Montana-based regional carrier Blackfoot has launched a new innovation lab, C2M beta, to provide startup companies with access to Blackfoot’s technology infrastructure, expertise and its nearly 20,000 customers across 16 states.

C2M beta is already in full recruitment mode for its 2018 cohort of startups, including one that has already accepted — Audience Awards, a Missoula-based tech company leveraging the cloud to provide “crowd sourced” marketing solutions to global brands. Audience Awards officials said they were looking forward to “the opportunity to jointly develop business with Blackfoot, receive feedback from their customers, and leverage their technology infrastructure and expertise,” which they said “will be a huge boost to our company.”

C2M beta
Front Street Capital, manager of the Tarkio Fund (ranked as the #1 performing midcap mutual fund in the U.S. over the last five years by Money Magazine), will cohost quarterly Open Innovation Sessions with C2M beta and Blackfoot in Missoula. These invitation-only conversations will focus on testing the culture and chemistry of the team, while gauging the fit of the business opportunity with C2M beta resources and Blackfoot’s network.

Companies selected to participate in the program will work with Blackfoot over a six-month period, during which C2M beta will assemble a customized, multi-disciplinary team (including a coach) to support the startup, plus provide a combination of business, technical and project support, with a focus on lean startup and agile methodologies.

“As part of Blackfoot’s Smart Growth strategy,” said Jason Williams, CEO at Blackfoot, in a prepared statement, “we are continuing our decades-long commitment to deliver cutting-edge products and services to our customers. With the launch of C2M beta, we are now proactively partnering with startups to drive innovation, attract strategic partnerships and further support Montana’s thriving tech economy.”

Blackfoot is a regional carrier with local telephone company roots, who has expanded their focus to broadband, business and enterprise, and wholesale services across a multi-state footprint. Along the way, the gigabit services provider has made several acquisitions and recently rebranded the company.