New Blackstone LaunchPad Partnership to Benefit Montana Entrepreneurs

March 07, 2018

MISSOULA – Student entrepreneurs working with the Blackstone LaunchPad at the University Montana will benefit from a new partnership between the Blackstone Charitable Foundation and Techstars, a global startup accelerator and entrepreneurial network. The new effort was announced March 7 at SXSW EDU in Austin, Texas.

As one of just 20 Blackstone LaunchPads across the globe, the Blackstone LaunchPad at the University of Montana boasts over 1,000 student and community entrepreneurs and their mentors in its membership. The organization helps students, faculty, staff and alumni explore entrepreneurship as a viable career path.

UM President Seth Bodnar said UM’s ability to leverage Techstars’ proven frameworks will create a competitive advantage for Montana’s entrepreneurs on a global level.

“Today’s announcement will provide current and future students of the University of Montana with access to world-class expertise and resources to help them pursue excellence and innovation,” Bodnar said. “I am excited about the potential for this partnership between the Blackstone LaunchPad and Techstars to help our students translate their ideas and passions into ventures that help solve complex, interdisciplinary, global challenges.”

Blackstone-aided entrepreneurs at UM will now use the Techstars network of over 10,000 mentors, global entrepreneurial events, and world-renowned content and startup services, including tools for fundraising, job placement and recruitment.

Paul Gladen, director of Blackstone LaunchPad at UM, said these opportunities for entrepreneurs are rare in general, let alone in collegiate environments, so this is a tremendous opportunity to set UM apart from other universities across the country and the world.

“We’re thrilled by this new partnership, which will significantly expand the expertise and resources available to UM’s student entrepreneurs,” Gladen said. “The Techstars relationship both supplements and complements our existing entrepreneurial program, networks and resources. This truly affirms UM as a place where innovation and entrepreneurship happen.”

As Missoula’s startup ecosystem continues to grow, he said, partnerships like these are crucial in further supporting entrepreneurs. According to a Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation report that was released in 2017, Missoula ranks ninth-highest and Bozeman 12th-highest in startup rates among 394 areas in the U.S.

“Techstars’ impact will be tangible as Montana’s innovative leaders, at student and professional levels, continue to emerge during this exciting, upward trajectory,” Gladen said.


Additional Quotes:

U.S. Sen. John Tester: 

“The Blackstone LaunchPad is providing the best and brightest in Montana with the opportunity to start and grow their business right here in Big Sky Country,” said Tester, who helped bring the Blackstone LaunchPad to Montana in 2013. “This initiative has made a profound impact on Montana's economy, and today’s announcement will strengthen the pipeline for future business leaders from the University of Montana and Montana Tech to Main Streets across our state.” 

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines:

“After working for a Montana tech company that created 500 local jobs, I know Montana is fertile ground for tech entrepreneurs. This partnership will continue to put Montana on the map as a tech hub and create good-paying jobs here at home.”

U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte:

"Entrepreneurship is the engine that drives our nation's economy. The partnership between the Blackstone LaunchPad and Techstars will further nurture and encourage the enterprising spirit here at UM that has defined our great nation. I look forward to seeing more innovative ideas emerge from UM students and alums that will create greater opportunity, create more well-paying jobs, and increase prosperity here in Montana and throughout our country."

Ken Fichtler, chief business development officer, Montana Governor’s Office of Economic Development

“The partnership between the Blackstone LaunchPads and Techstars is a phenomenal boost to Montana’s entrepreneurs and will serve to elevate their access to best-in-class mentorship, as well as other support resources. One of the hardest parts of starting a business can be finding qualified advisers who can help you navigate challenging decisions. This announcement essentially removes that barrier, and we at the Governor’s Office of Economic Development couldn’t be more excited to have more mentors and the proven Techstars infrastructure serving Montana’s startup ecosystem.”

Jeff Fee, interim CEO of Missoula Economic Partnership

“Blackstone LaunchPad at UM is one of the more valuable resources available to Missoula's entrepreneurs, and the Missoula Economic Partnership is thrilled by the increased access and opportunities a partnership with Techstars promises to our thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Christian Henderson, Montana High Tech Business Alliance executive director

“Blackstone LaunchPad has helped launch and mentor countless startups in Montana, including GeoFli and Montana Root Applications. This new partnership with Techstars ensures the Blackstone LaunchPads at the University of Montana and Montana State University will continue to be a resource for innovative entrepreneurs for years to come.”

Les Craig, Next Frontier Capital partner

“With the close of our second fund, Next Frontier Capital is excited to continue partnering with the University of Montana’s efforts in supporting entrepreneurs. Relevant programing, like Techstars, represents a meaningful opportunity to accelerate ventures in our geography and it will continue to promote the rapid growth of Montana businesses and the economy.”

Pat LaPointe, Frontier Angels managing director

“From an angel investing perspective, TechStars has been a great source of high-quality early-stage companies for many years, and their network of mentors and resources can really accelerate matching Montana founders with experienced people who can help them reach the next level.”

Dawn McGee, Goodworks Ventures CEO

“Having invested in a company – MeetMindful – that successfully completed the Techstars program in Boulder, we have seen firsthand the value Techstars participants receive through a rigorously structured mentorship program. The University of Montana’s Blackstone LaunchPad played a significant role in the early stage success of one of our portfolio companies, COBREW, and we see the collaboration with Techstars as a tremendous benefit to founders and our startup ecosystem.”

Joe Fanguy, Blackfoot vice president for strategic development

“Blackfoot is proud to be a leader in Montana’s rapidly growing tech ecosystem, which will be greatly enhanced through the new partnership between Techstars, Blackstone LaunchPad and the budding entrepreneurs of our great state.”


Contact: Morgan Slemberger, marketing and operations manager, UM Blackstone LaunchPad, 406-243-5723,