Bend Venture Conference Finalists Continue to Find Success

Image of 2022 Bend Venture Conference finalists holding their funding checks.

Last October, 14 finalists presented their ideas and business models to an audience of hundreds at the Tower Theatre in hopes of gaining investment from prominent funds. Of those finalists, seven companies walked away that day with checks totaling $665,000 in investments. But that was just the beginning of the Bend Venture Conference (BVC) magic. Over the past six months, these finalists have been working with funders to secure capital and scale their businesses. With a recent announcement by Clean Age of funding secured from Business Oregon, total funding received by the 14 finalists now totals more than $1 million.

Since the 2022 BVC, EDCO Venture Catalyst Director Deanne Buck has been hard at work connecting finalists to resources and advocating for their success. Describing her work, Buck explained, “The Bend Venture Conference brings together innovative companies with funders and mentors. In a time when venture funding is becoming more arduous, it is increasingly important for entrepreneurs to build these relationships and understand the nuances of due diligence processes and various funding opportunities that exist. My role is to serve as a connector and guide to resources for these companies.”

Now in its 20th year, BVC is the longest standing angel investment conference in the Pacific Northwest and has served as a hub for entrepreneurship in the region. Since its inception, the BVC LLC has awarded over $11 million in investments. The conference serves as a catalyst for additional funding for the portfolio of companies that participate, such as the recent announcement by Clean Age, who received debt financing and equity investment through Business Oregon and other funders.

“Business Oregon has been participating in and sponsoring the Bend Venture Conference for over a decade. We work with equity investors and partners and offer support to businesses in the early stages of growth that are seeking funding through our Business Oregon finance programs. Even for the companies who are not chosen to receive equity investments through the BVC LLC fund, we can often assist them in obtaining financing through programs like our Oregon Royalty Loan and Oregon Angel Loan programs,” explained Tom Schnell, Business Finance Officer at Business Oregon.

In addition to the news from Clean Age, here is a list of notable updates from EDCO’s 2022 BVC finalists:

Growth Stage

  • Bluebird CX (Vancouver, WA) – An automated gifting platform that partners with swag sellers to reach more customers faster has increased their warehouse network from two to six locations and increased annual recurring revenue by 65%.
  • Minnow Technologies (Seattle, WA) – A cloud-connected delivery hub (called a “pod”) that makes food delivery efficient and reliable was awarded $185,000 from the BVC LLC. Since participating in BVC, Minnow is exploring a partnership with Smith Brothers Farms through an introduction made at the conference.

Impact Stage

  • VitalFlo Inc. (Portland, OR) – A predictive respiratory medicine company that monitors and forecasts expensive patient outcomes for respiratory disease. Since BVC, the company has confirmed a second health system customer and is launching in 12 clinics with future expansion planned to more clinics and at-home monitoring.
  • Ethicann Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Bethesda, MD) – A biotechnology company developing high-value, cannabinoid-based drug therapies using a development strategy of reformulating approved drugs into safer and equally efficacious drugs was awarded $60,000 from the BVC Impact LLC. The company is making progress in bringing its first product for MS spasticity into the global market. Since October, Ethicann has hired Douglas J. Kawahara, MBA, Ph.D., of Oregon, as President and CEO. Kawahara brings 30 years of biotechnology/pharmaceutical executive leadership, and hands-on success in prior Series A to IPO financings of pharma/biotech companies.
  • Photon Marine (Portland, OR) – A company that designs and develops an electric outboard motor system and intelligent fleet management software for commercial boat fleets was awarded $45,000 from the BVC Impact LLC, with follow on investments of $150,000 from Elevate Innovation Gap Fund II and $40,000 from Portland Seed Fund (PSF). Since BVC, Photon completed their first P300 electric outboard motor system prototype and successfully ran sea trials for four days during the Miami International Boat Show – the largest boat show in the world – and was featured by numerous national media outlets as a leader in the growing market for electric boats.

Early Stage

  • DailyChela.com (Portland, OR) – An OTT app for Latinos that solves the problem of the lack of Latino news, opinion and sports on Roku, IOS and Android was awarded $40,000 from PSF. Following BVC, DailyChela received additional investment from Horan MediaTech Advisors.
  • Osheru (Bend, OR) – A device that simplifies upper eyelid surgery to make this vision and appearance enhancing procedure available to anyone was awarded $40,000 from PSF. Since BVC, Osheru has hired its first full time employee, a Chief Clinical Officer. They have been working with OSU-Cascades Physical Therapy and Business departments on product improvements, market positioning and business strategy.
  • Instinct Environmental Company (Hillsboro, OR) – Wireless sensor networks that detect wildfires and bring real-time environmental monitoring to the fingertips of forest and natural resource managers landed a pilot since BVC with a utility engineering consulting firm for monitoring land under power lines in Central Oregon and the team is refining its product with a focus on manufacturability and process based on feedback.
  • Range Revolution (Madras, OR) – The world’s first leather luggage company using only traceable and regenerative hides was awarded $40,000 from PSF. The Central Oregon company exhibited its products at NY NOW, a major wholesale design expo, and is working to close its seed round.

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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 $11 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. bendvc.com