It was an exciting week for Montana in the high-tech sector and for students across the state. Here are this week’s Friday Five, the five stories you should know about this week.

Rocky Mountain Front Range

Rocky Mountain Front, Central Montana

1. Blackfoot Communications Launches Innovation Lab in Missoula

On Tuesday, Blackfoot Communications in Missoula announced the opening of its innovation lab called C2M.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”Jason Williams, Blackfoot CEO ” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”We’re continuing our decades-long commitment to deliver cutting-edge products and services to our customers.”[/perfectpullquote]

C2M beta will give startup companies access to Blackfoot’s technology infrastructure, expertise and 16-state customer base in a push to accelerate the delivery of products and services. This is the second technology campus in Montana.

“As part of Blackfoot’s Smart Growth strategy, we’re continuing our decades-long commitment to deliver cutting-edge products and services to our customers,” said Blackfoot CEO Jason Williams in a Tuesday story for the Missoula Current. “With the launch of C2M beta, we’re now proactively partnering with startups to drive innovation, attract strategic partnerships, and further support Montana’s thriving tech economy.”

2. MSU Hires Entrepreneur as Business College Dean

This week, Montana State University announced it hired Mark Ranalli as the new dean of its Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship.

Ranalli is in his fourth year as associate dean at the School of Engineering at Tufts University in Massachusetts and will start in Bozeman July 1. At Tufts, Ranalli was the executive director of the Tufts Gorden Institue. It offers two graduate degrees, an entrepreneurial leadership studies program and operates the university’s entrepreneurship center.

Ranalli co-founded Basessix, founded Helim Inc. and was the entrepreneur in residence at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth for four years. He earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University and earned a master’s of business administration from Dartmouth.

3. Seed Funding Competition for Young Tech Companies

A new business accelerator program, Early State MT, is gearing up to find the next hot technology company in Montana.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”Pat LaPointe, Frontier Angels” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“Early Stage Montana was created to bring attention to the incredible innovation happening across the state of Montana.”[/perfectpullquote]

The seed funding competition is a collaboration between several different organizations including Frontier Angels, Blackstone Launchpad and Next Frontier Capital. There will be three showcases held in May in Billings, Bozeman and Missoula. Companies that are chosen will have the change to compete in the statewide competition this September in Bozeman.

“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,” said Pat LaPointe with Frontier Angels in a Missoula Current story. “Our goal is to provide a platform for existing Montana businesses to begin to play on a larger stage.”

4. Montana Recognizes Computing Achievements of High School Women

As part of an effort to encourage more young women to choose careers in technology, the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), NorthWestern Energy and Carroll College recognized 16 Montana high school women from 13 high schools for their accomplishments and aspirations in computing technology.

The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing was created to promote the computing aspirations of young women, introduce them to leadership opportunities in the field and generate visibility for women’s participation in technology fields. National judges picked the Montana winners. This year, two Montanans also received National Honorable Mention: Payton Zenahlik from Cascade High School and Betta Lyon-Delsordo from Big Sky High School in Missoula. It is Betta’s second national Honorable Mention.

5. Student-Run Print Service Thriving at Reservation School

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Eastern Montana at St. Labre High School in Ashland.

At the school, a group of students and teacher Robin Lei are in charge of running and managing Braves Ink, a screen printing business. The business designs shirts for the high school’s athletic teams and other groups in the community. The students were able to kickstart their business with a grant from Congressman Greg Gianforte and with training from Snappy Duds, an embroidering and printing company.

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