When choosing a place to start a business or relocate, the internet largely removes geographical distance as a constraint. That’s got entrepreneurs considering entirely different options than a decade ago. Places like Silicon Valley, New York, and Los Angeles are oversaturated. The next best thing is not necessarily metropolitan—but micropolitan.
Bozeman, Montana, is a micropolitan city on the up. Money Magazine named it in the top ten best places to live in 2017. Its population grew 35 percent between 2000 and 2010, and another 30 percent between 2010 and 2018. But there’s still plenty of room to scale: the town has an estimated population of under 50,000 people—the city’s small size contrasts with its booming business potential.
Bozeman appeared on the business map in a big way in 2011, when RightNow Technologies, a local company with 1,100 employees, was acquired by Oracle for $1.5 billion. What followed was a new class of Bozeman entrepreneurs, bolstered by a new startup incubator and national recognition. Startups have raised millions in seed funding, and gone on to be acquired for staggering amounts. It’s all part of the reason why of the 25 least populated states, Montana has repeatedly been ranked by the Kauffman Index as one of the top places for startup activity.
Schedulicity started as a booking platform that allows service-based businesses to connect to their customers. Founded in 2009 by Jerry Nettuno, the idea started small and personal. Seeing entrepreneurs as a vital part of the local Bozeman community, Nettuno wanted to provide them with simple, affordable, and powerful tools to grow and connect with their clients.
Initially targeting small businesses in the health and beauty industry, Schedulicity now helps over 100,000 businesses in over 50 different industries with their scheduling, marketing, and payments. For all that growth, Schedulicity was named the best startup in Bozeman for 2019.
Beartooth is a company that exudes the spirit of the Big Sky Country. Built for backcountry communication, it uses a form-fitting case to allow text, voice, and location sharing from your smartphone, even if there’s no cell service.
Founded by two Montana State University alumni, businessman Michael Monaghan and former smoker jumper Kevin Ames, the idea started as a simple one: how could you easily allow a cell phone to function like a radio transmitter, or walkie-talkie? It took a year to find the answer to that question, and another year to bring it to the public at a San Francisco tech conference. Several years later, they’re still going strong, and still headquartered in Bozeman.
MyVillage is reimagining early childhood education by looking to the past. The MyVillage system sets up home education centers within a neighborhood, and empowers a caregiver to watch over and educate the area’s children. Drawing on the old ideas of a village and communal learning, MyVillage’s mission is to harness the power of community to create exceptional care for every child.
The founders, Erica Mackey and Elizabeth Szymanski, consulted with early childhood education experts at Harvard, talked to hundreds of care providers across the US, and drew upon their own experiences to build the MyVillage framework. In 2019, MyVillage closed a $5.95 million seed round—the largest ever in Montana.
SiteOne Therapeutics is a biotech company dedicated to developing novel pain treatments, making it a key weapon in fighting the opioid epidemic in the US. Founded by Dr. John Mulcahy and the late George Miljanich, SiteOne keeps its headquarters in Bozeman while also maintaining a research site in San Francisco. An active founder, Dr. Mulcahy is SiteOne’s VP of research, and he’s acted as principal investigator on numerous small business grants that the National Institutes of Health have issued SiteOne.
Quiq is a conversational engagement platform that helps businesses engage with their customers through modern channels like SMS, AI-powered chatbots, and social messaging. This summer, they pulled in $12.5 million in Series B funding. Co-founders Mike Meyer and Bill O’Neil both got their start at Bozeman’s biggest tech player, RightNow Technologies, where they served in high leadership roles. Quiq’s marquee clients already include Office Depot, Overstock, and Brinks, but Quiq remains proudly headquartered in Bozeman.
Bozeman’s economy is one of the strongest in Montana, with one in every ten new businesses in the state coming from Bozeman and the surrounding area. The Bozeman Chamber of Commerce has played a big role in that dominance: it’s become one of the largest and most aggressive business organizations in the state over its 100 years of service. The Chamber hosts several weekly leads groups that bring together members of the business community to share ideas, information, leads, and referrals. Two other events, Business Before Hours and Business After Hours, provide networking opportunities.
For those looking to start a business in Bozeman, the Chamber of Commerce is a one-stop resource, as they’re committed to playing an active role in encouraging, and growing, new businesses in the area. This is a full-throttle endeavor: the Chamber runs programs on community development, leadership, training, tourism, economic development, and strategic planning.
The ideas behind much of the world’s high-powered digital tech originated with a couple of analog cups of coffee. That’s the ethos behind 1 Million Cups, a free-to-all program designed to educate, engage, and inspire entrepreneurs. From a rough start in 2012, it’s now expanded to over 180 communities, including Bozeman.
The formula remains as simple as making a cup of coffee. During each meeting of a local chapter of 1 Million Cups, an entrepreneur has six minutes to present their company or business idea (which can be either newly formed or up to five years old) to a room of community members. The community members then have 20 minutes to ask questions, provide feedback, or offer support. The Bozeman chapter meets on Main Street. There’s no charge for participating, and coffee and cake is provided.
Blackstone LaunchPad: Montana State University
Blackstone LaunchPad is a non-profit campus resource for students, alumni, and faculty interested in business and entrepreneurship. By providing venture support, mentorship, and a strong network of community resources, they foster entrepreneurship and innovation in the local community. The LaunchPad coordinates off-campus opportunities, leverages connections with industry-leading mentors, and convenes students and faculty at world-class speaking engagements. Powered by a three-year, $2 million grant, the LaunchPad has helped over a dozen local ventures find success.
Formed with some of the proceeds of RightNow’s sale to Oracle, the Bozeman Technology Incubator provides free mentoring to all of Montana’s high tech and manufacturing businesses. The mentorship process begins through email, in a question-and-answer format.
An exclusive number of businesses with the highest growth and job-creation potential are selected to join The Summit Circle, an intensive business acceleration program. Those admitted to The Summit Circle receive access to an extensive network of successful entrepreneurs, coaching sessions, strategic planning, recruiting assistance, and introductions to possible funding streams.