(Photo above: BendTech | photo by Tierney O’Dea)
While most people know of the major technology companies, such as Facebook and Apple, many local Central Oregonians aren’t aware of the mass of tech startups that begin in their backyard. And with each new startup comes the goal of creating a multi-million dollar company or being bought by an established company. But, the path from idea to fruition can be an arduous one, and making the right decisions along the way can be the difference in success.
That’s where the Tech Alliance of Central Oregon comes in. The 501(c)3 registered non-profit has been around since April 2010 and has grown every year since its inception. Made up of local technology leaders from the area, the Tech Alliance is, “dedicated to the promotion and support of high-tech companies and business professionals in the Central Oregon region.”
Run by a board of directors, with no salaries and very low overhead, the tech alliance has fostered many local entrepreneurs in their quest for success. Each year, they have pushed forward with their goal through four specific areas. Their shared co-working space for startups, called BendTECH, has grown into a new space on Emkay Drive.
“I try to play a supportive role,” says board member and Economic Development Venture Catalyst Brian Vierra. “EDCO deals a lot with startups, and most of them are tech companies.”
Last month, the Tech Alliance hosted a “Startup Weekend” to coincide with the Bend Venture Conference (BVC). The event featured entrepreneurs coming together to brainstorm ideas and work as teams to transform the idea into a viable business, all the while getting valuable support from local business executives.
The Tech Alliance’s flagship physical space, BendTECH, opened this past February at 1001 SW Emkay Drive. The 7,000 square foot coworking space appropriately shares the 30,000 square foot building with Seven Peaks Ventures, Kollective, Five Talent and Pneuma33. BendTECH’s Community Manager Tierney O’Dea is no stranger to the entrepreneurial scene and co-working spaces, as she worked to develop one in Austin, Texas.
“It’s important to have a community that hires oneanother, and works with each other,” says O’Dea. “Co-working is an important part of the economic future of Bend.”
BendTECH, in their effort to support small businesses, currently represents approximately 30 companies with 24 desks (adding six more this year), twenty waitlisted offices, and three conference rooms. In keeping with the commute options of the future, they also offer bike racks and showers. BendTECH is developing partner co-working spaces in Sisters and Redmond.
“We have had a lot of growth in the last six months, with six new members coming from Portland and Los Angeles, and a waitlist for our offices,” says O’Dea.
Each month, BendTECH hosts member happy hours, lunches, and events. In October, they hosted a Tech Talk on customer data protection with speakers from The Hartford, Lumbermens, and Karnopp Peterson. They also hosted their sixth annual Bend Venture unConference, which allows entrepreneurs to practice their pitching skills in a fun atmosphere. Many of those who pitch at the unConference go on to compete for startup funds at the BVC.
Once entrepreneurs have polished their ideas and readied for development, either at BendTECH or a home-office, the Tech Alliance works to match startups with local business incubators, such as Founders Pad. Founder’s Pad participants have won the BVC the last two years.
This year, under the watchful eye of Vierra and others, Odysys’s Kent Schoeppe successfully pitch their company at BVC and won the Growth Stage competition. The win was big for Schoeppe and Odysys, which helps hotels drive more direct bookings at a lower cost by allowing hoteliers to connect, manage and track digital marketing efforts with one simple platform, since they didn’t make it out of the first round last year.
“I am really proud of Kent Schoeppe at Odysys,” says Vierra. “He worked very hard to dial in his pitch over the last year and ended up winning $205,000 at the 12th Annual Bend Venture Conference.”
By using the collective minds of successful local business people, the Tech Alliance is fostering startup growth in Central Oregon, and thus trying to ensure the economic viability of the region. Considering the success of the entrepreneurs they have helped and the growth of their co-working space, the Tech Alliance is reaching its goals and realizing their mission.
Tech Alliance of Central Oregon
BendTECH location: 1001 SW Emkay, Bend.
Chair: Rane Johnson-Stempson
Year established: 2010
Service: connecting tech professionals in Central Oregon and create a local, world-class start-up community.
Hot News: BendTECH, the physical co-working space of Tech Alliance moved into a new building and has experienced continued growth since. Tech Alliance has supported many tech entrepreneurs in their quest to turn their ideas into companies.