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Jay Evans, president and CEO of Inimmune Corp., center, talks with University of Montana President Royce Engstrom, left, and Gov. Steve Bullock in 2016 during an announcement of the biotechnology company's move to Missoula and a tour of the lab, housed temporarily at the Montana Technology Enterprise Center.

Three Missoula companies and two others in western Montana have made the Montana High Tech Business Alliance’s list of “Startups to Watch” in 2018 due to their growth potential and other factors such as whether they are on track to land major clients or enter new markets and add a significant number of jobs.

The Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy organization that works to promote the technology sector in the state, consulted experts at several venture capital firms, the Montana Manufacturing Center and the Blackstone LaunchPads at the University of Montana and Montana State University.

“Montana has been ranked one of the top five states for startups for the last five years in a row,” said Christina Henderson, executive director of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance. “Technology has removed geographic barriers to growth, and these startups are indicative of the opportunities tech brings to a landscape like Montana.”

The eight Montana Startups to Watch in 2018 are:

  1. Cowboy Cricket Farms of Belgrade, an edible insect farm specializing in research for novel insect farming techniques and technologies.
  2. DermaXon of Missoula, a biotech startup with an emphasis on drug discovery in dermatology.
  3. in Whitefish, a backend as-a-service and content management system with geospatial capabilities.
  4. GeoFli of Missoula, a company that has developed a location-based marketing software.
  5. Inimmune of Missoula, a biotech company focused on the discovery and development of new therapeutics for allergy, autoimmunity, infectious disease, and cancer.
  6. PinnaCal, LLC of Corvallis, a company that provides calibration services and metrology to the aviation industry.
  7. Sellout of Bozeman, a firm that developed a ticketing software that entirely disincentivizes scalping.
  8. Triple Tree of Bozeman, a software development and product management company.

Inimmune recently received a $176,000 grant from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease to develop new drugs for treating and preventing upper respiratory tract infections, including influenza.

“The properties of our novel and proprietary immune stimulating compounds provide a unique opportunity to treat patients rapidly and with high effectiveness,” said Inimmune co-founder, president and CEO Jay Evans. “In addition, this therapeutic platform has potential applications in many disease areas including treatment of allergy and cancer.”

DermaXon was founded by two active research scientists at the University of Montana, Fanny Astruc-Diaz and Philippe Diaz, who are co-inventors of dozens of patents.

The company recently hired their first CEO, Michelle Huie, the founder of a fast-growing compression sock company called Vim & Vigr.

Last year, a report by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation found that Montana has a relatively high level of entrepreneurship, actually No. 1 in the country.

To select the eight finalists, the Alliance identified companies with 10 or fewer employees that fit at least two of the following criteria:

  • Steep revenue growth and/or are working in a high-growth sector
  • Poised to launch high-potential products or services
  • Own or are developing valuable intellectual property
  • On track to land major clients or enter new markets
  • Plan to expand operations or add a significant number of jobs in 2018
  • Have management teams led by experienced entrepreneurs or top experts in their fields

The Montana High Tech Business Alliance is a statewide membership organization made up of more than 320 high tech and manufacturing firms and affiliates. For more information visit

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