Category Archives: Founder Q&A

Hip, Luxury Lipstick That’s Also Vegan? Yep, Meet Axiology 

As a long-time vegan, Ericka Rodriguez wasn’t pleased with her makeup options, especially when it came to lipstick. “There was no brand out there that represented what I wanted,” she says. “Nothing that was vegan was also hip or luxe and every time I put on a vegan, organic lipstick I didn’t get the result I wanted.”

Ericka began making her own lipstick in 2012, researching how to make lip balm and then adding color. “It became an obsession pretty quickly,” she says. “I was working at a juice bar in New York City and making lipstick before work and after work.”

She landed on a winning formula—and ultimately launched Axiology, a luxury vegan, organic lipstick company based here in Bend. The growing brand is now found in 90 boutiques, including Free People shops, around the country.

New to Bend, Personal Products Startup Zealios Targets Triathletes

Sometimes things just naturally go together, like peanut butter and jelly or puffy coats and shorts. For Zealios, a formerly Berkeley-based startup that recently relocated to Bend, it’s their line of personal products and triathletes. “The second we dipped our toe into the triathlete community, we started growing,” says Austin Britts, Zealios co-founder.

Britts and his co-founder, Kevin Fuller, started Zealios in 2009 in a quest to develop a better zinc-based sunscreen — one that  was water and sweat proof, lasted through workouts and didn’t turn your face white.

The pair were coworkers at a chemical trading company in Seattle, and they were intimately familiar with all the ingredients that go into skincare products, the good and the bad. “We wanted to create a product that performed really well and was really safe,” Britts says.

#50Startups: DIYcave Launches Makerspace

It’s not everyday that a drywall contractor, a woodwooker, and an Alaskan fisherman band together to launch a startup. DIY Cave, a new makerspace at the old Pakit Liquidators location in East Bend, is the result of hard work and focus from founders Aaron Leis, Dave Danek, and Tim Willis. DIY Cave is part of the growing do it yourself revolution by providing advice from experts, equipment, classes, and shop space to make all kinds of things.   Year Started: 2014 Leadership/Founders: Aaron Reis, Dave Danek, Tim Willis # of Employees: 4 Headquarters: 903 SE Armour Rd=&0=& Bend, OR Why a makerspace? DIYcave wants to create an environment in which ideas and expertise can be shared and everything from common problems to imaginative visions can be achieved. Our vision is based on a premise of self reliance, responsibility and sharing. The opportunities available at DIYcave are only limited to the imagination of the creator and proper execution. Our goal is to empower people to see their ideas through to a finished product by providing the tools and a safe environment, and by teaching people skills that may not otherwise have the chance to learn.   How did you join forces? Aaron: I was a maker in spirit since before there was a name for us, and I had been reading about makerspaces in Make Magazine. Realizing that I could either be the guy who points at someone else’s success and says “I had that idea five years ago” but never gets off the couch, or I could be the guy who does it. I chose the latter and began to research and collect data. I searched for other makerspaces in Bend and found nothing that fit the bill yet. I had tool lists, business concepts, even a layout of the possible shop floor. I heard through the grapevine that the old Pakit Liquidators building was being re-vamped and available to lease. That’s when I heard about the High Desert Makers and the Monday Night Meetup and I decided to check it out. I realized that this was the community that I was building my space for and wanted to make a good impression. Scot Brees, President of the High Desert Makers, connected me with Dave and Tim because we he felt we had similar goals, and the Maker Community here in Central Oregon is all very supportive of each other. We quickly found that Tim, Dave and I were best as a team. They had the social side of things covered, I had the physical side. Together we were able to pull off a considerable makerspace in a short time.   Tell us about opening day.. We had our grand opening on May 30th after several weeks of preparation with no idea what to expect. The list of firsts for us that day just goes on and on. When we opened our doors that morning we were pleasantly surprised when people started stepping through our door immediately, and the flow of people never stopped until the end. Our demos of shop equipment were well received, the feedback was positive, and our membership count increased. In the end, Tim, Dave and I were chatting and realized that we could focus on just making DIYcave an awesome makerspace now, and not the grand opening anymore. That was fulfilling and exhilarating at the same time. What about the name? Is it a play on “Man Cave” or a reference to all the caves in Central Oregon? Dave: It’s not a Man Cave at all. About half the people who walk in the door are women! We wanted to convey the idea that it’s a place to hang out – and it helped that all the social media and web addresses were available. What’s next?
Ideally, we will grow out of this space and open a bigger one in the future. Our dream is to build a successful makerspace model that can be replicated in other cities too.

#50startups: How Hydaway Won Kickstarter and What’s Next

Niki Singlaub travels a lot for work and wanted a water bottle that folded to fit into his pocket while going through airport security. Then he could pop it open and fill it up before boarding. But even after diving deep into the depths of Amazon (there’s things you can’t unsee people) Singlaub couldn’t find what he needed. So being a product designer by trade and an entrepreneur at heart, he made one.

As it turns out, Singlaub was onto something. His collapsible water bottle not only caught the attention of his friends and family, but he’s raised nearly $100,000 thanks to excited Kickstarter backers this month. And the campaign is still going. BendTECH sat down with Singlaub to discuss what goes into designing his collapsible water bottle called the Hydaway, and how he transformed his idea into a successful, nearing six-figure Kickstarter campaign.

