BOZEMAN, Mont. -- A recent report that looks at the $950 billion app economy across the U.S. places Bozeman as a tech leader in the state of Montana.
The report says the city has become an unexpected hub for tech and innovation driven by local college graduates and Silicon Valley transplants.
As recently as a decade ago, Montana State University graduates and business co-founders Sam Lucas and Paul Burton would've had to venture outside the state to start their company.
But today their company Triple Tree LLC is thriving in Bozeman.
"I think the Bozeman tech community is really driving the economy outside of tourism," Lucas said.
The two-year-old company specializes in developing and designing web and mobile apps.
They were recently profiled in the latest State of the App Economy report and named a Montana startup to watch for 2018 by the Montana High-Tech Business Alliance.
Lucas credits their MSU connections and the supportive tech and entrepreneur community for being able to stay in Bozeman.
"The community is small and very tight-knit and supportive. The software engineering and tech community is especially supportive," Lucas said.
According to the report by ACT I The APP Association, Montana currently has 3,710 people working in computing jobs. Jobs in that sector are expected to grow by 18 percent by the year 2024.
As Bozeman starts to get national recognition and outside investments, Lucas thinks the same can happen in other rural areas.
"Traditionally, so much of venture capitalism has been in Seattle, Silicon Valley and New York City -- maybe a little bit in Atlanta," Lucas said. "Venture capitalism is starting to understand that this mill zone is really the untapped, untouched market."
For a short while, the duo considered starting in Portland, Oregon, but found it difficult to break in.
"In a big city it was difficult, especially with us not traditionally growing up there or acting professionally as students," Lucas said.
He said access to large technology firms and pools of talent is limited in Bozeman, unlike big cities.
"In Bozeman we're either importing developers and engineers or we're pulling talent out of the university and spending one to three years training them," he said.
Still, Lucas maintains that most of his clients are out-of-staters who are attracted to Montana when looking for a fresh perspective.
"You can kind of get the best of both worlds here -- a high quality team that's a bit cheaper than you'd find in a big city, and it also comes with a big recreational opportunity for their team," Lucas said.
Lucas told NBC Montana there are perks to living and working in a small town.
"In Bozeman, if I want to meet with a mentor, with another tech company, it's a block away or a four-minute drive. I can ride my bike and meet with someone at a coffee shop," he said.