Missoula to Host Montana’s First-Ever Startup Weekend

By COLIN STONER

A very unique business opportunity is coming to Missoula this weekend, and it’s creating a lot of buzz amongst geeks, designers, and business-savvy locals.

Startup Weekend makes a stop in Missoula at the Lifelong Learning Center on January 18 – 20 to help further kickstart the growing Missoula startup community.

Startup Weekend is a global grassroots movement to help entrepreneurs learn the basic steps for founding and sustaining successful startups. All the business model tinkering, coding, design, and market validation is done over a 54 hour weekend by organically formed teams.

People pitch their ideas at the event, attendees sign up for the idea they want to work on, and the team has the weekend to bring the product to life.

“I wish Startup Weekend Missoula had happened four years ago when I was starting up my companies here,” says Bob Clay, a co-organizer of the event. “This fire is being fueled by the technology revolutions in computing and communications radically changing the cost structures and business models of the past. Now startups can launch at will a thousand computers in a public cloud with no startup costs and pay pennies per machine by the hour and do this from a laptop in coffee shop in Missoula, Montana. The game is very different from even five years ago.”

Dawn McGee, CEO of Goodworks Ventures and another event organizer, was also eager to bring Startup Weekend to Missoula. “I am really excited that the Kaufman Foundation’s Startup Weekend is coming to Missoula. What a great way to showcase our entrepreneurial talent and to meet other people who are passionate about creating lean, mean startups in Montana.”

Coaches will be available throughout the weekend to guide teams and answer many of the tough questions that arise when forming a startup. Coaches include local entrepreneurs with backgrounds in technology, finance, and design, and they help keep teams on task and guide them through the grueling 54 hour rush.

Missoula is set to host Montana's first-ever Startup Weekend“We already have over a hundred people registered to participate in Startup Weekend Missoula, including the team participants, coaches, and mentors. These events can always use more developers, and designers are always in high demand as the teams build their minimum viable product,” explainsClay.

Greg Gianforte, founder of RightNow Technologies, will kickoff the event on Friday, January 18 with his keynote address for all attendees. If listening to a Montana native who recently sold his business to Oracle for $1.8B isn’t enough to get you motivated for a startup crash course, I don’t know what is.

The event culminates on Sunday evening in front of a panel of judges, with the winning team getting some motivation to take their finished concept to the next level.

According to Clay, “the winning team will will have two amazing opportunities for consultation on their plans. First, they will meet with Ajay Chopra of Trinity Ventures, a prominent Silicon Valley VC with over 20 years experience. Then they will be given PR advice from seasoned tech reporter, Anthony Ha from TechCrunch.”

I personally have been looking forward to an event like this for a few years now. Being a developer, this is right up my alley even though I’m not actively looking to join another startup at this time. Events like Startup Weekend or various hackathons always appealed to the “business hacker” in me, working with a team to bring your idea to life in a matter of hours rather than months or years.

I would recommend this event to anyone interested in learning more about startups, business development, or looking for a personal challenge. People travelling to Missoula for the weekend to participate can find discounted rooms at Ruby’s Inn & Convention Center. Sign up is open through Friday via Eventbrite.

Come take part in Montana’s first-ever Startup Weekend and be part of Missoula’s growing entrepreneurial scene.

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For more Rocky Mountain High Tech, check out Colin’s other posts: Advancing Beyond the Missoula Lifestyle BusinessThe Dreaded “C” Word: Cloud, and IdeaMensch in Missoula: Bring Your Entrepreneurial Ideas to Life.

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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.