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When it comes to entrepreneurship, Montana Bilger’s story is anything but conventional. A former army officer turned data scientist, Montana’s path to founding a cutting-edge AI and space biology company was paved with serendipitous encounters, relentless networking, and a steadfast commitment to solving complex problems. In an enlightening conversation with Amplomedia founder and CEO Lance Johnson, Montana shares invaluable insights into his entrepreneurial journey, the challenges he’s overcome, and the innovative solutions his company brings to the table.

The Genesis of an Entrepreneurial Spirit

Montana Bilger never set out to become an entrepreneur. With a background in physics and data science, his career began in technical roles, coding for hours on end, and relishing the intricacies of analytics. "I'm a technical guy at heart," Montana explains. "I was an army officer, but I'm also someone who could code for eight hours a day and be completely content."

His entry into the entrepreneurial world was almost accidental. Montana recounts a pivotal moment during his time at Georgia Tech, where a group project led to an unexpected breakthrough. "We were working on a project analyzing space data based on a couple of NASA papers in life sciences. It was really cool, and we decided to show our findings to NASA," Montana recalls. What followed was a bold move that would set the stage for his future endeavours. "We cold-emailed a bunch of NASA scientists and ended up crashing a Zoom meeting with top NASA directors. To our surprise, they loved our project."

This audacious pitch led to collaboration with NASA scientists and laid the foundation for what would become Montana's company, leveraging space biology research and explainable AI to accelerate disease research and drug development.

Key Lessons for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Reflecting on his journey, Montana shares three critical lessons for budding entrepreneurs.

1. Validate Your Hypotheses Early and Bootstrap:

"Finding product-market fit and validating your hypotheses is crucial," Montana advises. He emphasizes the importance of bootstrapping in the early stages. "Even if you manage to raise money, you still need to be able to sell. By bootstrapping and generating revenue, you gain validation and support for your business, which only makes you a better entrepreneur."

2. Network Relentlessly:

Montana highlights the underestimated power of networking. "I'm naturally a technical guy, but stepping out of my comfort zone to network has been invaluable," he says. "Talking to people at conferences, reaching out to industry veterans, and learning from those who have walked similar paths can provide critical insights and open unexpected doors."

3. Assemble a Passionate and Competent Team:

"Finding the right team is paramount," Montana asserts. He stresses that skills alone aren’t enough; the personal dynamic among team members is equally important. "You need to love working with your team because you'll go through tough times together. It's essential to have people who are not only competent but also share your passion and work ethic."

The Unique Value Proposition of Bilger’s Company

Montana's company stands at the intersection of AI and space biology, offering innovative solutions to accelerate disease research and drug development. "We use explainable AI algorithms and space biology research to identify crucial disease pathways and targets," Montana explains. Unlike many AI approaches that prioritize prediction, Montana's focus on explainability ensures that researchers can understand the intricacies of biological processes.

This approach has resonated well with clients, including pharmaceutical companies and research institutions. "There's a lot of AI hesitancy out there, especially in biology. Researchers need to understand how you arrive at your results to validate them effectively," he notes. By providing transparent and explainable insights, Montana's company bridges the gap between advanced AI and practical research applications.

Navigating the Challenges and Celebrating Successes

Montana candidly discusses the hurdles his company has faced, particularly in terms of funding and market focus. "When we first started, we were hyper-focused on drug target discovery. However, raising funds for this niche was challenging," he admits. "We then pivoted to developing a SaaS platform for space research, but soon realized that the market size wasn't scalable enough for venture funding."

Despite these setbacks, Montana and his team have celebrated significant milestones. One of their proudest accomplishments is the discovery of novel drug targets for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition affecting millions worldwide. "Seeing our research validated in the lab and knowing it has the potential to impact so many lives is incredibly rewarding," he says.

Looking ahead, Montana has ambitious goals for his company. "We aim to secure more research contracts and potentially fundraise based on our success," he shares. One particularly exciting prospect is a joint collaboration with MD Anderson to conduct oncology research in space. "If we get this grant, we'll be sending experiments to space, which is an incredible milestone for us."

The Power of Resilience and Adaptability

Montana's journey underscores the importance of resilience and adaptability in entrepreneurship. "You learn a lot by just doing it, and that’s the hard part," he reflects. Despite the uncertainties and the inherent complexity of their work, Montana remains committed to his vision. "The impact of our discoveries keeps us going. Knowing that our work can make a tangible difference in people's lives is what drives us."

Montana Bilger's story is a testament to the power of unexpected opportunities, relentless networking, and a deep-seated passion for solving complex problems. For aspiring entrepreneurs, his journey offers valuable lessons in perseverance, innovation, and the importance of building a dedicated team. As Montana continues to push the boundaries of AI and space biology, his work promises to leave a lasting impact on the field of disease research and beyond.

Looking to divulge your own entrepreneur story? We’d love to hear and share it here! Contact us today to uncover your inspirations, triumphs, and learnings.

 

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