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Michael Fitzgerald

It was during a road trip through northwest Montana in 1993 after Michael FitzGerald’s junior year in college that he came to a clear realization:

“I knew right then that whatever I was going to in terms of my career, I was going to do it in Montana. Everywhere I looked was amazing.”

Fifteen years later, in the fall of 2008, Michael was living in Missoula when he met two friends, Bruce Tribbdnsee and John Brownell, for lunch to brainstorm on ideas for starting their own business.  The focus of their conversation was simple enough:  what was a common problem they had all experienced in the past week, and how could they create a solution?  

All three were artists (Michael is a writer, his partners are a filmmaker and a musician) who relied on reaching a target audience to make a living.  They quickly came to consensus on the inconvenience and frustration of submitting their writing to a publisher or industry promoter, and having to concede they had no idea what the outcome would be.

“I would work on a story for six months, make ten copies, and send them off to these niche market publishers I had identified.  After that, it was pretty much gone; I had no idea what had happened to it.”

I knew right then that whatever I was going to in terms of my career, I was going to do it in Montana. Everywhere I looked was amazing.

Drawing on Michael’s past experience working on website development, the decision was made to create a social networking site around writing.  After eight months of development Michael and his partners reached a critical realization: while the site may attract writers, it would almost certainly not attract publishers who already had too much solicited work to read and curate.    The initial idea was scrapped and programming code was simplified to facilitate online submission to ‘best fit’ publishers.  In March of 2010 the trio launched Submittable, cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) that integrates seamlessly with websites to provide an organized system for submissions.  Publishers pay a monthly fee for the service and can opt to charge a small fee for each submission, generating additional revenue for the Submittable team and publishers.

Less than two years later, the site has evolved to receive, store, and share any type of digital file from resumes to contest entries.  More than 7,500 publishers and over a million individuals in 26 countries are making connections through Submittable, and the rest of the world is beginning to notice its incredible potential;  Michael and the rest of the Submittable team have received accolades for their innovations in high profile national publications, including the New York Times, New Yorker, and Atlantic Monthly. They were also accepted into the prestigious Y-Combinator start-up accelerator program and have gotten financial backing from some of the biggest VC names in Silicon Valley. 

While Michael knew he would be competing with similar start-ups in large metropolitan areas, he couldn’t feel better about his decision to start a business in Montana:

“In Missoula we have low overhead costs allowing for higher profits; what got us through six months of lean times in the beginning would have gotten us through one month in New York.  And, I love the people here.  For a city this size, there’s an incredibly high collective IQ.”

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Categories: Entrepreneur Profiles, Information TechnologyNumber of views: 3670