Bend Venture Conference Awards $265,000 to Innovative Ultrasound Company



To a nearly sold out audience of angel investors, venture capitalists and business people, six launch stage companies pitched their products hoping to secure a winning prize that would help finance their enterprise. Sonivate Medical of Beaverton, Oregon was top winner for The Sonic Eye, a fingertip-mounted ultrasound probe that combines ultrasounds imaging with simultaneous tactile feedback, while leaving both hands free to do work.

For two months, a core group of investors in the Bend Venture Conference (BVC) organized by Economic Development of Central Oregon met, challenged and vetted 50 Launch Stage applicants. That total field of submissions was successively narrowed to the top six startups.

The bulk of the investment is generated from local investors; however, several investors come from Portland, Seattle, the Bay Area and other states. For the first time ever, the Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) has made a $25,000 matching investment and, for the second year, the Oregon Growth Account (OGA) will invest up to $50,000. $200,000 from private investors is required to get the full investment match from OGF and OFA.

“BVC had a record number of applications this year, with 70 startups in total,” said Steve Westberg, manager of the BVC, LLC fund. “In the Launch Stage category, submissions doubled from 25 last year to 50 this year. Most importantly, not only is the quantity of the companies up, but the quality is excellent. Our angel investors are particularly pleased with the quality of the finalists which drove the decision to include six, not five, companies.”

A Launch Stage Panel listened to the company presentations and asked pertinent question. The panel consisted of Moderator Dino Vendetti, an entrepreneur, mentor and early stage investor and managing director of Formative Ventures in Menlo Park and founder of Bend-based accelerator FoundersPad.

Other panelists were Diane Fraiman, venture partner with Voyager Capital in Portland, Shelley Gunton, past winner of Angel Oregon and an angel investor and executive director of the Centrer for Innovation & Entrepreneurships at Portland State University and Kevin Ober, managing director of Divergent Ventures and a director of Internap Network Services Corporation and SpaceCurve.

Launch Stage companies are early stage companies that are typically further developed than Concept Stage companies and are either post revenue or close to sales launch.

Prizes awarded for the launch stage companies:

$256,000 – Sonivate Medical (David Starr, Medical Devices and Equipment, Beaverton, Sonivate has a disruptive, proprietary, FDA-cleared, medical imaging technology that addresses critical needs in the $5B ultrasound market.

$40,000 RallyCause (Robert Aiello, Internet/Web Services, Bend, Kickstarter meets Yelp. Supporters raise money for their chosen cause every time they shop at participating local businesses.

$30,000 JettStream (Sarah Cota, Medical Devices and Equipment, Bend, JettStream is a superior treatment delivery system for children with asthma.

Other presenting companies included: DesignMedix (Lynn Stevenson, Biotechnology, Portland, DesignMedix, Inc. develops drugs to overcome drug resistance in multiple diseases, and has a malaria drug nearly ready for human trials.

Element 1 Corp (Robert Schluter, Clean Technology, Bend, Element 1 intends to be the dominant global supplier of hydrogen generators to fuel-cell system integrators and other merchant hydrogen applications.

Intelligent Power (Ed Davis, Clean Technology, Wilsonville, Intelligent Power provides energy management and control that saves supermarkets ten percent on their energy bills, increasing their profits 15 percent.

On of the sponsors of the conference was Miller Nash LLP. “The Bend Venture Conference is a key part of the growing infrastructure related to encouraging and supporting growth companies in Central Oregon,” said State Representative Jason Conger, attory with Miller Nash. “It has been expanding in scope and significance each year for nine years – which shows the determination of its organizers, supporters, participants and sponsors.

“Every time I attend the BVC, it reinforces my conviction that we have a strong entrepreneurial culture here in Central Oregon and makes me even more optimistic about the economic and creative future of our region. BVC brings together many pieces of the start-up ecosystem and reminds the whole community of the almost limitless potential to grow and diversify our economy over the next few years – especially with the increasing presence of OSU-Cascades and COCC.“

Additionally, six Concept Stage finalists (startups who are pre-revenue and less developed than their Launch Stage counterparts) pitched their product in hopes of receiving a $10,000 grant in the BendBroadband Concept competition.

Moderator Daymond John of ABC’s Shark Tank headed up the Concept Stage Panel. Other panelists were Eric Rosenfeld, founding partner of the Oregon Angel Fund of Portland, Chris Capdevilla, a Tumalo resident and FoundersPad mentor and entrepreneur and Janice Fraser of Silicon Valley, an entrepreneur and interaction designer for web and mobile products.

The winner was ziPede created by Dr. Rick Cuddihy of Bend. The software helps moms, dads and doctors take care of kids better by improving the office visit experience. Now parents can link with their doctor before and after a visit, accessing expert video content.

“ZiPede improves children’s health by making office visits better,” said Dr. Rick during his pitch.” “We produce and deliver expert medical content by linking information and true functionality.”

Other presenting concept finalists were:

Agrowpedia brings IT to the first frontier for small farmers and backyard garden enthusiasts. Steven Anderson of Bend.

E-Z Leave is a web-based SaaS solution to automate the complex federal, state and military leave environment. Using a TurboTax-like interface, the solution reduces legal liability. Yaju Dharmarajah of Bend.

K.A.D. Innovations – The Kebbaber is the next evolution of grilling products for tailgaters, backyard BBQ lovers and an upgrade on the grilling lifestyle.

Play Habit – Hardcore gamers are migrating en-masse toward lower costs and more personal devices. Play Habit is creating top tier games for this new wave of players. Scot Bayless, Bend.

Jim Coonan, venture catalyst manager of Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO), said, “The interest level in BVC is intensifying. This year we hosted several investors new to the conference from the Bay Area, Seattle and Portland.”

On the investment side, the Bend Venture Conference is funded by local private investors, the Oregon Growth Account (which has provided for the second year a maximum matching investment of $50,000 based on achieving $200,000 in private investment) and the Oregon Community Foundation (which has provided for the first time ever a $25,000 matching investment, predicated on achieving $100,000 in funding from private investors, which was realized).

Conference attendees were presented with a keynote from Daymond John of ABC’s Shark Tank. John is an entrepreneur turned angel investor and one of the five ‘sharks’ on ABC’s hit business reality show, Shark Tank.


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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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