Tech

Zoot Enterprises Invests in a New Platform, New Markets

By: Katy Spence, Montana High Tech Business Alliance

Eric Hathaway, Zoot Enterprises Invests

Eric Hathaway, Zoot Enterprises

Zoot Enterprises has come a long way from its early days in Chris Nelson’s basement in 1990. Today, more than 250 people work at the sprawling campus in Bozeman, with more employees in Billings.

Zoot Enterprises Invests

Client Delivery Manager Haden Busch has been with Zoot for 11 years. His team currently manages four of Zoot’s top 10 largest clients. Busch has seen Zoot’s and Four Corners’ growth firsthand over the past decade. He remembers when he could look out Zoot’s windows and see nothing but grass- and farmland. Now, Bozeman’s growth has caught up to Zoot, and new buildings are being erected all around the campus.

“There’s just been extreme growth out here, plus our expansion into the worldwide area,” Busch said. “The valley really lends itself well to bringing in talented folks because there is kind of a hub of it here in Bozeman. We’re continuing to grow not only in personnel size, but also in depth of knowledge.”

One of these talented folks is Vice President of Marketing Eric Hathaway. Born and raised in Bozeman, Hathaway’s career in financial services took him all over the world. Working for huge companies such as Microsoft and T-Mobile, Hathaway has lived all over the U.S., in the Czech Republic, and in Hong Kong.

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Missoula Company Brings Color to Compression Socks Industry

Vim & Vigr, colorful compression socks

Michelle Huie, founder of VIM & VIGR

Michelle Huie’s dad was confused about why she wanted to start her compression sock company, VIM & VIGR.

“I told him I was doing this, and at the time I had a great job and a great salary,” Huie said. “The first thing he said was, ‘Compression socks? You don’t know know how to sew socks.’ He thought I was sewing and producing socks in my living room. He was surprised because I’m not the most savvy when it comes to things like that.”

Since that conversation with her father, Huie’s Missoula based company has taken off to fill a need for fashionable compression socks.

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Superior Traffic Services, Sellout Crowned Early Stage MT Winners

2018 Early Stage MT winners

2018 Early Stage MT winners

After months of refining their business plans and pitches, Sellout from Bozeman and Superior Traffic Services from Missoula tied for first and were named the 2018 Early Stage MT winners on Saturday.

“It feels pretty amazing to have won Early Stage MT,” said Joel Martin, one of the founders of Sellout. “We have been struggling to figure out how to pitch this product the best way for the last couple of months ever since the accelerator ended. For it to finally come together this week and to bring it to the stage, we were so nervous for the presentation. But it’s gratifying to have won and to have done this whole process with the amazing core we have.”

Both of the Early Stage MT winners will receive $25,000 and have the opportunity to present at the Frontier Angels meeting in October. Alosant from Bozeman finished third overall and will also present to the Frontier Angels, a Montana based angel fund group. The other businesses that participated in the Early Stage MT showcase included Elation, WebBuy, Elebase and Cardsetter.

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Bozeman Company Quiq Allows Customer to Message Businesses

A screenshot of how Quiq allows customers message businesses

A screenshot of the Office Depot website shows an option to text to the company, which is a feature available because of Quiq.

There wasn’t one particular “ah-ha” moment for why Mike Myer wanted to create Quiq, his messaging software for businesses.

“People text each other,” Myer said. “Why not text a company?”

Myer start contemplating that question in 2014, and since the launch of Quiq (pronounced “quick”), this Bozeman company has become a competitive player in the software messaging world.

How Quiq Allows Customers Message Businesses

Quiq is a software for businesses that allows customers to message companies in a variety of ways, such as texting on your phone or Facebook Messenger. Some of Quiq’s 80 customers include Office Depot, Pier One, and Overstock.com. The most common way users use Quiq is through text, said Quiq’s Chief Marketing Officer, Dani Wanderer.

“A few years ago or even yesterday you might have made a call to a company’s customer service organization, or you might have emailed them,” she said. “This is just an additional channel that consumers can use to reach out to companies. You just text message your product questions, support questions and connect with an agent. The thing that is nice about text messaging is you don’t have to make a phone call, put your life on hold, or get put on hold. You don’t have schedule time out of your day to get help.”

Now that companies are becoming familiar with messaging platforms, Wanderer said they are focusing on best practices for implementing messaging platforms in businesses.

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Friday Five: August 2, 2018

Check out these five stories from across Montana that highlight entrepreneurship, the high tech sector, and everything else that makes Montana great!

woman by creek in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

1. ATG introduces Big Brothers Big Sisters Kids to Programming

Last Saturday, children with Missoula’s Big Brothers Big Sisters programming dipped their toes into the world of computer programming thanks to Advanced Technology Group (ATG) in Missoula.

During a summer camp, kids learned about the basics of programming using a program called Scratch. This program allows users to create characters to interact with their surroundings, objects, or other characters. The visual language can be connected in blocks, telling characters or objects to move, make sound, display text in a speech bubble, and a variety of other options.

Each pair of students created their own animations with aid from ATG employees.

Click here to learn more from the Missoula Current.

