There was a full rainbow right over downtown Bend late this afternoon. It seemed fitting given that it felt like it was raining money at the Bend Venture Conference awards ceremony.<br />

There was a full rainbow right over downtown Bend late this afternoon. It seemed fitting given that it felt like it was raining money at the Bend Venture Conference awards ceremony.

Conference winners earned more than $940,000 in investments and prizes, including side deals that were still being finalized. In fact, according to EDCO, that amount broke the record for angel conferences in Oregon.

The big checks (literally, those giant, cardboard checks) just kept coming. Even before the winners of BVC were announced, Dino Vendetti with Seven Peaks Ventures doled out $350,000 in investments from the Bend-based venture fund to three launch stage companies.

“There’s more!” Vendetti told the crowd after handing out Seven Peaks’ first investment.

Eleven entrepreneurs took the stage over the course of the day to pitch their companies. The startups ranged from outdoor apparel, subscription boxes and indoor gardens to tech, tech and more tech. The morning half-dozen were vying for the $10,000 BendBroadband concept stage prize, while the afternoon featured launch stage companies hoping for a six-figure investment.

Here are the winners:

Amplion

Adam Carroll, CSO of the Bend-based biotech company, made an impression on the BVC crowd, panelists and ultimately investors with his pitch. Carroll began with a story about a cancer patient who benefited from personalized medicine, made possible thanks to the availability of biomarker information.

Adam Carroll, CSO of Amplion, BVC Launch Stage Winner.
Adam Carroll, CSO of Amplion, BVC Launch Stage Winner.

Amplion’s Biomarker Base helps organize and normalize data about biomarkers in clinical use. It gives users (pharma, diagnostic and life science research companies) easier access to such information and helps them quickly act on opportunities.

“It’s like what Kayak does for air travel,” Carroll explained.

Amplion was the clear winner of the day, earning a total $400,000 in investments:

  • $150,000 investment from Seven Peaks Ventures
  • $250,000 investment as the BVC launch stage winner

Poachedjobs.com

The launch stage panelists commended Portland-based Poachedjobs.com and founder Kirk Thornby for generating $500,000 in annual revenue out of $125,000 in seed funding in just two years. Poached offers an online hiring platform the restaurant industry, which has traditionally relied on Craiglist to find employees. The latter is a big time suck and not very effective. (A recurring theme today was that Craiglist is generally broken. Molly Scofield with The Handsel made the same argument for a different cause in her concept stage pitch).

Poachedjobs.com is currently live in 11 markets. Panelist Julie Harrelson, Cascade Angels Fund manager, told the crowd that she took an informal survey during a tour of Portland restaurants (it’s for research people!). Everyone she spoke with was already using Poached. Thornby noted that the company will eventually expand into other vertical markets that experience high employee turnover, likely starting with retail.

The startup earned a $100,000 as the BVC launch stage runner up.

Bright.md

This Portland startup has created a software platform for primary care physicians that automates exams for minor medical problems such as ear aches and colds. Instead of going to your doctor, you answer clinical questions on your mobile device. Your primary care doc reviews your responses and denotes the next steps, whether it’s prescriptions, a treatment plan or advising that patients be seen in person in the clinic.

Bright.md co-founder Ray Constantini is an M.D. himself and former director of digital and product strategy for Providence Health & Services. He told the crowd that his software significantly decreases time primary care providers spend on low-acuity patients, gives them more time to spend on higher need patients and ultimately increases their revenue.

“We’re hitting the most visceral pain points in primary care right now,” Constantini says.

The company earned a $100,000 investment from Seven Peaks Ventures.

CrowdStreet

Most investors don’t have access to commercial real estate investments. Portland-based Crowdstreet aims to change that by connected accredited investors with high-quality professional managed real estate via a crowdfunding platform. It’s kind of like Kickstarter, but instead of funding potato salad or a really cool cooler, you’re investing in a senior living facility or commercial office building.

Commercial real estate is a $254 billion market that is ripe for disruption CEO Tore Steen told the BVC audience. The panelists questioned how CrowdStreet finds both the parties involved (the investors and the real estate developers). Steen noted that they are being choosy right now, only taking on projects that meet their high standards to help ensure success on both sides.

“It’s hard as a startup to say no, but if you don’t you won’t be around long,” he says.

The PDX company left with a few yeses today including:

  • $100,000 from Seven Peaks Ventures
  • $50,000 worth of marketing services via the Mandala Firestarter Award. Mandala is a Bend-based advertising agency.

Volcano Veggies

This vertical, indoor, aquaponic farming operation certainly captured the imagination, and ultimately votes, of BVC attendees. James and Shannon Sbarra are growing greens, herbs and fish in a self-designed module inside a warehouse building near downtown Bend. They’re currently selling their organic produce to individuals through a CSA-style model and a few local restaurants. But they can’t keep up with the demand.

Volcano Veggies aquaponic operation in Bend.
Volcano Veggies aquaponic operation in Bend.

Their plan is to create another module, and then eventually build one every three months until they fill their space. Ultimately, the pair envision providing modules for similar operations in other ski towns, where the weather prohibits year round growing and the market usually consists of healthy people willing to pay for premium produce.

Volcano Veggies earned:

  • $10,000 from the BendBroadband Concept Stage Prize
  • $1,500 from the Palo Alto Software Live Plan Prize.

Cairn

This Bend-based startup is providing monthly subscription boxes to outdoor enthusiasts. But founder Rob Little told the BVC crowd that he’s upping the ante on his business by also using the boxes as a vehicle to solicit reviews from subscribers about the products inside. That data provides another opportunity for revenue from the brands Cairn works with.

BVC gift box created by Cairn.
BVC gift box created by Cairn.

The company also won a Mandala Firestarter Award, which provides Cairn with $15,000 in marketing and creative services.

Phew. But that’s not all. In addition to the above, there’s another $175,000 in side investment deals that are still being finalized. That makes for nearly $950,000 in investments and awards. See? It really was raining money.

Many attendees, panelists and startup founders themselves commented on that the quality of this year’s participants was the best they’d seen at BVC. It takes a lots of guts, passion, luck and more guts to transform an idea into a viable business. Our hats off to everyone who stood on that stage today. You’re an inspiring bunch and we’re proud that you call Oregon home.

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