Startup Weekend Proves Missoula’s Entrepreneurial Chops


Startup Weekend Missoula was pitched as “No talk, all action. Launch a startup in 54 hours.”

They’ve done a pretty amazing job delivering on that pitch.

It started out as 35 new pitches to a crowd of over 100 people on Friday evening and was whittled down to 12 teams working over the next two days to turn their pitches into a minimum viable product to present to the judges on Sunday afternoon.

Those ideas ranged from mobile apps to social media ghostwriting to worm composting and almost everything in between. In the end, it was a solution called, which is designed for filling volunteer slots, that stood out above all other ideas. It was voted by the judges as the best in show of Startup Weekened Missoula.

I took part in the event as a member of team called Monetizr. Eight of us worked for two days straight to build a system that would enable publishers and bloggers to evaluate how their site is monetized and compare it to how their competitors monetize theirs.

We had enough talent on this team to assemble a functional business model, piece together a working user interface, call potential customers for feedback, and build out the back-end system to near completion in just 54 short hours.

Those 54 hours were full of energy from all the teams working on the projects, not just ours.

Startup Weekend Missoula proved successful. Now let's get to work.

Walking around the building during the day, you could see the excitement and determination in everyone’s eyes as we all worked toward the 4:00 presentation deadline on Sunday afternoon. Some of us were run absolutely ragged by that time, but there was a sense of reward that made it all worth it, and our team didn’t even win anything.

The overall feeling I had was that we really needed an event like this in Missoula, if not Montana as a whole. Startup Weekend was an outlet and proving ground for many of us. It demonstrated that we can have a startup ecosystem right here in Missoula. It brought together like-minded folks, forced them to find pitches they believed in, organically form teams, and work together toward a common goal.

You learn very quickly that the team is what will make your startup succeed or fail, not how amazing the idea might be. An A-level team can make a C-level idea brilliant, and a C-level team can make an A-level idea fail.

I knew most of the people on my team well, but had not worked with them in this capacity before. I felt at times like I was on a startup dream team with how quickly certain aspects of the business were able to be assembled.

I’m not sure how many of the startups built that weekend will become viable businesses, but I also don’t think that’s the point of Startup Weekend. I looked at Startup Weekend as a form of continuing education, a way to sharpen my skills, and a chance to network with some of the area’s finest entrepreneurs. It was a confidence builder and an affirmation that I am doing the best thing with my available skill set.

Boulder-based startup guru Brad Feld says in his book Startup Communities* that leaders of startup ecosystems need to take a 20-year longview to building the community. His view stands in pretty stark contrast to the three-to-five year pipedream exits that most of us shoot for when building our startups. I’ve only been in Missoula for six years, but I would have to put our startup community somewhere near the three or four year mark of Feld’s 20-year view. I’ve watched the entrepreneur scene in Missoula grow from a few people with good ideas and execution to well over 100 people ready to try and make it big. I think the really important thing for all of us to keep in mind is that none of this will happen overnight.

That means we, the Missoula entrepreneurial community, have a lot more work to do, and a lot of time to do it.

(*Note: Amazon will pay MakeItMissoula a small finder fee if you use this link to purchase Startup Communities. Thanks!)


For more Rocky Mountain High Tech, check out Colin’s other posts: Missoula to Host Montana’s First-Ever Startup WeekendAdvancing Beyond the Missoula Lifestyle Business, and IdeaMensch in Missoula: Bring Your Entrepreneurial Ideas to Life.


Colin Stoner, a Missoula entrepreneur

Colin Stoner is a Missoula IT consultant and entrepreneur. He has worked in almsot every aspect of IT, and loves most of them that don’t involve Microsoft. He is a Linux nut, a Python hack, and a lover of the cloud. When not stuck behind a monitor wall, you can find him enjoying a beer at one of our many breweries, skiing anywhere but Snowbowl, or playing handball at the Peak.