BOZEMAN- It’s a bird, it’s a plane it’s a drone.
With the tech industry taking off in Montana a new program is now open to all businesses and it is aiming to help get big ideas off the ground.
Early Stage Montana is a nonprofit program for Montana based tech companies to get mentorship and connections to financing.
Right now the state of Montana as a whole is evolving making way for new industries like technology and stem.
Shane Beams the owner of Vision Aerial a drone manufacturing company based out of Bozeman was last year's winner of the Early Stage Montana program.
“One day my wife bought me a toy helicopter and I flew the heck out of it and it was a ton of fun,” Beams said.
Leading to the birth of his company. But it wasn’t an overnight success, it took about six years to get to the point he’s at now.
“About 2 1/2 years ago we were still in a garage,” Beams said “So not only do we have a better facility and staff -great staff…we’re staged well to measure the things we need to measure and to market in a superior way that we didn’t know how to do prior.”
Beams took part in the Early Stage Montana regional showcase, he gave a short 10-minute speech about his company to business leaders and investors, which won him a place at the week-long HyperAccelerator where he got world-class training and mentoring, where ultimately his company, Vision Aerial took first place overall.
The prize at the end is a $50,000 investment in the company from Frontier Angels.
Even though Beams came in first place it doesn't mean the other businesses walked away empty-handed. All the businesses that took part received training, contacts, exposure, along with connections to investors.
“We had the first seven companies go through the program fully in 2018,” Pat LaPointe the Managing Director for Frontier Angels said, “of that class, those seven companies sense they finished the program at the end of 2018….they’ve created 30 full-time high paying jobs here in the State of Montana.”
The goal of Early Stage Montana is to mentor and train emerging tech companies so that they grow and succeed quickly and create high-paying Montana jobs that help drive and diversify Montana's economy.
LaPointe explains that through the program businesses that take part are connected to a higher level of education about marketing and financial capital that they may not have had prior.
Helping them make fewer mistakes and move forward as powerhouse Montana based companies to be competitive in a modern economy.
“So what Early Stage Montana is trying to do is to be able to build Montana’s diversified economy of the future,” LaPointe said “[to] make sure that Montana can participate in the new economy to a competitive extent.”
But for Beams the owner of Vision Aerial who was born and raised in Montana it gives some great pride to know he’s contributing back to treasure state.
“100% of our unique parts are made right here in Montana,” Beams said, “so being able to contribute back to the economy and being able to have really top-shelf personnel coming out of Montana state university has really been a big advantage for us.”
If you’re part of a tech startup or think your business would benefit from the mentorship, they’re currently looking for businesses from all over the state of Montana. This opportunity is only open to Montana based company.
The first step is taking part in a regional event that will take place in March and April in Billings, Missoula, and Bozeman. The judges will select companies to advance to the next round called the “HyperAccelerator,” which is a free week of master-level week training.
At the “HyperAccelerator,” companies receive 1-on-1 training and mentoring from over 50 of Montana’s most successful entrepreneurs and tech industry leaders.
The last step is moving on to the statewide competition, the Statewide Showcase. The winner of the Statewide Showcase not only receives training and exposure but they receive a $50,000 investment opportunity from Frontier Angels.
They’re looking to take 15 businesses from multiple showcases happening across Montana to foster through the program.
The call for applicants just opened up and you can find out more here.