Well conference season has officially kicked off in Bend. Last night’s PubTalk was the annual pitch-off between 10 startups, all of which were competing for a spot on the Bend Venture Conference stage and a chance to win the BendBroadband $15,000 early stage award. Everyone made great pitches and the audience voted. The winners are:

  • CushCore Adam Krefting and Dan Hallada got much love from the audience for their startup, which makes an inner-tire suspension system for mountain bikes. Though bike technology has evolved radically, “we’re still riding on the same tires that we were 100 years ago.” The CushCore inner-tire system offers the benefits of a light-weight tire, with burliness of a heavy-duty tire. These guys come from motorcycle backgrounds and they know things about tires and bikes.
  • Fire Funder Sam Lambert, the 2013 winner of the BendBroadband early stage prize, is back with another startup to help his first startup. Fire Funder is a crowdfunding platform specifically for outdoor sports related companies. You might recall that he founded Ochoco Arms, which makes a shotgun laser siting technology. When he went to raise funds via some tried and true crowdfunding sites, they weren’t keen on featuring a weapons company. More broadly, he realized that the sites didn’t really have outlets for sporting/hunting/outdoor products. “I hit a wall, so I decided to build a door,” he says.
  • Free Rain Designs “We need to be growing our own food and we need to be conserving water,” says Free Rain Founder Chip Dixon. His two products do just that. The Cube is a more aesthetically pleasing option for rainwater collection, instead of the typical barrels commonly used now; and The Hexagarden, is a raised bed gardening system in a hexagon shape. The latter makes sense for all sorts of reasons, Chip says, including the fact it’s ADA accessible and that plants don’t grow in square shapes. Truth.
  • Hytchr Soren Wrenn describes his startup at the Uber for photography. Here is the deal: There are a bazillion people taking photos — good photos — with their phones and sharing them via social media. With Hytchr, brands could tap into this plethora of content and the creators could get paid when their photos are used. Blockchain technology, the same tech that powers bitcoin, will help keep track of the photo’s original owners as they move through various transactions.
  • InvestiPro Founder and longtime HR professional Dana Barbato has debuted a cloud-based software platform that simplifies how employers conduct workplace investigations. The software has been available for a hot minute (since August) and it’s already a finalist for next best HR tech at the upcoming HR Technology Conference, she told the crowd.

Congratulations to these startups and to all the startups that pitched last night. To one, you were polished, professional and passionate. Other highlights of the evening included:

  • Emcee Julie Harrelson helping the crowd kill time with a Tom Petty sing-a-long.
  • These meatballs, which Justin Johnson from LeadMethod, claims were amazing and he used them to make tiny meatballs sandwiches throughout the event. Next time you’re at PubTalk, sit next to him.img_0255
  • Finding the hidden bar at McMenamins with a bunch of startupy friends after the show was over. My mind was blown. Don’t tell ANYONE about it, okay?


Alright, the annual Fall Funfest of Startupy Stuff is now underway. We’ll see you next at the unConference on 10/12, where other early stage startups can get the chance to pitch and then win the wildcard spot on the BVC stage. There’s just 15 spots, and they’re first come, first serve. Later that evening is the Venture Out Festival, with keynote speaker Kevin Pearce, the former professional snowboarder who is now a motivational speaker and advocate for brain injury and down syndrome.

Kelly Kearsley

Kelly Kearsley, the co-founder of StartupBend.com, is passionate about startups, entrepreneurship and Bend. In addition to writing this blog, she creates content and manages content projects for global financial companies, tech firms and startups. She began her career as a newspaper journalist and later worked as a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in WSJ.com, Money Magazine, CNNMoney, MSNBC and Runner's World. See her work at kellykearsley.contently.com or kellykearsley.com.

You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].
Kelly Kearsley