Venture Capitalist: Social Climate Crucial For Recruiting Millennials

Sep 14, 2015

Hundreds of people gathered at Montana State University Sunday and Monday for a “High Tech Jobs Summit” organized by Senator Steve Daines. His goal was to bring technology leaders from across the country to Bozeman to talk about ways to create more good-paying Montana jobs.

There was plenty of talk about the need to increase internet bandwidth, how high speed internet creates economic opportunities, and the need to streamline government regulation. But one prominent speaker said it’s not all about tax policy, business incentives and high tech tools.

"You can do things to make it better and more attractive and more supportive for people to build companies here in Montana," says Doug Burgum.

Burgum launched a software company in Fargo, North Dakota that he went on to sell to Microsoft for over a billion dollars. He’s now on the board of a venture capital firm that invests in new software companies.

Burgum echoed what a lot of speakers at the summit said: Free markets work better to spark change than government programs. He also said there needs to be more competition in America’s public schools. And Burgum said states should eliminate corporate income taxes.

"And the last thing I want to touch on is social climate, which usually never makes its way into a tech conference, because whatever reason, political correctness, people don’t want to touch it, but I’m happy to jump in on this thing."

Burgum said that, as a low population state, Montana will need to recruit talented people and new companies, and he said it’s “crucial” to create conditions that attract entrepreneurs and talented high tech workers.

"We’re talking about trying to recruit millennials out of college, generationally there’s different views on this, and if a place looks too socially conservative, you can turn all the millennials away because they say this is not a place I want to live."

Bergum said that Montana’s natural beauty and outdoor opportunities give it a tremendous advantage in attracting talented young people. And he said cities like Bozeman, Missoula and Great Falls that are redeveloping their downtowns are helping to create the kinds of places millennials want to live.

"If you look at people that are under age 35, the vast majority of them are in favor of marriage equality, and this is a situation where, again, Montana progressively moving forward on this, helps suggest that you’re open for business for all citizens. States that are on the wrong side of this thing, they’re excluding not just the people who are directly affected, but the relatives and the friends and the supporters of people that think that all people should have equality."

Burgum was one of about two dozen technology, business and education leaders who spoke at Republican Senator Daines’ High Tech Job Summit at Montana State Univeristy Sunday and Monday.