#50startups: Party Gorilla Helps You Find the Fun

Alex Eakin, founder of Party Gorilla, has always traveled a lot for work. He often finds himself in new cities, looking for a restaurant or bar that offers a good vibe and lively crowd in addition to great food and drinks. Sure, there’s apps that review restaurants and others that tell you the nearest happy hour. But Eakin realized he wanted a real-time assessment of the fun being had at any given establishment. That idea was the beginning of Party Gorilla, an app that tells you where everyone is hanging out right now. BendTECH sat down with Eakin last week to learn more about Party Gorilla, what it does and … why a gorilla.

Startup: Party Gorilla
Founded:  2014
Leadership team: Alex Eakin, founder and CEO; Kyle Smeback, vp of UI/UX design; Sam Warfield, vp app development; Jameson Strocsher, vp of web development
Headquarters: Bend
Employees: 6

#50Startups: Symplmed, Working to Streamline Healthcare

Dealing with complicated healthcare logistics is a very common experience. One third of patients never fill prescriptions and about half don’t take their medicine as prescribed. The cost, convenience of going to the pharmacy, and concerns about side effects often get in the way.

One Bend-based startup is working to ease some of the pains that come with modern medicine. Symplmed works to reduce friction for patients and physicians dealing with chronic conditions like hypertension. They create new medicines, tools, and technology to simplify treatments – and deliver the prescriptions and equipment needed directly to manage care more efficiently.

BendTech sat down with CEO Erik Emerson to learn more about Symplmed and how they’ve created a combination of pharmaceuticals, a membership service, and a new technology platform to alleviate some of the pain points of managing certain medical conditions.

#50startups: Goodkid Foods Takes the Sugar Out of Snack Bars

Bart and Ashleigh Mitchell started Goodkid Foods out of sheer necessity: They were tired of feeding their kids crap. Sugary crap to be exact. The parents of two young kids found themselves relying on snack bars that often seemed more than like dessert than a healthy nosh between meals.

So Ashleigh began baking. She developed numerous recipes for healthy snack bars before landing on one that her kids devoured. That was 2011. Now you can find Goodkid bars in Nordstrom eBars, at Mt. Bachelor’s cash registers and even Whole Foods. BendTECH sat down with Bart Mitchell to learn more about the couple’s plans for their snack bar startup and to try a few Goodkid bars ourselves.

Startup: Goodkid Foods
Founders: Bart and Ashleigh Mitchell
Started: 2012
Headquarters: Bend

#50Startups: Better Firefighting Through Technology with Firewhat

On average more than 100,000 wildland fires burn 4 to 5 million acres a year in the United States. But FireWhat, a new startup in town, aims to limit some of that destruction by mapping fires, developing technologies to track responders, and ultimately make the fire fighting process more efficient.     Unless you are kicking it old school with a handwritten dead-tree map, most of the maps we use today on smartphones, computers, and even printed, are a result of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). We can use a GIS like Google Maps to find our way around, but there’s an advanced level of the field that can do much more. GIS basically makes the world a complex quilt of data that can be analyzed and put to good use in decision making and planning. BendTECH sat down with FireWhat CEO Sam Lanier to learn how they are applying GIS and expert-sourced information to improve fire fighting and why they’re expanding in Bend.   Startup: Firewhat Started: Jan 4th, 2011. =&0=&Sondra Suazo, Jeremy Orozco, Ryan Avila, and Sam Lanier =&1=&6 Fulltime Employees, and 4 Seasonal Staff. Preparing to add a few developers and administrative staff in the coming months. =&2=&Dunsmuir, CA, and a desk at the BendTech coworking space. We’re looking to expand operations in the coming months. =&3=& We’re a technology company that provides custom tools to map and track assets in and out of the field. We aim to correct the antiquated delivery of information to our nation’s first responders. =&4=&FireWhat came about after several road trips around the world. We all worked in different areas of Emergency Response throughout the Western United States and realized there had to be a better way to share information so the same mistakes weren’t repeated amongst responders. In 2011, the company made a major shift in development, and focused it’s attention on the need to provide better wildfire information to the public. We launched our first mobile application, a Google and WeatherUnderground-based app fed by our information. Then in 2013, we acquired the rights to, the largest database for expert-sourced wildfire info, and started our relationship with Esri. Our main goal is to geospatially enable wildfire data on the web so it can be used by anyone. Can you talk about your Esri partnership? Shortly after the purchase, we were fortunate to be selected as an Esri Startup Partner and began the rapid revamp with a full integration of Esri’s ArcGIS Online GIS platform. The online mapping platform provides measurable success in the wildfire community. =&5=&We garner revenue from a several places including ad space on, mobile application development, and contracts with the government for our GIS mobile labs for emergency response to natural disasters. We’re also contracting wildfire data distribution to other types of companies including media, weather and timber businesses. =&6=& Yes, FireWhat is in the process of starting its next round of financing. =&7=& Being based in Dunsmuir has been a godsend for the team. We are able to keep our costs way down. But to the contrary, we are limited on finding local tech developers. This is a big reason we are expanding our reach into Bend. How you making use of Unmanned Aerial Systems? We worked closely with our city to apply to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for permission to test unmanned aerial systems for wildland firefighting and search and rescue. Our request was approved last August. Now we’re working to partner with a UAS platform that flies at high elevation, for long periods, and has extended range. This is extremely important for our industry and will be an evolutionary change in wildfire management. =&8=& We are in a rapid growth phase. With growth comes increased demands on the team, and the need to raise additional capital to meet contract requirements. We’re working on technologies that speed the process of mapping emergency incidents with the use of GIS and looking forward expanding to Bend.