Community Support Helps SoBA Students Turn Over a ‘New Leaf’
With the right connections in place and the power of a good idea, a new business can move fast. Just ask Matt Gangloff and Andrew Burrington, who have seen an influx of funding and interest since the duo won the School of Business Administration’s Fall 2013 Business Plan Competition and founded New Leaf Environmental Monitoring.
Gangloff, an Army veteran, had an idea for a wireless gas sensor that would provide a low-cost way to monitor how natural gas from fracking operations impacts human health.
After taking a class with Associate Professor Cameron Lawrence, who pushed students to create disruptive technologies, Gangloff approached Lawrence about doing an independent study to flesh out his idea.
“Matt was an outstanding student, and through a meeting with James Grunke at the Missoula Economic Partnership I immediately knew there was potential to get him some help to make this happen,” Lawrence says.
Grunke quickly connected Gangloff with Alex Philp of GCS, a geoanalytics company focused on optimizing location information, and David Bell of ALPS, a provider of legal malpractice insurance. Those two Missoula businessmen provided funding to help Gangloff create early prototypes and continue pressing the idea toward production. Gangloff brought Burrington on board to handle marketing and customer relations.
The timing dovetailed perfectly with the Blackstone LaunchPad, a new entrepreneurial resource on campus funded by a $2 million grant last July. The program’s intent is to help launch as many as 150 new ventures in Montana over the next five years.
“Blackstone LaunchPad helped increase our progress dramatically,” Gangloff says. “It’s funny, actually — the day I met Cameron, Alex and David to fund my research was the day they announced their plans to invest in MSU and UM entrepreneurs. Nine months later, I’m reaping the benefits of what once seemed too good to be true.”
In May, New Leaf took home yet another startup award. Gangloff, along with Burrington and MBA student Kyle Marshall, entered their business plan in UM’s Ruffatto Business Plan Competition. They won first place and $10,000 in startup funding. Since then, it’s been full steam ahead. Gangloff has added four employees to his team (other UM alums, naturally), and in July they began building the software that customers will use to access monitoring data. They are planning a pilot project to conduct testing and analysis of a natural gas lease in Colorado later this summer.
As a Missoula-based business owner, Gangloff is committed to strengthening the infrastructure that helped him.
“We have a strong relationship with LaunchPad and sometimes mentor other aspiring entrepreneurs at UM.”
Lawrence points to innovation like New Leaf Environmental Monitoring as the model of development for students looking to grow a business out of a great idea.
“We need to encourage more students like Matt and Andrew who are creating things and couple them with experts and a little bit of money,” Lawrence says. “Business schools can be incubators for this sort of project — students who can dream and build things not in isolated labs, but grown from connections within the community.”
Pictured above: UM business students Matt Gangloff and Andrew Burrington work with Associate Professor Cameron Lawrence (sitting).