Announcing the Winners of the 20th Annual Bend Venture Conference


Eight Companies Awarded a Total of $595,000

Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) hosted the 20th  Annual Bend Venture Conference (BVC) for the past two days at locations around Bend. During the conference, 14 finalists presented their ideas and business models to an audience of hundreds in hopes of gaining investment from prominent funds. Of those finalists, eight companies were awarded a total of $595,000 in investments. Additional investment deals are still being finalized.

“After two exhilarating days of networking, inspiring presentations and entrepreneur pitches at BVC, the High Desert Innovation Week in Bend reached its grand finale. This week-long series of events dedicated to entrepreneurship has connected companies and investors from all over the country and across a broad set of industries. Among other things, it’s given Central Oregon the exposure it deserves for fostering a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem and innovative culture which is helping build future prosperity,” said Jon Stark, CEO of EDCO.

Each fall, Growth Stage and Impact finalists vie for investment awards from funds established by individual investors, who together form the BVC LLC and BVC Impact LLC investment funds. Beginning in August, applicants for both tracks began meeting with investors. Meanwhile, Early Stage applicants were evaluated by investors at Portland Seed Fund, who have led the BVC Early Stage investment since 2018.

“As we move forward, we are committed to nurturing these newfound relationships, offering resources and support to foster growth,” said EDCO’s Venture Catalyst Brian Vierra. “We want to extend our heartfelt gratitude to our sponsors, local angel investors and to our partners at the Portland Seed Fund, whose unwavering support makes this program possible.”

In addition to the awards for the BVC finalists listed below, Business Oregon presented a check for $150,000 to Square Baby, a BVC semifinalist and Bend-based startup. The check was awarded as debt funding through the Oregon Royalty Loan Program, an alternate financing solution for growing companies that do not yet qualify for traditional financing.

This year’s award breakdown is as follows:

Growth Stage

The Growth Stage competition is for companies that have a proven concept and initial revenues.

Jenn Lynch, Fund Manager for the BVC Funds, said, “Our team had an exceptionally difficult time choosing just two Growth Stage and two Impact Track companies in which to place investments and I’m delighted to welcome these businesses to the BVC Fund portfolio.”

The finalists that walked away with investment awards this year are:

  • ToolBelt Inc. (Vancouver, Washington) — A mobile software program that allows contractors to post projects and directly connect with tradespeople was awarded $165,000 from the BVC LLC.
  • iDentical Inc. (Mountain View, California) — A dental device company that is disrupting the global dental implant market with personalized, drill-free dental implants was awarded $75,000 from the BVC LLC.


The Impact competition features for-profit companies with integrated social or environmental missions. The companies that received investments this year are:

  • Harvest Thermal (Kensington, California) — Electric heating, cooling and hot water systems for homes to support a strong and renewable electricity grid was awarded $90,000 from the BVC Impact LLC.
  • OpConnect Inc. (Portland, Oregon) — A turnkey EV charging solution provider that offers smart charging hardware and software for fleet operators and multi-family properties was awarded $25,000 from the BVC Impact LLC.

Early Stage

Finalists in the Early Stage track typically have proof of concept, early revenue and are in the process of testing their product in the market.

“For the sixth consecutive year, Portland Seed Fund is thrilled to invest in the most promising Early Stage companies we see at BVC,” said Angela Jackson, PSF Managing Director. “Our team was duly impressed with the strength of talent from Central Oregon.”

Ultimately, Portland Seed Fund IV awarded three checks totaling $75,000 to the following companies:

  1. Finnegan the Dragon (Hillsboro, Oregon) — The first preschool curriculum and mobile gaming system that targets language development for better learning outcomes was awarded $25,000.
  2. Polaris (Bend) — An AI-powered site reliability tool that detects outages and incidents in web applications in real-time was awarded $25,000.
  3. Symphony Markets (Bend) — A streamlined, SEC compliant exchange for IP owners to list shares of their music while providing investors exposure to a stable, culturally relevant asset class was awarded $25,000.

In addition to the funding from PSF, Finnegan the Dragon received a check for $15,000 from Peter Horan of HMTA LLC.

**All investments are awarded following considerable due diligence of each of the presenting finalists. Investments and follow-on deals are still being finalized.

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 $14 million has been invested in 59 companies as a result of the conference. Next year’s conference will gather entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders, and students at the Tower Theatre in Bend, Oregon on October 17-18, 2024.


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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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