So last night was EDCO PubTalk, and the 10 semifinalists for the early stage Bend Venture Conference competition pitched their business ideas. There was a delightful range of companies, with founders talking about everything from babysitter services to instant coffee to trip planning apps to blockchain-based tech.

The audience and a panel of two judges–hats off to Pam Stevenson, BVC pitch coach, and Chris Capdevila, with FoundersPad–voted on the five finalists, who will grace the BVC stage Oct. 20. These founders are vying to a win $17,500 award from BendBroadband Business.

And the winners are …. (it was hard to choose!) …..

  • Tribe Pilot A trip-planning app that simplifies everything related to group travel planning from choosing a date to sharing photos and splitting the cost. Founder Matt Smith says his app will be featured in an upcoming Cairn box next month, as part of the app’s launch.
  • Mission Limelight This software company empowers charities to maximize their auction fundraising by automating the procurement process. Founder Talena Barker noted that the solution benefits nonprofits and businesses that regularly donate to them. Their first product allows nonprofits to register and exchange auction items.
  • BladeRunner Energy This company is developing a small-scale, hydro-power system aimed at easily and affordably generating renewable power for both communities and individuals. Co-founder and engineer Moriel Arango noted that he’s already received a National Science Foundation grant to specifically help develop the tech.
  • Voila Co-founders Kent Sheridan and Nick Holmboe entertained the crowd with their take on instant coffee, which they contend is the best take on instant coffee. They use the best specialty coffees in the world and a secret process to distill them into a just-add-water form. The business is a subscription-based and the coffee is available Nov. 1.
  • Wildish Rick Lee and Adam Allen has the PubTalk audience laughing with their innovations in “outdoorsy” gear. The pair are pioneering products and a marketplace for people who like to be outside, but more for the beer and fun and less for the conquering nature aspect. Their flagship products: the M.C. Hammie, a hammock that turns into a blanket and a tent, and the Mr. Big Stuff, a giant outdoor blanket.
The BVC Early Stage finalists + Julie Harrelson, PubTalk emcee.

The competition was fierce! Congratulations to the companies that made the final cut, and congratulations to all who presented last night. To a one, you have intriguing business ideas, great traction even at early stages and the passion and gumption to get it done. We have no doubt, we’ll see more of all you in the future.

Kelly Kearsley

Kelly Kearsley, the co-founder of, 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, Money Magazine, CNNMoney, MSNBC and Runner's World. See her work at or

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