By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

When a group of Missoula entrepreneurs stepped before a class of University of Montana students last month to discuss the challenges of starting a business, Paul Gladen sat quietly by, nursing the discussion to full circle.

And when a group of business-minded leaders sat before an audience gathered by the state's Small Business Development Council to talk about Missoula's entrepreneurial spirit, Gladen was on the panel.

He was there when Montana CRE unveiled the city's inaugural commercial real estate report, and when a roomful of entrepreneurs gathered one evening to seek funding advice from a panel of experts, Gladen offered his input.

“His dedication to educating the next generation of entrepreneurs pervades everything he does,” said Gov. Steve Bullock. “His passion and drive have had considerable impact on hundreds of new and aspiring business owners in Montana.”

For those reasons and more, Bullock this week named Gladen one of the state's Ambassador Educators of the Year – recognition that goes to honor those who have made an outstanding contribution to economic development in the state.

The Montana Ambassadors represent a volunteer, nonprofit organization of leaders in business, education and government who share a common dedication to Montana, and who work diligently to further the state's interests.

“It's been a lot of fun to help contribute in this amazing community to help our entrepreneur system grow,” Gladen said recently when asked about his efforts.

Gladen currently serves as the director of Blackstone LaunchPad at the University of Montana, and co-founded the Montana Code School. He also serves as an adjunct faculty member at UM’s School of Business Administration.

While he's no stranger to being an entrepreneur – he also co-founded the Hellgate Venture Network and Muzeview – he can often be found at UM, helping today's students become tomorrow's entrepreneurs.

Founded in 2014, LaunchPad at UM has registered more than 800 entrepreneurs, and several have gone on to implement a successful new startup, including The Dram Shop, Enlyten Labs, Geofli and Danceador.

As one might expect, Gladen - who's easily recognized by his English accent – has had a hand in helping many of them find their feet.

“Over the past three years, we’ve seen students from all disciplines empowered by entrepreneurial thinking and excited by the realization that they don’t need to leave the state to find meaningful work,” Gladen said. “Instead, they have the opportunity to create their own career path right here in Montana.”

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at