Announcing the BVC Growth Stage & Impact Track Semifinalists


(2022 Bend Venture Conference winners | Photo by Marisa Chappell Photography)

Each year, new BVC Growth and Impact Funds are raised to invest in the most promising ​companies that compete in the annual conference. At the 2022 BVC, these funds invested a combined $530,000 in Growth Stage and Impact Track finalists. In the weeks preceding the conference, angel investors meet with ​semifinalist companies at a series of due diligence meetings to narrow the companies to a list of finalists, which will be announced ​in early October. ​

Jenn Lynch, Fund Manager for the BVC LLC Funds, explained, “The investors in the Bend Venture Conference Funds are local businesspeople who enjoy learning about the semifinalists’ startups as much as they do hearing each other’s perspectives and building their own investment thesis. With a record number of applicants across all categories this year, we are thrilled with the variety and growth potential represented in the semifinalist companies.”

In alphabetical order, the nine BVC Growth Stage semifinalists are:

  1. Avoli (Portland, Oregon) — The first and only athletic brand dedicated exclusively to the performance needs and aspirations of women and girl volleyball athletes.
  2. Gnara (Gunnison, Colorado) — A revolutionary new approach to women’s clothing with a patented zipper design that helps everyone answer nature’s call.
  3. Heather’s Choice (Ashland, Oregon) — A line of lightweight, Pennsylvaniackable meals and snacks made with wholesome, quality ingredients for adventuring.
  4. Hepatx (Palo Alto, California) — An innovative, regenerative medicine solution for liver disease.
  5. iDentical Inc. (Mountain View, California) — A dental device company that is disrupting the global dental implant market with personalized, drill-free dental implants.
  6. Po Campo (New York, New York) — A leader in modern daily travel, making stylish and sustainable designs specifically for commuters using bikes and scooters.
  7. Square Baby (Bend) — A baby food subscription service that offers 100% daily nutrition and early allergen introduction for food allergy prevention.
  8. Toolbelt Inc. (Vancouver, Washington) — A mobile software program that allows contractors to post projects and directly connect with tradespeople.
  9. Varlo (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) — An inclusive athletics brand designed for endurance athletes of all sizes and body types.

In alphabetical order, the seven BVC Impact Track semifinalists are:

  1. Birch Biosciences (Portland, Oregon) — Engineering enzymes that break down plastic polymers for efficient and economic plastic recycling.
  2. ESG Brands (Portland, Oregon) — A proprietary technology for converting agriculture waste into textile fiber for the fashion industry.
  3. Harvest Thermal (Kensington, California) — Electric heating, Coloradooling and hot water systems for homes to support a strong and renewable electricity grid.
  4. LeapFrog Design (Bend) — Modular, scalable, all-natural, plant-based treatment solutions for onsite greywater and blackwater recycling.
  5. Leap Photovoltaics (San Francisco, California) — A revolutionary process to manufacture silicon solar cells at half the cost of silicon wafer-based cells using domestic supply chains.
  6. OpConnect Inc. (Portland, Oregon) — A turnkey EV charging solution provider that offers smart charging hardware and software for fleet operators and multi-family properties.
  7. Opolis (Kennebunk, Maine) — A trademarked and patent pending blend that creates a monetizable plastic economy for the developing communities most impacted by plastic waste.

The Bend Venture Conference is the longest standing and largest angel investment conference in the Pacific Northwest, serving as a catalyst for startup investment in Central Oregon. Throughout the conference attendees hear company pitches, break away for multiple networking activities and learn from aspiring entrepreneurs and industry thought leaders. Tickets to the 20th annual Bend Venture Conference are on sale now and are available here.

EDCO’s Central Oregon PubTalk:
Ten Early Stage semifinalists will present at EDCO’s September PubTalk on September 28 at Worthy Brewing in Bend in hopes of moving on to present at BVC. Tickets are available through Eventbrite at

About Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO):
EDCO is a non-profit corporation supported by private and public members and stakeholders, whose mission is to create middle-class jobs in Central Oregon by recruiting new employers to move to the region; helping entrepreneurs start new, scalable businesses; and working with businesses that are already here to grow their operations.

About Bend Venture Conference (BVC):
The annual BVC, hosted by EDCO, is one of the largest angel conferences in the country. Over the past 20 years, BVC has served to evolve and grow the startup ecosystem throughout Central Oregon and across the Pacific Northwest. Since its inception, more than $12 million has been invested in 52 companies as a result of the conference. This year’s conference will gather entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders, and students at the Tower Theatre in Bend, Oregon on October 19-20, 2023.


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Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. •

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