By Julie Harrelson, Fund Manager for Cascade Angels

I was in Kansas City last week representing Oregon at the Kauffman Foundation ESHIP Summit with 430 entrepreneurial community builders including entrepreneurs, investors, educators, government and civic leaders, and economic developers from 48 states and 10 countries. The mission: share best practices to develop and design new knowledge, strategies and tools that will help move entrepreneurial communities/ecosystems forward. Stoked to be with a diverse group of like-minded ecosystem builders, I wanted to share some of my insights.

The Oregon contingent: Julie with Dwayne Johnson, Heather Stafford, Katherine Krajnak and Rick Turoczy

Here are my 7 takeaways from an inspiring conference: 

  • Collaboration is key. Bend specifically and Oregon generally are in the game on building an ecosystem with a collaborative approach across the state and region. Let’s keep this going!
  • According to Brad Feld, angel funds are key to ecosystems because it is important to free up local, community wealth to ensure entrepreneurs can raise the critical first $2M. His term for this is “for profit-philanthropy.”
  • While there is an increased interest in entrepreneurialism, we are in the midst of a 30-year decline in entrepreneurship. To reverse this, we must put the entrepreneur front and center and get them resources to build and scale successful companies.
  • Community conversations are key. Bend is lucky to have, Innovation Day, EDCO Pubtalks, Opportunity Knocks, and a million other efforts taking place #inbend!
  • Ecosystem builders, those who “connect, empower, and collaborate with others to build the whole system” can accelerate the success of a community. It’s a real job.
  • Certain groups are consistently underrepresented in the entrepreneurial community. When that is the case, fewer opportunities and jobs are created. Let’s ask different questions and be open to change.
  • Building ecosystems that are sustainable is hard work. We need to take care of ourselves and each other.

Although we were in Kansas, I left the conference thinking that, with regard to traditional ways of doing business, “we’re not in Kansas anymore.” We have increased confidence that we can innovate our way through challenges and opportunities to increase economic prosperity and a “new American dream that is accessible to us all.”

We got this.

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