Originally posted April 6, 2018 at www.blackfoot.com/news.
New initiative to support and connect Montana-based tech companies announced. Blackfoot, the owner and operator of the region’s largest multi-gigabit network, announced the launch of its new open innovation lab today, called C2M beta. The first of its kind in the region, C2M beta will provide startup companies with access to Blackfoot’s technology infrastructure, expertise and its nearly 20,000 customers across 16 states, with the aim of jointly accelerating the delivery of products and services to the market.
“As part of Blackfoot’s Smart Growth strategy,” said Jason Williams, CEO at Blackfoot, “we are continuing our decades-long commitment to deliver cutting-edge products and services to our customers. With the launch of C2M beta, we are now proactively partnering with startups to drive innovation, attract strategic partnerships and further support Montana’s thriving tech economy.”
Joe Fanguy is the founder of C2M beta and VP of Strategic Development at Blackfoot. “C2M beta will bring together entrepreneurs, investors, mentors and industry experts to quickly prototype solutions, and test them with real customers,” said Fanguy. “To sweeten the opportunity, Blackfoot will support participants with its advanced broadband, wireless, cloud and data solutions as part of the open innovation experience.”
Companies selected to participate in the program will work with Blackfoot over a six-month period, during which C2M beta will assemble a customized, multi-disciplinary team (including a coach) to support the startup, plus provide a combination of business, technical and project support, with a focus on lean startup and agile methodologies.
“We aspire pre-seed and seed stage startups to think broadly about this opportunity,” added Fanguy. “C2M beta will initially focus on innovative solutions in healthcare, banking, telecommunications and media that leverage cloud, wireless, big data and analytics, IoT and AI technologies.”
C2M beta is already in full recruitment mode for its 2018 cohort of startups.
Audience Awards, a Missoula-based tech company leveraging the cloud to provide “crowd sourced” marketing solutions to global brands, has accepted a slot in the inaugural C2M beta cohort. “As a growing tech startup,” said Paige Williams, CEO and founder of Audience Awards, “the opportunity to jointly develop business with Blackfoot, receive feedback from their customers, and leverage their technology infrastructure and expertise will be a huge boost to our company.”
Front Street Capital, manager of the Tarkio Fund (ranked as the #1 performing midcap mutual fund in the U.S. over the last five years by Money Magazine), will also actively participate in the 2018 group by cohosting quarterly Open Innovation Sessions with C2M beta and Blackfoot in Missoula. These invite-only conversations will focus on testing the culture and chemistry of the team, and gauging the fit of the business opportunity with C2M beta resources and Blackfoot’s network. “The philosophy of C2M beta aligns well with our focus on company management, specifically the principles of integrity, teamwork, passion, purpose and employee empowerment,” said Russ Piazza, founder of Front Street Capital.
“We are thrilled to be working with Blackfoot to get this exciting initiative off the ground,” added Jeremy Brown, development manager for Front Street Capital. “It will provide benefit to Front Street’s growing portfolio of early stage investments, and the Montana tech ecosystem as a whole.”
“C2M beta is not just a Missoula opportunity,” said Fanguy, “but a partnership platform with reach across Blackfoot’s rapidly expanding service areas, both inside and outside of Montana.”