Three Montana Business Trends for 2015 – #2. Serious Startups Take Center Stage

By Christina Henderson, Executive Director

My first post in this series highlighted the growing importance of clusters like software, consulting, manufacturing, marketing, and professional services to Montana’s tech economy

Related to the maturation of key industries in Montana is the emergence of a number of highly sophisticated startups that could be poised for big growth in 2015. Successful acquisitions have left a deep pool of talent, money to invest, and an expanded vision for what’s possible in our state.

Montana natives or transplants are launching companies with significant knowledge and experience under their belts. Supported by a strong network of mentors and peers, these seasoned entrepreneurs are developing complex solutions to thorny problems. Montana startups are also leveraging technology, talent, and resources out of Montana universities to fuel their growth.

While there are many great startups worth talking about in Montana, here are a few companies to watch in 2015 (in alphabetical order):

  • Agile Data Solutions: This data analytics firm was founded by two law professors at the University of Montana – Joel Henry and Sam Panarella. Henry is also a professor of computer science at UM. Agile Data Solutions builds enterprise software to help law firms process large volumes of data for e-discovery. They’ve even made a great product video.
  • Beartooth Radio: Featured at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2014, Beartooth’s patent pending technology allows iOS and Android devices to communicate peer-to-peer, completely bypassing the cellular network. The product is equally useful for backcountry skiers or concert-goers facing overloaded Wi-Fi. The founders – Michael Monaghan, a former New York investment banker, and Kevin Ames, an electrical engineer and former smokejumper – met as roommates at Montana State University.
  • CrossTx: Chad Nybo, an early software developer at RightNow, has launched a cloud-based software platform that allows health care professionals to make patient referrals, coordinate care, and consult one another in a secure environment. CrossTx could transform rural health care as patients may no longer have to ferry their medical information to specialists in distant cities to receive a diagnosis.
  • DropTrip: Doug Warner, another early developer at RightNow, led a team that won Startup Weekend Bozeman in 2013 and is now in Beta launch. DropTrip leverages the sharing economy (a’la Airbnb) to connect things that need to be picked up or delivered with travelers who are already making that trip. The service should be a boon to small businesses transporting difficult-to-ship goods across a big, rural state and to college students looking to make extra cash on trips home.
  • Goomzee: Missoula native Mike Sparr left a successful career as a developer and consultant for global companies like Accenture and RSI Global to return home and found a SaaS startup serving real estate agents. Goomzee connects agents to their multiple listing service data via mobile devices, or to potential buyers via curbside marketing and lead capture. The company has forged partnerships with REALTOR Associations and MLSs across the country and currently supports agent users in 49 of the 50 U.S. states.

If their products continue to gain traction, these startups could generate lots of jobs in Montana and attract big money and big exits in years to come.

This post is part two in a three-part series about Montana business trends in 2015. Read part one here: Growing Industry Clusters Attract Attention or part three here: Remote Work Options Attract High-Tech Talent.

Photo caption: Doug Warner, CEO of DropTrip, and team present their crowd-sourced delivery service to judges at Startup Weekend Bozeman in 2013 to win First Place.

About the Author: Christina Quick Henderson is executive director of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance, a statewide membership organization made up of more than 130 high tech and manufacturing firms and affiliates. More information on the Alliance can be found at: www.MTHighTech.org.