If The Missoula “4Cast” Of 100 Tech Jobs Looks Dubious Just Ask Jenni Graff

by Travis Mateer

The post I was GOING to write today is not the post I ended up writing. The topic is the same–technology in Missoula–but the focus changed.

It started with a “non-profit” that won a business accelerator thing, then added a venture capitalist with a write-up in Forbes. EXCITING STUFF!

A nonprofit dedicated to creating jobs and growing Montana’s technology sector won the Growth Accelerator Fund competition hosted by the Small Business Association and will receive funding to expand its state programs.

Early Stage Montana, founded in 2018, also added Tracy Chadwell to its board of directors. Chadwell, a venture capitalist and founding partner of 1843 Capitol, has been recognized in both Forbes and Entrepreneur magazines.

Jenni Graff, executive director of Early Stage Montana, said recognition by the SBA will include $50,000 to help the nonprofit expand its reach. The prizes are awarded to accelerator programs working with fledgling companies in areas of research and development, and STEM.

Jenni Graff has been around the tech-scene for many years now doing all sorts of things, and it’s what she was up to in 2018 that piqued my interest.

At the same time Early Stage Montana was founded, Graff took a job with an Israeli tech firm that specializes in predictive analytic for defense and health care, a nice pairing from a nice country that uses technology to make the world a better place.

To take advantage of this business opportunity, Graff left her job at the Missoula Economic Partnership to help this Israeli tech firm open up its first office in America:

Jenni Graff, who joined MEP in 2016, will mark her last day with the organization on Friday. She’ll join 4Cast in mid-October as project manager.

“My title is project manager, officially, but I’m kind of anything and everything they need to get their first paying client in the U.S.,” Graff told the Missoula Current. “After helping businesses grow and expand in Missoula for the past few years, I am looking forward to directly impacting (4Cast’s) expansion into the U.S. market, and growing professionally with the company.”

In addition to Graff’s personal growth with this Israeli company, the company itself was supposed to hire 100 people. Here’s another article touting the arrival of 4Cast:

The company, known as 4Cast, will develop predictive analytics aimed at homeland security, defense and healthcare. The firm plans to launch its U.S. office in June and hire 100 employees over the coming years.

The company’s office location has not yet been announced.

“They’ll be back here this summer with intention to open and start hiring sales and software developers in May,” Jenni Graff, economic development director with the Missoula Economic Partnership, said Monday. “It all makes sense now why we’ve been so bullish on tech-sector growth in Missoula.”

So, after nearly 4 years, has 4Cast hit its 100 person target for hiring? I don’t know, there hasn’t been any significant reporting on this claim, but Jenni Graff is certainly still around, moving like a pinball amongst the tech-funders.

For example, earlier this year, when Graff joined Early Stage Montana, Pat LaPointe and Frontier Angels was mentioned:

Jenni Graff, a University of Montana graduate who formerly worked with Missoula Economic Partnership, will serve as Early Stage Montana’s new director. Adam Gilbertson of Laurel and Dan Rausch of Sioux Falls will also join the organization’s board of directors.

Pat LaPointe, board president of Early Stage Montana and the managing director of Frontier Angels, said the additions will help expand and accelerate the organization’s mission.

“All three are successful leaders and ‘connectors’ in the tech community who will help us grow Montana’s tech ecosystem, create quality jobs in Montana communities, and diversify our economic foundations for the future,” he said.

When you start digging into Frontier Angels and the tech-work being done in Montana, you get to “charitable” set-ups, like Blackstone’s University launchpads.

Is this work tied to THE Blackstone Group? I believe so, but with these massive conglomerates, it can be hard to track. Here’s some more context:

Blackstone is one of the world’s leading investment firms headquartered in New York, New York. Blackstone LaunchPad is funded by Blackstone Charitable Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Blackstone. The Blackstone Charitable Foundation was founded at the time of Blackstone’s IPO in 2007 with substantial commitments from the Firm’s employees. Influenced by the enterprising heritage of the firm and its founders, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation is directing its resources and applying the intellectual capital of the firm to foster entrepreneurship in areas nationwide and globally. Through its investment expertise across several asset classes and geographies, Blackstone has a unique perspective on the global economy and a heightened understanding of how entrepreneurial activity is often the crucial catalyst in the growth of successful businesses, industries, and communities.

And here’s the UN a few years ago accusing Blackstone of contributing to the GLOBAL housing crisis:

The UN’s housing advisor has accused private equity firms and one of the world’s largest corporate residential landlords, Blackstone Group, of exploiting tenants, “wreaking havoc” in communities and helping to fuel a global housing crisis.

In a stinging critique of the role of private equity in the housing market UN rapporteur Leilani Farha and co-author Surya Deva, chairperson of the UN Working Group, singled out Blackstone’s business practices – which they claim include massively inflating rents and imposing an array of heavy fees and charges for ordinary repairs – as having “devastating consequences” for many tenants in countries around the world.

Wow, pretty impressive, huh? And I don’t mean the ruthlessness of conglomerates like Blackstone. What impresses me is how all this context is NEVER a part of the stories being told by the tech cheerleaders and their propaganda enablers at online “news” outlets like the Missoula Current.

While Martin Kidston champions the latest developments in tech (while dutifully avoiding any follow-up reporting that might undermine brash claims of how many people these tech-saviors are hiring locally), the director of the YWCA has been reduced to begging landlords to rent to the families they are evicting from the shelter.

That’s right, the brand new shelter that took millions in donations to build is already doing this to some of its families:

A single mom in Western Montana is speaking out after she said she and her children are being kicked out of a local shelter, just as the temperatures start to drop.

Due to capacity problems at Missoula’s YWCA Meadowlark, four families, including Jessica Waltz and her three kids, are being evicted.

Waltz says she has until Oct. 29 to raise money to stay in a hotel or find a rental place. But with Missoula’s current housing crisis, finding a place that’s affordable and big enough for her family, is nearly impossible.

And what is the director, Cindy Weese, going to do about this? Will she do something radical, like suggest Missoula HOLD OFF on bringing in Afghan refugees?

No, of course not. The non-profit sector is occupied territory of the Woke Cult, so all Weese can do is “hope” that property managers will just magically lower the rent:

YWCA Executive Director Cindy Weese said a waitlist that continues to grow, left them with no choice.

“We cannot offer long-term shelter for families and still give every family who is homeless a chance to get back on their feet,” Weese said.

Weese added that the rental market in Missoula isn’t making things any easier and she hopes Missoula area property managers will consider lowering rent for families in need.

Instead of delivering empty hope while evicting families in the cold, Cindy Weese could actually advocate for her clients by telling Missoula’s braintrust that figurative slices of pie-in-the-sky won’t actually nourish homeless families, but doing that would risk the wrath of the petty tyrants who run this town, so she keeps it simple and impotent.

Just the way our Mayor for life likes it.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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