Bend, Oregon, is a great place for entrepreneurs. Located in the center of the state, east of the cascade mountain range which provides year-round recreational activities (snow skiing, hiking, fishing and mountain biking) and collects most of the rainfall Oregon is known for. For example, Bend averages just 11.4 inches of rainfall each year and records 295 days of sun shine. This is far better than Portland's 43.5 inches of rain and 200 days of blue skies. The pure beauty of the area, pleasant weather, and year-round activities make it a great place to live. The friendliness of the people in the community make it the best place I’ve ever lived.
I’m not alone, about 76,000 people agree. What many people don’t know is, Bend has an active mentor community filled with successful executives from every industry. Technology, medical, oil & gas, education, legal, software, fashion, film, theatre and sports, just to name a few. We have a lot of 50 “something” retirees who live in the area, looking for worthy startups to mentor. This past saturday I met a retired Navy SEAL commander who is volunteering his time to help as a project manager. "Failure is not an option" has a totally different meaning for him. He's impressive and so are all of the other mentors I have come to meet and now call friends.
With the help of EDCO and the leadership of Roger Lee and Jim Coonan, we’re starting to see these mentors organize. It started as an excel spreadsheet of local “Stable of Experts”, a list of people who are willing to help entrepreneurs in the area, often for no-charge. Now we have our Bend Venture Conference and the VentureBox business accelerator joining the ecosystem.
Recently, I had the pleasure of working with six startups in Bend, Oregon. Five were in our VentureBox business accelerator program. We met each Wednesday (3pm-8pm), for 12 straight weeks. The founders, working with local mentors develop their business strategy using customer development and other lean startup principles. These companies have taken off and are now seeking business and strategic partners, customers (beta testers and early adopters) and angel investors.
Here are 6 great startups in Bend, Oregon.
JettStream, Inc. (http://JettStreamInc.com)
JettStream helps children who suffer from moderate to severe cases of asthma. It does this by working with existing medical devices on the market to facilitate the delivery of nebulized medication to the child, while they’re sleeping. The JettStream product ensures the medication is delivered as directed by the pediatrician. It’s hands-free and does not require a mask to be placed on the child, allowing them to sleep, taking slow, deep, breathes. Studies have shown this maximizes the success of the prescription medication. JettStream has filed for their patent, and only requires a class 1 registration with the FDA, which they plan to receive within the next 30 days. JettStream is an add-on to the existing 10 million nebulizer air-compressors in the U.S. and will retail for around $200.00 The CDC estimates approximately 1.3 million new cases of childhood asthma are diagnosed each year. Therefore, the market potential is substantial. Bend, Oregon, has a vibrant medical community with Bend Research, a world class medical research and testing facility, Bend Memorial Clinic and St. Charles Hospital. Each of these organizations has offered time and expertise to help JettStream with their mission to help asthmatic children.
CiviData, LLC (http://CiviData.com)
CiviData helps local government service providers compare utility rates and other fees to see how they stack-up with other cities their same size. Have you ever wondered how they come up with the price for parking tickets, dog licenses, airport parking lot charges or your water rates? CiviData is the first SaaS application of its kind and is transforming how local government service providers analyze and compare their operations to either defend their rates or justify rate increases. CiviData saves cities time and the expense of creating one-off reports annually. In a time when cities can’t afford to add head count, CiviData takes a laborious task and simplifies it, allowing city workers to focus on other projects. The application is sold on a per-seat license and can easily become an industry standard in city government, used by tens of thousands of people who work in, for and with city government. The technology is built, and data is being gathered and rolled out. If you work with city government, CiviData is worth looking into.
RallyCause, LLC (http://RallyCause.com)
RallyCause builds a marketplace of local businesses and local causes. For example, say your high school band is invited to play in the Rose Parade in California, but you need to raise $15,000 to send them. People sign-up and register the cause on RallyCause’s mobile application. Next, local merchants get in the act. They make offers, such as 15% of your entire purchase will go to the cause. When you shop at that merchant, you pay the normal price, but the cause receives a bounty. Pretty cool idea. This can be used by schools and other organizations , and it helps create a connection between local businesses and local causes. RallyCause has the ability to disrupt Groupon and other local coupon sites because both the merchant and the sponsors of the cause will be promoting the use of the application. It’s a win-win.
Dr. Rick Cuddihy is working on a solution to better inform parents before, during and after their child’s doctor’s appointment . As parents, we all know how scary it is when our kids get sick. In this information age, Dr. Cuddihy is working on improving the information by creating custom video blogs containing relevant and useful information around the specific diagnosis. Parents will have the opportunity to prepare and educate themselves before their appointment, receive relevant information while in the waiting room and a recap of the key takeaways once they get home, reminding them what the doctor said. This is all designed to improve doctor-parent-patient communication. It’s a very cool idea and Dr. Rick’s style and approachability comes through in his videos, making it a winner.
Good Peeple, Inc.
Good Peeple engages your Facebook friends to help you find the best local service providers (gardeners, painters, dentists, etc.) in your area. Whether you're looking for a new doctor, contractor, day spa, or mechanic, you should trust your friends more than review sites. Good Peeple lets your friends give you trusted recommendations for businesses that they depend on. It’s a great way for service providers to engage their customers and build a social graph with their customer’s friends.
OwnersAsk, LLC (http://OwnersAsk.com)
OwnersAsk relies on customer's smart phones to give small business owners real-time customer feedback, usally while they're still in their business. Taking advantage of Quick Response (QR) codes, business owners simply visit OwnersAsk and sign-up. Within 5 minutes they're downloading an unique QR code which they can place around their business. (Check out these QR Code Examples). Customers are given the opportunity to win gift cards and other prizes simply by using their smartphone and a free QR reader to register their feedback and comment on their experience. OwnersAsk is targeting hospitality and foodservice professionals (fast food, bars, hotels, convenience stores, grocery stores) first, but it can easily expand to any business that wants to track customer feedback.. The real gem of the OwnersAsk platform is the registration system for managing the monthly drawings. OwnersAsk uses Facebook's registration client to allow customers a one-click experience giving business owners the ability to connect with their customers. Customers opt-in for the drawing which OwnersAsk manages, including name, email address and their profile photo. Business owners receive feedback, connect with customers and can now offer future promotions. Bars, resturants and fast food owners will immediately see the benefit of this application.
Bend, Oregon – An Entrepreneurial City
As promised, these are six great startups in Bend, Oregon. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m bias because I have worked with these companies and continue to help out as time permits.
Bend, Oregon, has less noise than Silicon Valley and can attract talent because people want to live and play here.
As more and more business executives, entrepreneurs, startups, angel investors, business journalist and venture capitalist visit Bend, and surrounding areas like Sunriver, Oregon, I believe Bend will become more and more popular. The one thing the area lacks is a regional VC or Seed fund so these entrepreneurs can focus all of their time on their startups without worrying about feeding their families.
If you’re an angel investor, or run a fund, and want to put a little money to work to help us grow our startup ecosystem, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me via the contact us form. We have the mentors, if we can add the seed funding and provide a fully equipped office with basic services, we could do so much more.
If you know of other startups in Bend, Oregon or Central Oregon, please use the comment section below and let me know. I'd love the opportunity to meet other entrepreneurs in the area.