This week Bend startups are just doing their thing, which is apparently winning money. It was the same story, different venue Wednesday night at the Bend Outdoor Worx Venture Out Festival, the first venture conference dedicated to outdoor companies.

Will Warne, founder of KidRunner, won $10,000 Breakout Award for his startup, which actually revolutionizing the kid jogger industry. It’s a pull-behind-you running stroller. Will pitched KidRunner on the Bend Venture Conference early stage two years ago, and it was especially sweet to see his product, now available for sale, in real life and a big old check in his hands.

It’s big check season.

Also because it’s important to know: Professional runner and Bendite Max King, ran 5-minute miles pulling his toddler age daughter in one of the first Kidrunner prototypes.

Then we have Matt Smith, founder of Tribe Pilot, continuing his hot streak in pursuit of venture conference hat trick. Matt won the $2,500 first prize at the BendTECH unConference on Tuesday. On Wednesday he was back on stage, pitching his group travel and adventure planning app to a lively crowd. They voted him winner of the first-ever Rec Tech category. He’ll be on stage once more Friday, pitching for the Bend Venture Conference $17,500 early stage prize.

Matt Smith, Tribe Pilot founder, and the emails it takes to plan group trips.

Kimberley Kinney, founder of Bend-based Rugged Thread, pitched in the Ready-to-Roll category. Her business offers gear and garment repair to outdoor companies, retailers and individuals. She’s ready to scale the model, hopefully nationwide, and keep a lot of great gear out of landfills. Her pitched earned $75,000 in debt funding from Business Oregon.

Kim Kinney, with Rugged Thread, on the repair opportunity.

Mountain Mel’s, maker of herbal and natural products such as tea and bug spray, also snagged $25,000 in Business Oregon funding. Unrelated: Zilaida Salgueiro, founder of Locals Compass, won her second raffle OF THE DAY at Venture Out. That was after winning $1,500 at the unConf the day before. After the Venture Out Festival, she was going to buy a lottery ticket. We’ll report back.

Did you hear the ruckus in the balcony? It was Z #winning.

BOW founder Gary Bracelin wasn’t on stage, but it was lovely to see him get some well-deserved love and applause for his hard work in supporting and elevating Central Oregon’s outdoor industry. Gary envisioned and then helped found BOW, which is an accelerator program for outdoor startups. The organization’s alumni already include an impressive bunch of companies including Cairn, Zealios, Free Range Backpacks, The Robert Axle Project and more.

It was a fun night of inspiring entrepreneurs and great pitches. There was beer and a mac and cheese bar, so even if you didn’t win any money, you basically won. Congratulations to all who presented. Looking forward to see your ideas launch and companies take flight.


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