Business 

Kickstarting startups

Tyler Weber can track the beginnings of his business to a high-intensity, three-day gathering of marketing gurus, tech wizards and entrepreneurial go-getters last January. It was Missoula's first ever Startup Weekend, a national phenomenon in which investors host local gatherings in hopes of incubating new businesses, and Weber's team took home top honors.

Now, more than a year later, Weber's idea has come to fruition as he prepares to launch Signup Cheetah, an online platform headquartered in Kalispell that helps nonprofits and other organizations manage events.

"The weekend itself was incredible," Weber says. "We not only got a viable business out of it, but the methodology of sitting down and going through that analysis and coming together with a bunch of people you don't know and creating a business within 72 hours was pretty remarkable."

For those who feel like they missed out, fear not. Beginning March 7, Missoula will host its second Startup Weekend with a whole new cadre of coaches and would-be entrepreneurs congregating to do it all over again. This year's featured speakers include Ben Sokoloski, owner of Market on Front, and Jesse Spaulding, CEO of Spaulding International Cinema.

"Honestly, I think this is the year of the startup for Missoula ...," says Nathan Stephens, lead organizer of this year's event. "The cities and towns that are building these [entrepreneurial] ecosystems are the ones able to transform their communities and create new jobs. "

Startup Weekend certainly seems to leave a lasting impression on its converts. Weber still gets giddy when he talks about the hour he spent under the tutelage of tech mogul Greg Gianforte, who was a coach and keynote speaker at last year's gathering.

"That is not exactly something you get to do every day," says Weber, who developed his pricing model with Gianforte's help. "He is a very talented guy who sold his company for nearly $2 billion a couple years ago and I got to sit down with him."

More information about the event can be found at missoula.startupweekend.org.

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