Bend Venture Conference Continues the WOW of Investing

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The 12th Annual Bend Venture Conference (BVC) was, once again, a resounding success with $620,000 in investment awards, cash prizes and services. The BVC, hosted by Economic Development for Central Oregon, is the largest Angel Conference in the Pacific Northwest connecting early and growth stage companies with investment opportunities and attracting over 400 of the Pacific Northwest’s top entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders.
50 prominent investors and 65 companies joined the celebration of entrepreneurship and innovation. In 2014 record investment, awards and prizes of over $1 million opened the opportunity for multiple winners at the conference. The 2015 BVC total investment is not yet complete as side investment deals are still being finalized.
Jones & Roth, US Bank and Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt Attorneys all stepped up to the plate as title sponsors. The sponsorship is part of Schwabe’s ongoing commitment to helping companies grow from the initial planning phase and business formation through development to protect clients’ inventions and brands. They reminded these entrepreneurs that today’s fast growth company needs a team that can work together with the company to meet all of its legal needs whatever stage of growth — startup, growth or established. Schwabe maintains deep relationships with various angel, venture and private equity players to help make those connections.
Bendbroadband sponsors the Early Stage Cash Prize of $15,000, Cascade Angels Fund Investment Award is $125,000, Seven Peaks Ventures Investment Awards includes $100,000 and local advertising agency Mandala features the Firestarter Marketing Program Award worth $50,000 of marketing and branding services.
The companies vying for these funds are young and innovative…and varied, creating products that many of us find mind boggling: drone-based aerial imaging solutions for precision agriculture and forestry, drug discovery platform that reduces costs 100x by increasing the success of identifying drug candidates early, self-service digital marketing platform that helps hoteliers improve their online presence and drive direct bookings, manage and track digital marketing efforts with one simple platform, revolutionary cooking system with a connected scale and interactive recipe solution and a software program with a marketing solution that manages a new type of content called reveal.
The early stage finalists, in the incubator stage of their ideas, include placing gym and shower facilities into airports, products that make participating in outdoor activities easier including a prototype-ready ski and snowboard boot remover called the DeBooter, an earthquake early warning system that sends alerts via SMS/push notification when shaking is detected at coastal monitoring sites, a peer-to-peer marketplace that helps frustrated outdoor adventure travelers explore a destination like a local and high-end bamboo snowboards, surf inspired in both shape and construction.
It’s especially gratifying that this year two of the major winners, Odyss with the $205,000 award and SnoPlanks, who won the $15,000 BendBroadband Business Early Stage Cash Prize, are both Bend-based companies. They bring employment opportunities to our economic base and advanced innovation that places Bend at the center of growth becoming a sought after location for growing young companies.
Last year a first in the BVC history, four outdoor industry companies were chosen to participate in the competition. Three of those companies, Homeschool Technical Apparel, Cairn and Free Range Backpacks, were part of the inaugural session for Bend Outdoor Worx (BOW), the Central Oregon outdoor industry incubator, a collective that helps provide resources to emerging or developing outdoor industry companies.
Last week the first BOW Breakout Award presented by Trigen Investments and sponsored by HydroFlask, The Bridge, White Summers Law, Price Fronk & Co, the Harrelson Group, Bank of the Cascades and Credo Investments, in the amount of $10,000 went to the Robert Axle Project, thru-axle adapter solution for bike trailers. The Robert Axle Project narrowly edged out SnoPlanks, the 2015 Early Stage winner at the BVC.
Cascade Angels Fund has quickly become an investment company with a mission and is putting Central Oregon on the map as a place to live, work and invest. The Bend-based fund focused on economic growth in Oregon made initial commitments in its second year of investment. Investments by the 2014 Fund included a $75,000 investment in Manzama, Inc., a $100,000 investment in Droplr Inc. and a $121,900 investment in the 2014 BVC thereby contributing to the BVC’s record investment amount of over $500,000.
And that was last year. This year the fund committed $125,000 and the to-date BVC investment amount is up
to $620,000.
And what about the angels? The angels are the behind-the-scenes investors who make BVC what it is. The angels get a hands-on experience of participating on the due diligence teams plus attending the outstanding event and selecting the final company for investment.
By definition, angels have to be accredited investors meeting minimum financial qualifications to invest in startups. By practice angels pool their money and collectively make investment decisions. You might think that BVC is a great vehicle for giving exposure, experience and training to a large number of companies. But it’s also a great learning experience for the angels. Almost all angels are successful entrepreneurs in their own right, but many of them have never invested in a startup beside their own company.
Angel investors tell us that it’s an informative and collaborative experience. The strengths and diverse backgrounds of each angel is used to scrutinize the companies providing an advantage in evaluating prospective candidates.
Seven Peaks Ventures Director Dino Vendetti pointed out recently while on a panel at a Looking Forward gathering that Oregon ranked 33rd in America for venture capitalists as of 2014. Despite that, he offered, startups are on the rise and growing throughout the state and in Central Oregon. He continues to help these startups through investing and FoundersPad, a technology accelerator based in Bend that helps innovative startups scale rapidly and prepare for investment via highly customized, intensive accelerator sessions.
The organization’s purpose is to partner with scalable companies in high-tech industries to provide top-notch mentors, curriculum and Lean Startup tools to achieve critical milestones for growth. One of FoundersPad successes was Nouvola who took home the 2013 grand prize of $250,00 at the BVC and then $256,000 at the 2014 OEN’s Angel Oregon competition. In 2014, Cascade Angels Fund made its first investment of $100,000 in local software company Droplr, another FoundersPad company.
As the Bend Venture Conference though its investing partners continues to grow and receive recognition from around the country the region’s ecosystem for entrepreneurs will help insure a strong economic future for Central Oregon.

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About Author

Pamela Hulse Andrews CBN Publisher/Founder, Bend, Oregon

Thanks to getting fired 20 years ago by a previous publication, Pamela Hulse Andrews became the founder and publisher of Cascade Publications Inc. which publishes both the print and online versions of Cascade Business News and Cascade Arts & Entertainment. Pamela’s diverse business background gives her a broad perspective on the arts and business community. She has championed the growth of the arts in the high desert region and played a leadership role in connecting the dots between arts and economic vitality. She writes an assortment of monthly and weekly columns on local arts, politics, business and the economy, creativity and developing entrepreneurship.

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