A broad group of organizations across the state of Montana are collaborating on a new statewide competition for Montana technology companies looking for funding and guidance to grow. The program is open to “Seed” or “A Stage” companies that are based in Montana and have technology at the core of their offerings including companies in software, cloud computing, IoT, ag-tech, energy tech, clean tech, medical devices, biotech, or other similar businesses seeking to leverage patents or trade secrets to solve large-scale problems around the country and around the world. Prizes will include up to $50,000 in capital investments and access to a broad group of successful entrepreneurs as mentors and advisors.
Organizations collaborating to launch Early Stage MT (earlystagemt.org) include Frontier Angels, Big Sky Economic Development, Missoula Economic Partnership, Prospera, Blackstone Launchpads at MSU and UM, 406 Labs, Montech, Montana Manufacturing Extension Center, and Next Frontier Capital. Judges and mentors will be representatives of these organizations. The program is also being supported by Montana High Tech Business Alliance and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, in addition to several corporate sponsors.
The program begins with regional showcase events in Billings (May 3), Missoula (May 17), and Bozeman (May 22), with the top two “winners” from each region moving on to a statewide competition to be held on Saturday, September 22nd in Bozeman. Prior to the September event, the six semi-finalist companies will participate in a week-long business accelerator with top-tier mentoring and instruction to prepare them for the statewide competition. Early-Stage MT events also will have a limited number of tickets available to members of the public.
Business owners can get more information and submit entry forms at www.EarlyStageMT.org.
In announcing this new event, Pat LaPointe, Managing Director of the Frontier Angels said that “Early Stage Montana was created to bring attention to the incredible innovation happening across the state of Montana, and to make sure that these dedicated entrepreneurs are getting the capital, mentorship, and exposure they need to grow faster. Our goal is to provide a platform for existing Montana businesses to begin to play on a larger stage.”
Jeff Fee, Interim CEO of the Missoula Economic Partnership, agreed, saying, “MEP is excited to be involved in the Early Stage Montana regional showcase, as we believe in the positive impact a strong mentor network and direct coaching can have on early stage businesses seeking capital. We applaud the efforts of Early Stage Montana to train Montana tech companies to compete on a national and international level.”
At the Blackstone LaunchPad at the University of Montana, Director Paul Gladen remarked that their group “is excited to collaborate with Early Stage Montana, as it will offer the opportunity for high growth Blackstone LaunchPad clients to accelerate their growth, as well as inspire the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs across campus.”
Steve Arveschoug, Executive Director of the Big Sky Economic Development in Billings, added that their organization “is excited to partner with the Early Stage Montana initiative. It is one of many areas we hope to partner as we see real opportunity to grow and diversify our economy by focusing resources toward early-stage businesses and entrepreneurship. Billings is going to become a center for innovative business growth and Early Stage MT is one step to help us get there.”
In Bozeman, at the Blackstone LaunchPad housed at Montana State University, Director Trevor Huffmaster said “we continue to see the immense potential of earlier stage business ventures in Bozeman, our region, and across Montana. Early Stage Montana’s focus on resources, mentorship, and capital will really help get these talented entrepreneurs to the next level quickly.”
Kregg Aytes, Dean of the College of Business at MSU, added that the College is pleased to host the Central Region event in Jabs Hall. “’We love to have opportunities to bring together the Montana entrepreneurial community on our campus here in Bozeman,” Aytes said.
Also in Bozeman, Paul Reichert, Executive Director of the Prospera Business Network observed that “Montana is home base for some fantastic emerging companies, and Early Stage Montana will shine a spotlight on some of the best we have to offer.”
Online applications for the Missoula Regional Showcase are due on April 22nd. Detailed information, as well as the online application for interested companies, is available online at www.EarlyStageMT.org.