Tech Startups and Business in the Gallatin Valley

Sunday Sep. 2nd, 2012

The Gallatin Valley has attracted numerous businesses to the area throughout the past decade and has generated national publicity for what is happening in the tech community. Startups are choosing the Gallatin Valley for many reasons including the lifestyle offered, Montana State University’s talent, the welcoming business environment, and the friendly people. Companies in computer software, optical technology, bio-engineering, manufacturing, and e-commerce are popping up one after one.

In 2011 Inc Magazine, along with featured Bozeman as having the potential to be similar to a Silicon Valley. Others have given our area the nickname of “Silicon Prairie.” With all the hype, I wanted to write an article about our business community from a local Bozeman entrepreneur’s standpoint.

It is true that Bozeman has a large number of tech related businesses, startups, and Inc 500 companies. RightNow Technologies is one of the larger organizations, which sold to Oracle last year for 1.5 billion dollars. Businesses like, Wisetail, Ligocyte, Dynojet, and Bridger Photonics are also proving themselves on the national level from our small town of Bozeman, Montana.

In 2011 our valley had five companies on the Inc 500/5000 list of the fastest growing privately held businesses in the country. Those awarded include Bridger Photonics #164, The Natural Baby Company #457, The Comfort Companies #1933, Birddog Distributing #3321, and Altos Photonics #3701. Companies are ranked according to the percentage growth of their revenue from the previous 3 years.

In 2012 the US Chamber of Commerce ranked Montana fourth in the nation for the advancement of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Since 2002, the state has added over 3200 jobs in the science, technology, computer systems design, IT, engineering, and mathematics sectors. The Gallatin Valley is well educated and has an abundance of talented students, graduates, and faculty to hire and look to as a resource. Montana State University (founded in 1893) has approximately 12,000 students enrolled. The schools educational opportunities combined with Bozeman’s “resort like” vibe attract a young and extremely well educated population.

Most of us come to Montana or stay because of the natural beauty and lifestyle offered here. Our work hard play hard mentality is a healthy way of life because it allows us to take time to enjoy our surroundings. Bozeman is an outdoor mecca for people who enjoy hiking, fly fishing, skiing, and just about any other type of activity that takes place under the sun. University graduates and experienced industry experts come to Bozeman seeking a better quality of life which brings even more talent to the area.

You will find the entrepreneurial community in Bozeman full of business owners who want to help fellow entrepreneurs find success. We are lucky to have world-class resources including Montana State University, The Tech Ranch, Prospera, Blue Ocean Innovation Center, the Chamber of Commerce, Innovate Montana, Score, and various other organizations. Innovate Montana, the state’s campaign to promote business, has played a key role in marketing the benefits of being an entrepreneur in Montana.

A few other tech related businesses in the Gallatin Valley are Zoot Enterprises, Headroom, ILX Lightwave, Bacterin, and Splashlab Social. In addition, we have manufacturers who have found ways to expand their businesses exponentially because of the internet. Businesses like Simms, Sitka, and West Paw are all able to run world-class businesses from our small town nestled in the Rocky Mountains.

The Gallatin Valley is certainly attractive to tech startups and entrepreneurs in all industries. While I don’t think Bozeman will ever be on the same scale as a Silicon Valley, I do think it will become a miniature version and will continue to attract more businesses, venture capitalists, and angel investors. Gallatin County is the fastest growing county in the state and one of the fastest in the US, seeing a 32% increase in growth over the past 10 years according to the recent census. This growth will lead to an increase in demand for more goods and services. Bozeman will thrive on its growth and continue to attract even more startups as more restaurants, retails stores, and bigger city amenities spring up.

Pete Sveen is a Blogger with, Owner of, and real estate investor.