Ben Werner is no stranger to adventure. As the author of “Backcountry Skiing Bozeman and Big Sky” he’s spent hundreds of hours exploring the high peaks and easy powder meadows of southwest Montana. His latest adventure is building the tech startup IgniteFeedback - and making his dreams his reality - in Bozeman, Montana.
Ben was born with mountains close to heart, spending the first couple years of his life living and playing in the shadow of the Tetons in Jackson, Wyoming. When he was two, his parents opted to move to Minnesota in order to advance their careers. So, he spent the next two decades or so figuring out his way back to where mountains soar into a wide open sky.
Ben completed his formal education in Minnesota; first with an undergraduate degree focusing on computer science from the University of Saint Thomas in 2005, followed by a graduate degree that focused specifically on how humans interact with technology from the University of Minnesota. As graduation approached, he began looking at “usability” jobs (exploring how easy/difficult it is for humans to engage with software) around the country:
“There were only a handful of usability jobs in the entire country, and one of them happened to be in Bozeman. All of the jobs were great opportunities, but the mountains around Bozeman and the community culture there won hands down.”
In 2007, Ben and his wife made their move to Bozeman, and he began working on improving the usability of software at RightNow Technologies. He stayed with the company until a few months after RightNow was acquired by Oracle in early 2012.
At that point, Ben decided to explore a job opportunity with Microsoft he was offered in Seattle; and he and his wife moved to the city with their two young daughters. Although Ben enjoyed his new job, he knew his family’s stay in the Emerald City wouldn’t last forever:
“Skiing and getting out into the backcountry is my outlet; it’s how I deal with the pressure of this industry. In Bozeman, I can ski in the morning and be back at my office in time for a full day of work… It’s just not even possible to get those days in living in a big city.”
By late 2014, Ben was back in Bozeman with his family and ready to start his own venture. By February 2015, he had incorporated IgniteFeedback as a C Corp in Montana.
The idea behind IgniteFeedback was to reinvent website surveys in order to provide a more efficient, user-friendly way for businesses and organizations to get (incredibly valuable) user data”
“People aren’t going to answer a thirty question survey these days, especially not on their mobile device. Businesses have to take advantage of the very short window of consumer attention they have to gain insights.”
A few months after incorporating, Ben joined up with his partner Eddie McDaniel who he met while they both worked together at RightNow in Bozeman. Eddie now leads all of IgniteFeedback’s engineering efforts and is putting to use the lessons he learned while leading a team of developers focused on distributed, high-scale cloud computing at RightNow and Oracle for the startup, which will be critical as IgniteFeedback scales up to serve customer all over the world.
The platform has proven to be a powerful tool for its early adopters - and the promise of IgniteFeedback’s market success has been a powerful attractant for investors. As of September 2015, the startup has raised $300K from the angel investment group Frontier Fund 2 and additional accredited individual investors.
The support of Montana’s startup and business support ecosystem is one of the primary reasons Ben knows Ignite will continue to grow from the heart of Big Sky Country:
“The help and support we’ve received in Montana has been huge. I don’t know that we would be where we are without it…we love it here.”
As a way of giving back, IgniteFeedback is currently offering 50% off to Montana businesses that sign up for the platform before October 31st.
And, heads up if you’re a talented developer, marketer, or salesperson - IgniteFeedback is looking for talented people to help fuel their growth.