Startup Communities and the Bend Venture Conference


By Robert Pease, Practice Lead, Pipeline Performance for Heinz Marketing

Over the last couple of years, I have been spending more and more time in Bend, Oregon. What started as going there for fun (and there is plenty of it– from mountain biking to skiing to more craft breweries than I can count) has led to learning about the business community. including startups and entrepreneurial activity.

Several years ago, I was introduced to LeadMethod and CEO/founder Justin Johnson. They are a Bend, OR-based software company that helps manufacturers who sell through distributors, improve lead management, reporting, and sales conversion rates. I am a formal advisor there and have been incredibly impressed with their success and the support from the community.

Last week I attended the 13th annual Bend Venture Conference that awarded almost $4 million to a diverse set of companies, both based in Bend, and from around the region. You can read more about the event on awesome local blog Startup Bend. I was fortunate to be part of the selection committee this year for the Growth Stage companies and was very impressed with the people, process, and companies.

The big winner was Hubb which offers a software platform for event management focused on dealing with the content woes any event producer experiences– scheduling changes, speakers, presentations, etc.   RFPIO also received an investment for their software platform that automates the request for proposal process, adding intelligence along the way. There were also Early Stage and Social Impact categories at the event.

It’s great to see entrepreneurship thriving like this and a community coming together to provide the environment for it. Initiatives like Steve Case’s “Rise of the Rest” highlight how high growth companies can happen in places other than the Bay Area, Seattle, and New York– and Bend is proof of that. With investment groups like Seven Peaks Ventures and Cascade Angels based in Bend and the expansion of the Oregon State University campus there, more and more building blocks are in place for a thriving startup community. You can read more about startup communities in the appropriately titled “Startup Communities” written by Boulder-based venture capitalist Brad Feld.