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Telecommuting Tuesday: Dave Goodman

picture of Dave Goodman, telecommuter from Frenchtown, MT

Dave Goodman, telecommuter near Frenchtown, MT

Happy Telecommuting Tuesday!

Are you looking for the flexibility to work from home and live in Montana? Or are you looking to change careers or to pivot in your current career? Have you considered telecommuting?

According to a study released in 2017 by the Montana Telecommunications Association, Montana ranks No. 1 in the country in telecommuting. Telecommuting offers former Montanans the ability to make Montana home again and is a career opportunity for residents in the Treasure State’s small towns.

Read what Dave Goodman, a software engineer working remotely for a non-profit in Kansas, had to say about telecommuting from near Frenchtown:

Hi, my name is Dave Goodman

I am a software engineer and I currently work for The IDEA Center, a non-profit in Manhattan, Kansas.  More than half of my coworkers are remote.  I’ve worked remotely from my ranch near Frenchtown for most of the last 10 years. 

My wife and I have an off-grid horse ranch, and it is quite literally the best place I have ever lived.  For me, the biggest benefit of working remotely is free time.  Since I don’t have to drive into Missoula (an hour each way) or travel to other cities anymore, I have much more time to spend with family and friends. 

And speaking of family, we have guests at our ranch from late May until September, often back-to-back-to-back.  You may be wondering how I can work from home when we have a full house?  It is easy, the first rule of visiting us is “You cannot have fun before 4PM“.

To submit your own 300 to 500-word telecommuting story, email Alexandria@MontanaChamber.com.

Blackstone LaunchPad Discusses the Montana’s Startup Soul

Editor’s Note: The following article was written by Paul Gladen, Director at Blackstone LaunchPad at the University of Montana.

Paul Gladen, Director at Blackstone LaunchPad at the University of Montana

Paul Gladen, Director at Blackstone LaunchPad at the University of Montana

Who do you think of when someone says entrepreneur? Steve Jobs? Oprah Winfrey? Elon Musk? Mark Zuckerberg?

These are certainly the kind of folks Wall Street and the media like to lionize for changing the world on a massive scale. But these entrepreneurs and their businesses can perhaps seem at odds with the Montana way of life, especially in light of recent controversies at corporations like Facebook.

All of this raises the question of what a Montana entrepreneur and a Montana startup might look like. What kind of startup activity is achievable AND desirable in Montana?

To begin to answer these questions let me tell you about some of Montana’s latest cohort of emerging entrepreneurs: Jenny Sheets, Ari Ronick, and Sara Boughner.

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Friday Five: July 20, 2018

Check out these five stories from across Montana that highlight entrepreneurship, the high tech sector, and everything else that makes Montana great!

kids and bikes

Kids and Bikes

1. Montana Top Tech Employers 2018

Do you want to work for a high tech company in Montana, but don’t know where to start? This week, the Montana High Tech Business Alliance released its list of Montana’s Top Tech Employers for 2018 in the state.

According to the Montana High Tech Business Alliance, Montana’s tech firms expect to add more than 1,200 new jobs in 2018. Companies fit two or more of the following criteria: 20 employees or more, plans to grow workforce in Montana, established in the state for more than 10 years, consistently hiring, and involved in the community.

Click here to find out who Montana’s top tech employers.

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Telecommuting Tuesday: Brad Comer

Brad Comer, a telecommuter in Cameron, takes a break to go fly fishing on the Madison river near his home. (Photo courtesy of Brad Comer)

Welcome to our Telecommuting Tuesday series!

Are you looking for the flexibility to work from home and live in Montana? Or are you looking to change careers or to pivot in your current career? Have you considered telecommuting?

According to a study released in 2017 by the Montana Telecommunications Association, Montana ranks No. 1 in the country in telecommuting. Telecommuting offers former Montanans the ability to make Montana home again and is a career opportunity for residents in the Treasure State’s small towns.

Read what Brad Comer, the chief technology officer for Texbase, said about telecommuting from Cameron:

My name is Brad Comer I am currently the Chief Technology Officer for Texbase, a SaaS company based in Bozeman.

I am a  four day a week telecommuter that resides in Cameron, Mont., about 70 miles southwest of Bozeman. I go into the office one day a week. I am able to successfully manage my development team, interact with the CEO, and achieve the goals set forth by the company all while residing “in the middle of nowhere”. Cameron is classified as everything south of Ennis between the Madison and Gravelly ranges; all the way to Hegben lake due south, and the Idaho border west of that.

I moved to Cameron in 2004 while telecommuting as a senior developer for a company in Rochester, New York. My wife and I came to West Yellowstone in 2002 for our honeymoon and immediately fell in love with what Montana had to offer — wide open spaces, outdoor recreation, and a different way of life than the big cities we had resided in before. We knew before our honeymoon was over that we wanted to be in southwest Montana somewhere, and thus began our journey of finding a Montana home.

We initially looked around Ennis, West Yellowstone, Bozeman, Whitehall, and finally found the perfect home for us on 21 acres in Cameron. We made an offer that was accepted, and we moved to Cameron on June 14th, 2004.

To submit your own 300-word telecommuting story, email Alexandria@MontanaChamber.com.