A strong handshake, talent and a gut feeling led Israeli tech company to Missoula

Members of the 4Cast executive team, including CEO Nissim Titan, right, plan to open with a handful of employees in June and within four years – if things go as planned – could employ 100 workers in what Titan described as state-of-the-art technology. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

When Nissim Titan and his team at 4Cast arrived in Missoula last winter to vet the city as a potential location for a U.S. office, night had fallen and the snow was heavy. The CEO of the Israeli-based technology firm was immediately flooded with doubts.

For the most part, he’s past that now.

Joined by the Missoula Economic Partnership and the Montana World Trade Center, Titan sat down Thursday to discuss how Missoula emerged as the preferred location for his company’s first U.S. office and his plans moving forward.

The firm plans to open with a handful of employees in June and within four years – if things go as planned – could employ 100 workers in what Titan described as state-of-the-art technology.

“The other states said we were crazy coming to Montana,” Titan said. “But we saw a good opportunity here to open our first office. I was surprised. There’s a good high-tech community here and people seem good and hard working. It’s also based on a gut feeling.”

The company’s path to Missoula began more than two years ago when former Israeli Consul General Andy David stated his desire to increase trade relations between his country and Montana, along with other Western states.

That was followed by a Montana World Trade Center mission to Israel and the Select U.S.A. conference shortly after. Titan said Montana’s method of promoting itself stood out, and it was enough to convince him to place the state on the long list of possibilities.

At the time, it was little more than that.

“We met with 19 states, analyzed a little information and had a road show to different states,” said Titan, naming Utah and Florida among them. “Although it was snowing, we stopped in three Montana communities – Billings, Bozeman and Missoula. It’s a gut feeling why I came to Montana.”

While the cities he toured offered different benefits, Titan settled on Missoula due to a number of factors. He credited the work of the Missoula Economic Partnership and Montana World Trade Center, and said the city’s existing tech sector was more than supportive.

Other factors, including direct flights to Utah and San Francisco helped, as did the University of Montana, where the company’s technology could be taught as part of a growing effort to craft specific courses to the real-world needs of area businesses.

“It’s the education, and we saw very nice talent,” Titan said. “We had some meetings with different business people who said they were growing nicely in this area. But it’s the people mostly. It’s the handshake. They give you an honest, strong shake and this is important to us from the culture we come from.”

Gov. Steve Bullock announced in April that 4Cast had chosen Missoula as the location of its U.S. office. Once it opens in June, it will begin testing and selling its support solutions, which can help different agencies predict specific outcomes.

The technology, initially developed for the military, has proved successful in Israel, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has expressed interest in certain applications.

Titan said simulations can be run for hospitals, fire and police departments, along with other agencies that could benefit from forecasting predictive outcome, as well as the reactions and competence of employees. It’s looking to beta test new platforms in Missoula.

“We saw good talent here and we had some good meetings here with the hospital,” Titan said. “Maybe we’ll start some concepts with them regarding our technologies. Our development center in Israel will need to come here more, and it’ll take time to train the team.”

When the announcement was made that 4Cast had selected Missoula, Titan said people he hadn’t met began reaching out to offer support and help where they could. That collaboration within the city’s growing technology sector didn’t go overlooked.

It’s also something MEP and the Montana World Trade Center promote on the road when courting other businesses.

“The level of collaboration between all these tech firms, they just want to share best practices,” said Jenni Graff, the economic development director with MEP. “They want to start sharing some of these resources and really start to grow the tech economy here.”

Titan said other states courted 4Cast as well, with the governor of Utah traveling to Israel to help sell his state. While Utah offered “soft landing” initiatives, Missoula proved to be more responsive and quicker to action, even if it lacked the financial incentives.

As Titan said, the city appears “more hungry” for tech-based businesses.

“I also believe the community here will get an added value from us,” Titan said. “We really have state-of-the-art technology. We’re in the top level for artificial intelligence with the military and other places, so all the young software developers can work in a good tech company.”