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Bozeman (pop. 43,405) has long been a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts; count Hull, an avid cyclist, among those ranks. But the small city has also earned another reputation as a boomtown for entrepreneurs, many in high technology.
Thanks in part to its natural amenities, the presence of a university, and an embrace of the digital economy, Bozeman is turning into a startup hub in the middle of nowhere.
Like many places in the state, the local economies were driven for years by tourism and agriculture. But unlike many, this city in the southwestern corner of Montana started to diversify its economy in the 1980s when photonics companies started to build lasers, and manufacturing and outdoor-gear firms also settled in. A conservationist might bump into a think-tank economist at one of the local breweries. Montana State University (MSU) provides both thousands of jobs and an annual batch of new employees.
The real major transformation in the town’s economy began in 1997, when Greg Gianforte founded RightNow Technologies, a customer relationship management firm. Gianforte had previously started a company in New Jersey, and after selling that one to McAfee, he set his sights toward Bozeman to raise a family. “We had this idea that the internet removed geography as a constraint,” Gianforte says. “When we started, that was a theory; it wasn’t a fact.”