Diane Smith, Co-founder
When Diane Smith visited northwestern Montana for a business meeting in 2002, she quickly became certain that this was where her family should be after living in Washington, D.C., for several years.
They had been searching for a more rural location for a while, and the Flathead region had everything they were looking for including a good communications structure, airport and school system.
But just as importantly, Smith was struck by the energy of the place.
“Montanans are enormously creative, hard working and game for trying something new,” she said.
That attitude speaks to Smith’s experience. A lawyer by training, she helped nurture the evolution of the telecom industry, working with Sprint and then Alltel as well as starting an industry alliance to advocate for independent companies prior to the 1996 Telecommunications Act.
Smith’s first business in Montana was co-founding an IPTV startup that would grow into Avail Media, now the largest provider of video on demand and digital content in North America.
Currently she is co-founder and a principal of Northfork Strategies which consults with new Montana companies in such areas as business planning, legal strategies, capitalization and timing—for, as she says, in technology you die just as dead being early as you do being late.
Smith has never regretted her quick decision to move west.
“I’m such a believer in this state and the opportunities going forward,” she said. “Entrepreneurship is to the 21st century what pioneering was to the 19th, and for that reason, Montana is the next great place for success.”