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Missoula tech company aimed at tourism industry marks 18-month growth

Evan Tipton, founder and CEO of TOMIS, delivers his pitch during the 2017 Montana Shark Tank competition. The company, which now employs 30 people in downtown Missoula, has launched investment round to raise $3 million in capital.

When an upstart Missoula tech company edged out an edible cricket farm to win the Montana Shark Tank pitch competition last year, its founder was happy to take home the $5,000 prize.

Now Evan Tipton, founder and CEO of TOMIS, has set his sights on loftier financial goals. The company plans to launch a bridge to Series A investment round to raise $3 million in capital this year.

“That’s to beef up our product development and implement our data science and customer support team,” Tipton told the Missoula Current. “We launched what you might call your Alpha product last October. We’ve got product market fit and all the pieces are there for us to start scaling on up.”

TOMIS opened its office in downtown Missoula just 18 months ago and has logged its share of growth in that time. It claims 30 employees, and while many were hired locally, it also landed talent from the likes of Amazon, Walt Disney, Microsoft and the University of Montana.

Tipton completed his undergrad and master’s degree at UM in tourism development before moving to the Silicon Valley. There, he completed the StartX business incubator program at Stanford and was the first employee at Xola – a successful Silicon Valley startup.

Seeing an opportunity in tours and activities marketing, he returned to Missoula to launch TOMIS. While Missoula felt more like home, he said, it also has proved an ideal place to grow a tech company.

“I came from Silicon Valley before this, and I’m much more a mountains and rivers type person than a Silicon Valley person,” Tipton said. “The people who want to be here in Missoula definitely are attracted to the industry we’re in – the intersection of travel and tech – and we haven’t had a problem hiring.”

A report released by the Kauffman Foundation last year ranked Missoula ninth per capita among nearly 400 metros in the U.S. for its rate of business startups. Over the past 18 months, TOMIS has developed its product and grown its national presence, mostly by word of mouth.

In simple terms, TOMIS provides digital marketing assistance for tour operations. The product integrates and analyzes marketing and sales data “under one roof” for what Tipton described as the first time.

The resulting data is placed against an algorithm that tells clients in the tourism industry when to act, how to act and how much they’ll make if they follow suit.

“It’s one of those industries that’s been historically ignored, but we’re well on our way to a $186 billion global industry and it’s coming of age right now,” he said. “To be the leading marketing platform in the tourism and activities space will mean a lot more a year from now.”

To establish its product as an industry leader, TOMIS is launching an investment round to raise $3 million. A year from now, Tipton said, the company looks to have a new Missoula office, grow to 50 employees and serve as the leading marketing platform in the tours and activities space.

“There’s a lot of folks looking for deals right now and it’s a good time to be raising (capital), and we’ve got a great product,” he said. “We’re excited to put some dedicated efforts in for the first time on scaling up. We’re ready and positioned to do some aggressive scaling.”