Hello readers! Many of you have been kind enough to notice that it’s been a while since I’ve posted on the blog. And instead of allowing what has been one of the most fun projects I’ve ever worked on come to an unceremonious end—I figured we’d send out one last email and GIF for old time’s sake. 

So the news (likely expected) is that my cofounder James Gentes and I are putting a halt to StartupBend. The blog began six years ago with the express mission of broadcasting Bend’s startup activity to the world. At that time the notion of launching and funding a startup outside a major metro area was pretty wild—and yet here so many of us were, in the middle of Oregon, wanting to build companies and build lives.

And while I feel a bit silly using this phrase, I feel like 561 posts later, we can say: mission accomplished. In the first year, we aimed to profile 100 startups in Bend—a goal that then seemed ostentatious. But we hit that number and profiled so many more founders after that. 

The first post was titled “A Place Where You Can Fail,” and talked about the importance of building a community that gave people the confidence to try out their ideas. In the ensuing years, we wrote about everything from tracking local fundraising to records set at BVC to lessons learned from founders whose startups didn’t work.

As a former news reporter, I cherished the opportunity to learn from so many creative, passionate people, those starting companies and those supporting the efforts. And as Bend has grown, so have the resources, expertise, and network for entrepreneurs here. There’s more capital. There’s more attention and support for products beyond tech. There’s a vibrant university and the OSU Co-Lab supporting students and local founders.

There are multiple co-working spaces, more events than you can attend and most importantly, a true belief that you can start something here—that maybe even our little town is a great place to start something. That’s a far cry from five or six years ago when simply stating your location as Bend signaled a red flag to investors. To be sure, we also still face some imperative challenges—there’s capital, but who does it go to? Founders of color and women continue to be significantly underrepresented. Oregon remains a hard place to raise big money without outside assistance, and the tech talent pool could always be larger. 

Even as I write this stuff down, I think there’s so much ground still to cover. So why stop? For me, the answer is more personal. In the years that I’ve been writing the vast majority of this blog, I’ve also been running my own business, supporting a spouse growing a startup, raising two elementary-aged kiddos, and generally burning the candle at all ends. Sometime around last summer, I just got tired. I’d plan to blog and then not. I gave myself permission to take a break and then realized that I couldn’t really start back up. I also felt a little worn out from living, breathing and chronicling startup life. It’s an exciting rollercoaster, but a rollercoaster nonetheless.

I was a newspaper reporter for more than a decade. And in the best newsrooms, editors would rotate reporters off beats after five years. That’s because inevitably what once was exciting seemed standard. You get a little cynical. You’re less inclined to hear a pitch because you’ve heard so many. I started feeling these things and recognized that I wouldn’t do my best work blogging about startups anymore. It was time for something else for me—and for someone else to take the reins. 

So all that said, what an exciting, inspiring and fun adventure this has been. I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank all the people who gave this blog their love and support. 

  • First and foremost, the deepest of thanks and gratitude to my cofounder James, who has started or supported most everything startup-related in Bend (BendTECH, unConference, Startup Community.org, Startup Weekend, etc.) while starting his own companies. He diligently managed the website and business of StartupBend, while also penning the occasional post himself. He’s currently working on his own company, Tend.ai, and the startup community owes him a heap of gratitude for all of his efforts.
  • Thank you to Cascade Seed Fund and Robert and Julie for guest posts, donations for reader contests, and for reliably laughing at every GIF and song parody. To Julie, especially, your #julieselfie series was a delight.  
  • Thank you to Seven Peaks and Founder’s Pad, both organizations helped initially get the blog off the ground in its early days.
  • Thank you to EDCO for regular support and connections, for sharing our messages, and for supporting the startup community in general.
  • Thank you to the hundreds of founders who allowed me to write about their startups, and all the others in our ecosystem who let me pick their brain on investing, fundraising, startup growth, challenges and more. Information sharing is the key to community building and improvement and Bend is the most generous place when it comes to that.
  • Thank you to Rick Turoczy for inspiring us to begin the blog and offering the sage advice of “half-assing it” until we got it right. We never would have started otherwise. I’ve adopted that as a motto for getting many things started and believe it’s some of the best advice around.
  • Thank you to BendBroadband, who sponsored the blog from the very beginning and all the way through. 
  • Thank you to our newsletter subscribers, blog visitors and everyone in our awesome community who emailed with questions, helped make connections, and supported entrepreneurs. 

Next up: I continue to write and manage content marketing projects for finance and tech companies. You can connect with me here. I still chair the BendTECH board. And I continue to pester startup founders in our coworking space, though with more chatter and less writing. 

Lastly, even as StartupBend winds down, I remain 100% convinced that entrepreneurship in all of its forms is one of the most empowering and community-changing things we can do. We don’t have to be beholden to the practices and systems that don’t work with our lives and don’t serve our dreams. And everyone who has a bright idea and the work ethic to breathe it into life should have the opportunity to try and do so. I’d like to continue to help in the arena of accessibility and we’ll see where the next opportunities arise.

Lots of love. Don’t be a stranger! 

via GIPHY

Kelly Kearsley