Today in New West news: Montana tech, Missoula brewery draws families, Utah B2B software company DemoChimp rebranded as CONSENSUS, and Wyoming’s Give’r scores big in Kickstarter campaign.
We’ve previously reported on Montana’s booming tech industry, which has been driving changes in the Treasure State. Indeed, between the establishment of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance, growth from companies like Missoula’s Advanced Technology Group (ATG), Bozeman’s new fiber optic infrastructure, and tech veteran (and Kalispell-based Hagadone Chief Operating Officer) Doug Schust’s glowing assessment of the state’s potential, Montana is well-poised to becoming as competitive as Utah’s Silicon Slopes.
“It was a bit of a liability” in his company’s first three or four years, Bigart said. “We would be thought of as ‘less than’ our peers in San Francisco — less smart, less capable, less fast.
“Now Bozeman is a critical part of our brand. We hold our annual user conference in Bozeman. Now it’s a competitive advantage.”
Though Wisetail competes with billion-dollar companies, it has grown since 2009 from zero to 27 employees and 100 clients. Bigart predicts by end of this year it will have 40 employees, earning higher-than-Montana-average wages.
Bigart’s company creates online training programs to help firms like the Cheesecake Factory, Jamba Juice and SoulCycle teach new line cooks, waiters and fitness trainers job skills and their company’s culture.
So how did being in Montana go from liability to advantage?
“Our secret sauce is the people and the feeling,” Bigart said. “We feel different, we look different — more like a craftsman approach than an engineer’s.” Instead of using a call center full of unhappy, underpaid workers to serve his business clients, Bigart decided that “the most important job here is customer service.” So Wisetail puts clients in touch with its Bozeman staff, he said, “someone who cares — maybe somebody they’d give a hug.”
Bigart added that cities like Bozeman and Missoula don’t so much represent the future of the tech industry as they do its present. “The conditions we need are already here,” he told the Chronicle.
Indeed, the Chronicle cites a new paper that provides context and statistics for Bigart’s claims. And given his bullish attitude, they do not disappoint. From the Chronicle:
A new report by the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research backs that up. The study, prepared for the Montana High Tech Business Alliance, looked at the state’s high-tech industry to gauge its growth and its challenges.
It reported that:
• The alliance’s member firms doubled from 2014, its first year, to 2015, from 101 to 202 companies, with most concentrated around the university towns of Bozeman and Missoula, plus a smattering around the state.
• Leaders of those firms expect to create 940 new jobs in 2016, a 19 percent growth rate, that would be much stronger than the state’s overall conomy.
• Jobs in Montana’s high-tech alliance companies pay an average of $56,800 — more than twice the median $39,372 for all Montana workers.
• Alliance members created $867 million in gross sales last year.
• Quality of life — recreation, beautiful landscapes and work-life balance — is still Montana’s big advantage.
Keeping with Montana, beer may be for grownups, but at least one Missoula brewery is trying to get families through the door too. According to KPAX, Imagine Nation Brewing Company, which opened last year, is offering something for everyone: craft beer for parents, and children’s books for the kids, a reported first for a traditionally adult-driven industry. Imagine hopes their combination brewery/education space will help foster community ties. From KPAX:
“I think that breweries really all over the country are starting to pick up on this model of trying to use proceeds from their brewery to give back to society and to create a space for all the different dynamics within families and within their own society. And I think that depending on the brewery, uh, there’s different ways that they do it and so I think that, you know, with our brewery we’ve really tried to push the envelope on that and create an educational center within a brewery so that different groups within the community can use it to do good things for society,” Imagine Nation Brewing Company Co-Owner Robert River said.
Imagine Nation Brewing Company has teamed up with over 30 local businesses in its short time of operation. Owners look to contribute more to the Missoula community in the years to come.
Down in Utah, American Fork-based B2B demo automation software company DemoChimp has rebranded itself as CONSENSUS, according to Utah Business, and has already received $4.2 million in Series A funding, with the help of Peak Ventures, CEB and “super angel” investor Nobutaka Mutaguchi. In total, CONSENSUS has raised $7 million in its rebranding campaign. From Utah Business:
All B2B marketing and sales organizations ultimately face the same barrier to success: group buying dysfunction. As DemoChimp, the company successfully deployed a scalable solution that replaced repetitive live sales demos with intelligent, automated demos personalized to each decision maker. This scalable approach drives profitable purchase decisions for technical solutions that touch multiple departments and involve diverse groups of stakeholders by turning that dysfunction into consensus.
“CONSENSUS describes our customers’ needs and the value we deliver, all in a single word,” said CEO and Founder Garin Hess. “We’re delivering powerful and scalable automated tools for sales and marketing professionals that overcome buying dysfunction and drive the agreement they need to get profitable deals done quickly.”
The capital injection enables CONSENSUS to expand adoption of its buying consensus solution among mid-market and enterprise companies. CONSENSUS will also use the funding for additional product innovation.
Sid Krommenhoek, Managing Partner at Peak Ventures commented, “We’re excited to be increasing our investment in CONSENSUS. This company represents precisely the kind of insight-driven sales acceleration and marketing leverage that growing businesses of all sizes need. Solving the problem of buying dysfunction represents a significant market opportunity.”
He added, “CONSENSUS brings an easy-to-use solution to sales teams who struggle with multi-stakeholder buying processes and to marketers who feel pressure to deliver more leads that are better qualified.”
Finally, over in Wyoming, Jackson Hole-based clothing company Give’r recently capped off a successful Kickstarter campaign centered on their premium work/recreation gloves. According to the Wyoming Business Report, the company made over $210,000 (with an initial goal of $25,000) over 33 days; they currently project the Kickstarter gloves will ship out as early as June and as late as September, depending on the reward tier. Nonetheless, the company is unsurprisingly riding high. From WBR:
[Co-founder Bubba] Albrecht said a number of reviews have been popping up for the gloves recently, adding to their momentum. Most prominent of those came from Outside Magazine.
“The new 4-Season leather gloves from Give’r are now a permanent fixture in my truck,” wrote Jakob Schiller, the magazine’s associate editor. “With a waxed and baked leather outer, waterproof-breathable membrane and Thinsulate insulation, they’re great for frigid resort ski days while being breathable enough for long backcountry missions. Once summer rolls around, I use them to collect firewood or move burning logs in the campfire.”
With the successful campaign, Albrecht said his company hopes to build out a larger team, establish themselves with retailers and generally let people know that “this glove is rad.”