Winners Announced for Big Bend Theory Start Up Project


Dino Vendetti, managing director of Seven Peaks Ventures and a founder of Bend-based FoundersPad that helps entrepreneurs succeed, created a competition in November 2013 for startups willing to relocate to Bend by offering a weekend trip to the top three finalists, their co-founders and spouses.

Vendetti came up with the idea for the competition as an experiment to see what kind of top-tier talent could be recruited to Bend to start a business through an entrepreneurial contest offering the winning entrants a personal tour of Bend via a weekend of networking and events tailored to them. Four entrepreneurs were selected and on March 13 these winning entrepreneurs and their significant others will fly to Bend for an all expense paid weekend to meet with some of the talented software entrepreneurs headquartered in Bend along with key business leaders, educational leaders, Silicon Valley transplants, and real estate professionals.

“Since Bruce Cleveland and I launched the Big Bend Theory contest last November, I’ve heard from people in other regions who are trying to do exactly what we are doing here in Bend,” said Vendetti. “It’s exciting to be part of this growing movement. But what is really cool is Bend is more than an early adopter. I’d say we are actually creating the template for engineering a tech cluster. And what we are doing is working. We’re attracting stand out innovators and entrepreneurs that want to do business in a place that offers a great place to work and an exceptional quality of life.”

Vendetti was been joined in his newest venture by Bruce Cleveland of Silicon Valley based Interwest Partners who promoted the project on his blog  Following the weekend, the bigger prize, should they decide to relocate, includes everything from tech space and help relocating to assistance with fundraising. The contest was open to anyone with a high-growth startup or an idea for a startup. After reviewing 30 qualified applications from entrepreneurs around the nation, Vendetti and Cleveland made some difficult decisions and whittled it down to four winners. 

“The fact that we had 30 startups apply including a number of genuinely high-quality entrepreneurs, reinforces our belief that Bend is a viable community to grow and build technology companies” added Vendetti. “We are becoming a model for how to build and grow regional tech clusters”

“Originally we’d planned to select three, but with so many good candidates we couldn’t resist awarding a weekend in Bend to four entrepreneurs we think have the vision to contribute to the community – and a company worth investing in,” Cleveland said on his blog. “We asked entrants to send us their pitches and tell us what they are doing and why Bend is where they should be doing it.”

The four winning entrepreneurs:

TheSphere – CEO: Charles Armstrong.
 What they do: The leading platform for 360º content. Its technology is backed by 20 pending patents and is reaching the market through partnerships with companies like HomeAway, Sony and Samsung.
 Why we chose them: “Insanely great” 360º video technology.

AdStage – CEO: Sahil Jain
. What they do: All-in-one advertising platform for Facebook, Google, Bing, and LinkedIn. Why we chose them: Leading edge LinkedIn advertising platform.

Aria Systems – CEO: Tom Dibble. 
What they do: Help companies around the globe using its cloud-based, enterprise-class platform for subscription and usage-based billing.
 Why we chose them: Part of the InterWest portfolio. Interested in moving an entire function inside the company to Bend, reducing ability for others to recruit key talent away from the company.

Stealth- CEO: Eric Bahn.
 What they do: We can’t tell you but trust us, Eric is a pretty cool guy with some great ideas.
 Why we chose them: We could tell you, but then we would have to kill you, which would ruin the whole thing for everyone.

Everyone will stay at Bend’s suave Oxford Hotel, and we will kick off the excitement with a networking event on Thursday evening at The Loft in Bend. On Friday guests will have the opportunity to meet with some of the talented software entrepreneurs headquartered in Bend along with key business leaders, educational leaders, Silicon Valley transplants, and real estate professionals. “This should give everyone a better idea of what Bend has to offer beyond clean air and uncongested roads,” noted Cleveland. On Saturday, the visiting entrepreneurs and their guests will enjoy some of the fun outdoor activities that have put Bend on the map followed by another exclusive networking event that evening.

“On Sunday, we will wrap it up, everyone will fly back to SFO and our hope is that some of these entrepreneurs will be inspired by what they experienced in Bend,” concluded Cleveland.


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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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