011

Employees: 587 across the company, 82 in Helena (and expanding!)

Key Leaders:
Mike Cagney, co-founder and CEO

Matt Conroy and David Thompson are the Directors of Engineering for SoFi, Inc. They helped the initial team to get SoFi up and running in Montana as well as a more recent office in Salt Lake City that is continuing to grow.

June Ou, VP of Engineering, is located in SoFi’s San Francisco office.


 

“Montana is such a great place to live with so much to do no matter what your interests are…Helena really portrays what Montana has to offer, and its central location is perfect for exploring the state; you can drive an hour or so and visit a new city, enjoy nature in the mountains, or even explore an old ghost town…There is a strong sense of family and community, which is great to be a part of.”

– Megan Smith, Human Resources Manager, SoFi


How did SoFi get started?

SoFi was founded in 2011 by a team of Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) students who recognized that traditional banking institutions left certain population segments, especially young professionals, underserved. Mike Cagney, co-founder and CEO, knew there was a problem with financial services and wanted to fix it by creating a model that didn’t revolve around high fees and poor customer service.Our model initially connected alumni and institutional capital directly with alumni borrowers – by leveraging the interest fellow alumni have in seeing graduates of their alma mater be successful, the founders hoped SoFi could provide more affordable options for those taking on debt to fund their education. SoFi has since moved away from an alumni-funded model to a nontraditional underwriting approach focused on lending to financially responsible individuals, and has surpassed more than $10 Billion in loans funded across its products: student loan refinancing, mortgages and personal loans.

What does your company do?

SoFi is a new kind of finance company taking a radical approach to lending and wealth management. From unprecedented products and tools to faster service and open conversations, we’re all about helping our members get ahead and find success. Whether they’re looking to buy a home, save money on student loans, ascend in their careers, or invest in the future, the SoFi community works to empower our members to accomplish the goals they set and achieve financial greatness as a result.Our current product offerings include student loan refinancing, mortgages, personal loan and mortgages, and our members benefit from great additional free services like access to our career strategy team, free member events around the country and an entrepreneur program.

Who are your customers?

SoFi members are a group of people who have a drive for success – they’re the type who will give it their all to get where they want to be. We like to think of them as financially responsible individuals who are proud make investments in their future, such as taking out student loans to finance their education or buying a home.

Who do you hire?

We look for people who share our mission to empower people to achieve their financial goals, and who share that spirit of ambition. As a fast-moving startup, we also look for employees who are creative, collaborative and results-driven in their work style.
sofi-all_company1

What is special about your company?

SoFi received the largest funding round for any fintech company to-date in a 2015 $1 Billion Series E, and we’ve been on CNBC’s Disruptor 50 list for two years running. Our 600+ employees are committed to providing an unparalleled experience for our 150,000 members while always striving for new ways to better serve them through our products, online experience, as well as offline engagements. We also pride ourselves on a culture of transparency and accountability – our CEO addresses the full SoFi team in weekly all-hands meetings.

What are your plans for the future?

Our plan as a company is to continue to develop new ways to help our members achieve their financial goals – our upcoming wealth management tool, currently in beta for our members, is one example of that, and you can expect to see more in the near future.

What do you like about Montana? Your community?

Montana is such a great place to live with so much to do no matter what your interests are. There are some incredible places to visit and so much culture and diversity. Helena really portrays what Montana has to offer, and its central location is perfect for exploring the state; you can drive an hour or so and visit a new city, enjoy nature in the mountains, or even explore an old ghost town. Helena is also very culturally diverse, which is a wonderful complement to the gorgeous natural scenery found here – it’s really the best of both worlds. There is a strong sense of family and community, which is great to be a part of.

Connect:

SoFi FacebookSoFi Twitter

SoFi Instagram

Please check out all SoFi has to offer at Sofi.com.

And if you’re looking for an exciting career move, check out Helena’s open positions:

About the Publisher: The Montana High Tech Business Alliance is a statewide membership organization made up of more than 300 high tech and manufacturing firms and affiliates. Search for Montana career opportunities at MTHighTech.org/jobs.



PFL (PrintingForLess.com) Grows from World’s First Online Print Shop to MarTech Machine: Q&A with Suzie Lalich, Human Resource Director

PFL (PrintingForLess.com) Grows from World’s First Online Print Shop to MarTech Machine: Q&A with Suzie Lalich, Human Resource Director

Quick Facts:

Company: PFL (PrintingForLess.com)

Location: Livingston, MT

Industry:  Online Printing and Marketing Technology

Founded: 1996

Employees: 225

Key Leaders:

Andrew Field, Founder and CEO

Suzie Lalich, Human Resource Director

Daniel Gaugler, VP of Marketing (on Montana High Tech Business Alliance Board of Advisors)


PFL has a work hard play hard mantra. We want our employees to enjoy the beautiful state and all the recreation it has to offer. We are proud to be one of the largest employers in Park County [Montana] providing professional opportunities that pay professional wages. ”

Suzie Lalich, Human Resource Director, PFL (PrintingForLess.com)


How did PFL get started?

In 1996 PFL started as a local brick-and-mortar print shop and in 1999 became the world’s first online print shop.

What does your company do?

PFL is a marketing technology company that provides sales enablement and marketing automation solutions, as well as printing, mailing, and fulfillment services. We directly connect B2B organizations to cutting edge solutions that accelerate productivity and drive business forward.

Who do you hire?

Our goal is to hire those who truly believe in our vision of raising the performance of American business, by setting standards for delivering truly great customer experiences.  We want people who are bought into this and excited to be a part of a team that is building something great.

