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Jeff Honcoop

Jeff Honcoop shows a recent project at Big Sky as he gives visitors a tour of FERHO and Honcoop Technology Services offices on Laurel Road in Billings.

Three Billings-based companies were among 11 topping the Montana High Tech Business Alliance's list of “Startups to Watch” in 2019.

The annual list, typically dominated by Missoula- and Bozeman-based companies, highlights startups from the past five years that meet a variety of standards including their growth potential, whether they were on track to land major clients or expand with a significant number of jobs.

Among the list was Billings-based startup Ferho. The year-old company works with owners or architects to streamline technology designs for new facilities or buildings. It closes the gap between an ever-changing technology world and a construction industry that is struggling to keep up.

Founder Jeff Honcoop, who also founded and owns Honcoop Technology Services in 2008, wanted to prioritize transparency and make sure the job was done right the first time.

“You just can’t repair or make up for poor design after the fact,” Honcoop said.

Ferho works with hundreds of consultants, and is vendor-neutral giving clients a wider variety of options to fit their needs, he said.

For Honcoop, one of the challenges of starting a new high-tech business in Billings is the small pool of qualified workers. But, Honcoop has found a niche in Montana and in Wyoming.

Much like Honcoop, inspiration struck for local startup Cardsetter while its founders, Joshua Toenyes and Jessica Baldwin were trying to find solutions for another venture, Billings365.com.

That website, launched in 2009, started to feel the pressure of switching to a mobile platform from a desktop platform. Baldwin realized there weren’t many good, affordable options for a small publisher that would let her customize her website easily, without the fuss of other website-building platforms like Wordpress.com, Wix.com or Squarespace. 

So, she created her own, with help from her co-founder and partner Joshua Toenyes. Three years in and the subscription-based platform has investors and is breaking into the Montana tech community. 

"What has really resonated with people is that Cardsetter allows them to spend less time fussing with their website," said Baldwin, "which is what people hate doing, and more time on the stuff they like doing, which is creating content." 

Looking to the future, the team of two would like to expand to have thousands of users, a team of 50, and to grow a strong online community within the platform, all while based in Billings.

"We're very thankful of the support that we've had," Toeynes said. For more information, visit https://cardsetter.com

Brian Boyette was a consultant for Billings Clinic working to improve and streamline the organization's customer service and experience. The older manual process and response times when patients raised issues was slow so Boyette found a way to collect data in real-time and get it to supervisors and managers quickly. 

The platform they developed for Billings Clinic raised some eyebrows, and after several other healthcare organizations reached out to Boyette he realized he had something worth keeping and that other companies and organizations might benefit from the fast feedback. 

Raven CSI (Customer Service Intelligence) is an advanced survey-builder that is designed to provide real-time customer feedback, data and reports to companies. That swift feedback allows companies to address issues as fast as possible. Boyette said a manager could receive an alert of a dissatisfied customer within 10 to 15 seconds of the customer taking a survey, 

The software also develops data trends over time, and has many different options that a client may customize to toggle through different data-sets based on demographics, employee hierarchy or other tools. Raven would work with companies to fully customize the layout of their surveys, and teach management how to use the tools. 

"It's womb to tomb without clients having to learn all that software," Boyette said. "We’ll put it together and help you understand it."

Boyette created the company and named it Raven as a nod to the one of the smartest animals in the world, and to outshine his top competitor, SurveyMonkey. While the survey is still in beta-testing, Boyette hopes to launch RavenCSI into the market by January 2020. His first year goal is to have $1.5 million in revenue.  

Currently splitting his time between Billings and Arizona, Boyette said he's excited to see how his business can grow in the small community.

"I have an affinity and love for Billings, and Montana in general," he said. 

Other startups to watch per the Montana Business Alliance include:

  • Blacksford of Bozeman is a company that rents tech-enabled recreational vehicles, and partners with Winnebago.
  • Charmed of Missoula is an app that allows dating app users to ask advice from their friends.
  • DRIMS (Disaster Recovery Integrated Management System), Missoula, shares resources between organizations in disaster-response situations.
  • DugalHealth of Bozeman is an app that tracks and collects insulin data for diabetics.
  • The Insight Studio in Bozeman and Missoula works with businesses with creative growth opportunities using HubSpot.
  • My Shipping Post, in Bozeman, a software to streamline shipping and reduce costs for shippers.
  • Neuro-ID, a real-time behavioral analytics and prediction software company, of Whitefish.
  • Prime Labs, of Missoula, a company that customizes software for mass spectrometry data analysis.

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