UM entrepreneurs pitch Missoula-based startups at New York tech camp

George Gaines, founder of Chilton Skis in Missoula.

A Missoula ski manufacturer and the founder of a personalized web company attended the Techstars Training Camp in New York City this month, joining other college entrepreneurs selected to the program.

The coming-together of the nation’s top collegiate startup talent included George Gaines, founder of Chilton Skis, and Kyle Pucko, the co-founder of GeoFli.

Both have ties to the University of Montana and were selected for the Techstars event by the Blackstone LaunchPad Charitable Foundation – an entrepreneurial mentoring program with a chapter at UM.

“This was a tremendous opportunity to showcase two of Montana’s startups – one that puts an innovative, sustainable twist on our love of the outdoors and the other highlighting our emerging status as a high-tech hub,” said Paul Gladen, director of the LaunchPad program at UM.

Gaines, a doctoral student studying forest and conservation sciences at UM, founded Chilton skis in 2016. The Missoula-based ski manufacturer crafts all-mountain skis made from salvaged woods and modern composite materials.

Last year, Gaines took third place in the John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge, which serves as Montana’s only statewide startup competition for higher education students. In New York, he was among seven student finalists who pitched their startup for an award of $15,000.

“It was an awesome opportunity for exposure, networking, learning, and kicking it in Manhattan for a few days,” Gaines said.

Pucko, a UM alumnus, co-founded GeoFli with Nick Shontz, who serves as the web services manager at UM. The business is best described as a cloud-based service that allows clients to personalize their website content based on visitor location and user experiences.

Pucko took third place in the John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge in 2015.

Montana’s high-tech economy generated more than $1 billion in revenue in 2016 and grew seven times faster than the statewide economy, according to a study by the University of Montana.