What is special about PFL?

We’re always growing, improving and innovating and ask our employees to do the same. We take professional growth seriously so that our employees will have lots of opportunity to grow and plenty of problems to solve. We offer competitive benefits and a matching 401k. In order to drive results we move fast and our open concept facility allows us to collaborate quickly.

We pick and keep only the best people, train them well, encourage them to have fun, and equip them with the best tools and information. In addition, they are given latitude to make good decisions while growing with continuous feedback on their performance.

Is there a story that best illustrates what you do and why you do it?

Help our customers be successful. It’s a part of our core, deep in our DNA. But what does that look like, day in and day out?

In the beginning, it meant state-of-the-art manufacturing and custom print solutions to fit each customer’s unique need.

Build the MarTech Machine.  As we grow, making our customers successful means developing technology solutions like our TMA® and SwagIQ® software that change the way they connect with prospects and drive results.

We haven’t forgotten our roots: we still provide top quality custom print solutions. Today, we’re carving out new categories in marketing automation and sales enablement to help those we serve achieve their business goals.

What are your plans for the future?

Continue to grow our traditional print channel revenues but create a new MarTech category, called Tactile Marketing Automation in the next 5 years. And, of course, become the undisputed leader (75% market share) in the TMA space.

Why are you in Montana?

We are close to Yellowstone, Paradise Valley, Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley. It’s the best place to live and raise a family and despite having opportunities to relocate the business, we chose not to. We are proud to be part of the high tech growth in southwestern Montana and we’re here for good.

What do you like about Montana? Your community?

PFL has a work hard play hard mantra. We want our employees to enjoy the beautiful state and all the recreation it has to offer. We are proud to be one of the largest employers in Park County providing professional opportunities that pay professional wages.

In addition, what’s better than giving to our communities? PFL has a generous gifting budget and takes pride in contributing to local organizations that support animal welfare, the impoverished, youth education, and Veterans. Giving has long been a part of our culture at PFL, we are proud to have officially joined Pledge 1%, a corporate philanthropy movement dedicated to making the community a key stakeholder in every business.

Connect:

PFL Website: www.pfl.com

More Information about PFL:  http://www.pfl.com/About-PFL.html

PFL Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/printingforless/

PFL Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PrintingForLess/?fref=ts

PFL Twitter: https://twitter.com/PFLcom

 

About the Publisher: The Montana High Tech Business Alliance is a statewide membership organization made up of more than 295 high tech and manufacturing firms and affiliates. Search for Montana career opportunities at MTHighTech.org/jobs.



PROOF Research Takes High-tech Approach to Re-invent the Future of Firearms: Q&A with Chris Polley, Marketing Manager

PROOF Research Takes High-tech Approach to Re-invent the Future of Firearms: Q&A with Chris Polley, Marketing Manager

 


Quick Facts:

Company: PROOF Research

Location: Columbia Falls, MT

Industry: firearms manufacturing

Founded: 2011

Employees: 70

Key Leaders:

Larry Murphy, CEO (on Montana High Tech Business Alliance Board of Advisors)

KK Jense, President

Chris Polley, Marketing Manager

 


How did PROOF Research get started?

The company was started by a group of passionate firearms manufacturers to fill a void in the market for highly accurate light weight barrels and rifles. The first two founders were KK Jense of Jense Precision and Mike Degerness of Advanced Barrel Systems.

PROOF Research started in January 2011 as a joint venture between Jense Precision (Missoula, Montana) and ABS Barrels (Lincoln Nebraska). They soon added Lone Wolf Stocks (Columbia Falls, Montana) company and later Lawrence Barrels came on board in 2012. The high tech Columbia Falls facility was completed in July of 2012. An aerospace company specializing in high temp composites from Dayton, Ohio named P2SI was purchased in 2013.

What does your company do?

We make single point cut carbon fiber rifle barrels, stainless steel barrels and precision rifles with house made Kevlar reinforced carbon fiber stocks and defiance actions.

What industry does your company serve?

Defense, Manufacturing

Who are your customers?

Military, Tactical Consumers and Hunters

Who do you hire?

Machinists, Engineers

What is special about PROOF Research?

We make the lightest most accurate precision rifles in their weight class and the first carbon fiber rifle barrel to be in service by U.S. military SOCOM teams.

Our Montana facility produces the world’s finest composite barrels, stocks, and complete rifles. Our Ohio division utilizes novel aerospace materials, design concepts and manufacturing methodologies to create solutions for demanding high-temperature aerospace and defense projects – including the F-35 Strike Fighter and B2 Stealth Bomber. Our portfolio of products includes next-generation prepregs, resins, adhesives and composite materials with service temperatures up to 1500° F.

What are your plans for the future?

We are working toward full auto carbon fiber barrels and because we have an engineered solution there is no scaling limitation to our products so we can make tank barrels, barrels for airframes, crew served weapons etc.

What do you like about Montana?

Freedom, natural beauty and resources

What do you do for fun outside of work?

Hunt, shoot, hike and fish.


Connect:

PROOF Research: www.proofresearch.com

Advanced Composite Division: www.proofresearchacd.com

Facebook: Proofresearchusa

Instagram: Proof_research

PROOF Research Company Profile

Read More:

PROOF Research news articles and press releases


About the Publisher: The Montana High Tech Business Alliance is a statewide membership organization made up of more than 290 high tech and manufacturing firms and affiliates. Search for Montana career opportunities at MTHighTech.org/jobs.