First-Ever Montana Entrepreneur University SOLD OUT and a Great Success!

Entrepreneurs from Kalispell, Sunburst, Billings, Bozeman, Missoula, Ennis, Superior, Helena, Whitefish, and the Crow Agency were among the 75 who attended Montana Entrepreneur University

On Thursday, November 10, 75 entrepreneurs from across Montana attended the first-ever Montana Entrepreneur University.

Attendees watched content, via video-conferencing, from Seattle where a similar Entrepreneur University, sponsored by the Northwest Entrepreneur Network, was taking place. Presentations included:

– As Customers Change, So Does the Model, Dan Brettler, CarToys

– Decision-Making with Your End Goal in Sight, Scott Svenson, The Sienna Group/Co-Founder Seattle Coffee Company

– Starting from Scratch – Running with your Idea, Glenn Kelman, Plumtree Software

– Building an Internal Team, Helen Rockey, Front Porch Classics

– Common Things, Uncommon Ways, Sunny Kobe Cook, Sleep Country USA

– Bootstrapping, Ben Straughan, Perkins Coie and Alex Algard, and

Attendees also had the opportunity to attend two live sessions. The first was given by Cindy Taylor, President of IPG Consulting. Attendees learned how to Improve Their Sales Productivity by Reading Their Customers’ Minds. The second was given by Andrew Field, Chris Bateson, and Boyd Badten from Livingston-based The team from gave a mock pitch to three Seattle venture capitalists in attendance. The venture capitalists then grilled the team, just as they would have if the presentation had been a real pitch. Many of the people in attendance had never seen or seen very few venture capital pitches. Following the pitch, moderator John O’Donnell, TechRanch Executive Director, asked both the team from and the venture capitalists to explain to the audience why particular topics were addressed or why certain questions were asked.

“The presentations at Montana Entrepreneur University 2005 were compelling and very motivating,” said Tom Abshire, President of Sousay, Inc. (Bozeman). “The speakers had diverse entrepreneurial backgrounds and covered numerous topics of interest for Montana entrepreneurs. Launching a new business in a rural state like Montana can be challenging; however, events like Montana Entrepreneur University have helped me make contacts with other entrepreneurs and identify the resources I need without feeling compelled to relocate to a metropolitan area.”

During lunchtime, 20 of the attendees met with one of three venture capitalists during the VC Bistro. Attendees signed up for a five-minute time slot during registration and took the opportunity to talk with the Seattle venture capitalists about the venture capital process, the entrepreneur’s idea, or to seek out beneficial contacts. According to O’Donnell, “This was extremely advantageous for participants because it provided a platform that enabled them to get in front of a venture capitalist. For Montana entrepreneurs, this is not an easy task. Many of the people who participated in the VC Bistro may have never had the opportunity to meet with a venture capitalist otherwise.”

According to Diane Smith, Auroras Entertainment CEO and Co-Founder (Kalispell), “Being an entrepreneur in Montana presents its own series of challenges. One of those challenges is finding start-up capital. The VC Bistro at Montana Entrepreneur University 2005 provided a natural platform for entrepreneurs to be introduced to accomplished and experienced venture capitalists. Introductions are often the gate-keepers in the process. The VC Bistro pushed me right through that gate and into meeting rooms with these investors. I have already sent follow-up emails as a result of those introductions. Montana Entrepreneur University not only showcased successful entrepreneurs and their insights, but it provided opportunities for introductions that may have otherwise been difficult to arrange.”

In addition to watching both live presentations and content via video conferencing, attendees also had numerous opportunities throughout the day to network with fellow Montana entrepreneurs. A multitude of introductions were made, and formal business relationships were started.

Additionally, 12 students attended Montana Entrepreneur University thanks to scholarships from the Qwest Foundation.

According to Scott Peterson, Montana State University student and Qwest Foundation Scholarship recipient, “An education involves so much more than reading content from a book. Hearing people talk about their real-life experiences is extremely valuable. Participating in group discussions such as the ones that took place at Montana Entrepreneur University puts classroom learning into context. Montana Entrepreneur University introduced me to entrepreneurs who have ‘been there, done that.’ Attending college at Montana State University has afforded me many hands-on learning opportunities that have allowed me to take my education beyond the classroom. Montana Entrepreneur University was another excellent hands-on learning experience.”

Montana Entrepreneur University 2005 was made possible by a grant from the Qwest Foundation. The grant, awarded in 2004, was given to support the development of entrepreneurs in the State of Montana. Montana Entrepreneur University was also funded in part by a grant from the Small Business Administration.

Montana Entrepreneur University partners included the Burns Technology Center, TechRanch, Montana State University, and the Northwest Entrepreneur Network.

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About TechRanch

TechRanch, a Montana technology venture center, is designed to merge proprietary technologies and entrepreneurship to produce sustainable, profitable ventures. Based in Bozeman, Mont., TechRanch connects new business ventures and entrepreneurs with a comprehensive network of business advisors, public and private investment channels, and Montana State University’s entrepreneurial development programs. Online at

About Burns Technology Center

The Burns Technology Center is a leader in creating and delivering premier opportunities for learning to Montana State University and a global spectrum of communities. Through the use of untraditional means, such as continuing education courses, online learning tools, technology, and telecommunications, the Burns Technology Center develops unique educational programs. Online at

About Northwest Entrepreneur Network

The Northwest Entrepreneur Network helps entrepreneurs make the connections and access the resources they need to succeed. Focused on helping entrepreneurs build their business network, the Northwest Entrepreneur Network provides the knowledge, mentoring, and access to investors that creates and grows successful companies. Online at

About Qwest

Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q) is a leading provider of voice, video and data services. The company’s more than 40,000 employees are committed to the "Spirit of Service" and providing world-class services that exceed customers’ expectations for quality, value, and reliability. Online at


Media Contact: Stephanie Kaleva, 406.556.0272, [email protected]

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