Bend Venture Conference

OMBA takes the Bend Venture Conference

The numbers have been crunched, the presentation decks prepared, and nerves are on high. Your carefully thought out idea is about to become reality…but only if you win. Welcome to the Bend Venture Conference.


As an MBA student in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship track, I expected to be provided with insights into the start-up world within a classroom context. But when I found myself, only three-weeks into my MBA program, traveling to Bend, Oregon for my first venture conference I realized that the Oregon MBA exceeds expectations.

A venture conference is an event where ideas turn into actions. A little research on the Bend Venture Conference (BVC) website led me to expect a multi-day entrepreneurship-focused event and close to $1 million in prize money. The start-up companies were broken into three categories of competition: Social Impact, Early Stage, and Growth Stage. 15 founders were going to pitch their start-up ideas to groups of investors. And I was going to be part of it.

After arriving at the Tower Theater in Bend, my classmates and I got settled in for the first round of competition: Social Impact. Here, companies were formed around the idea of helping others. We saw presentations centered around water conservation, fighting human sex trafficking, and blood-borne disease diagnostic tools. To round out this philanthropic group, Rebekah Bastian, the Vice President of Product at Zillow took the stage as the key note speaker. Bastian discussed how she is leveraging her role at the United States’ leading online real estate marketplace to help end homelessness.


The Early Stage competition kicked off Day Two. Here we saw six founders pitch their hopeful companies for three minutes each. Again, the company focuses varied. Anything from inner-tire suspension to rainwater collection systems to crowdsourcing apps could be found onstage. These new companies were competing for $15,000 and the vote was decided by the audience. I was amazed to know that my ballet could help the company I most believed in launch.


The Growth Stage competition rounded out the conference. The five companies were seeking seeding funding, typically in the amount of 1 million dollars. These companies – like Cartogram, Hubb, and Outdoor Project – have all been around for a few years and the founders were practiced presenters. The keynote speaker for Day Two was Loni Stark, the Senior Director of Strategy and Product Marketing at Adobe and the co-founder of Stark Insider, a West Coast media brand. Stark shared her thoughts on the significance of digital on customer experience and marketing.


As a future entrepreneur and hopeful starter-upper like myself, the face value of attending the BVC was obvious. It was a chance to see how entrepreneurs and investors were going to come together to bring the next big thing to market. I was able to learn impactful tips, like what to wear on stage, at what pace to speak, and how to stand while presenting. I was able to apply the business terms I have been learning in my MBA classes to a real-world application. But the most valuable lesson I learned at the BVC that it is always possible to turn your passion into your career.

There is little scarier than introducing yourself as a Master’s student specializing in innovation and entrepreneurship to a room of innovative entrepreneurs. There is a pressure to have that next million-dollar idea researched and ready. So when you don’t have it all figured out, it is easy to feel apprehensive. But the BVC showed me how to discover that million-dollar idea… Or at least where to start. Despite how varied the ideas presented on stage were, the theme was all the same: do what you love. Discover your passion and work within that space. And if no one is doing exactly what you want to, go out and build that company from the bottom up.

I had high expectations for the MBA program at the University of Oregon. But looking back at the connections made, ideas inspired, and knowledge grasped while attending the BVC with the classmates, I realize that the Oregon MBA is already exceeding expectations.


Written by Tess Meyer

Tess is a 2018 MBA in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship track. With a background in Psychology and experience managing extensive teams, she is passionate about driving human potential. Tess' aim is to enter career services where she can encourage sustainable career passion for clients and businesses alike. When she is not writing or studying, Tess can be found hiking, reading, or trying a new restaurant. Learn more on

Start-up Financing 101: Cash is King and Always Extend Your Runway

With Valentine’s Day coming up I felt I would try to spread the love and passion of business a little. The idea of starting your own business is such a romantic notion. Snuffing the system, being your own boss, working your behind off for what you’re passionate about, and creating something amazing and (hopefully) disruptive enough to make the world a better place! But then reality comes crashing down when you realize that in order to accomplish this you need money. Potentially a lot of money. Not many of us have the luxury of having a wealthy (and highly understanding) partner who can support us during our entrepreneurial endeavor or a nest egg that is able to be invested (or risked depending on your perspective). As much as I hate to admit it: Money makes the world go ‘round and it is even more imperative for start-ups.

As someone who would love to work for a start-up (or small yet rapidly growing company) and who is immersed in this world as an entrepreneurship MBA (trust me: it’s not an oxymoron) thinking about financing for such ventures is daunting. Luckily, I’m in Oregon which provides multiple opportunities to fight the ever shrinking runway of start-up finance. We have an extensive network of traditional funding paths. Oregon hosts many angel investment opportunities including the Bend Venture Conference, the Oregon Angel Fund, Angel Oregon, and the Willamette Angel Conference. We also have opportunities for seed stage investments with the Portland Seed Fund and the newly established UO Foundation Seed Fund. But there is a rapidly growing form of funding taking root and thriving in the Pacific Northwest!

Crowdfunding: the wave

According to a study done by the Crowd Data Center, Oregon ranked 4th in the best states for crowdfunding. Portland ranked 3rd for the top city while Seattle ranked 7th and San Francisco ranked 1st! I know San Francisco isn’t technically in the Pacific Northwest, but it is just a hop, skip, and jump away and is almost like an older, more experienced sibling when it comes to start-up financing. (Sand Hill Road, anyone?) Now I know what you are thinking…crowdfunding?!?! Yes. Crowdfunding. Changes to SEC regulations have allowed platforms such as Kickstarter, Kiva, Crowdfunder, and multiple others to tap into the pockets of the masses to help finance fledgling companies and products get off the ground. (Check out this Forbes article for more.) No longer do you have to be an accredited investor or give up thousands (potentially millions) of dollars to play a major part in the economic development of your community. After all, small businesses are a powerful driver in job creation. And if one is going to have a job, why not do something that speaks directly to and of you? Not everyone is an entrepreneur. But thanks to the great support shown through the success of crowdfunding, almost anyone can help an entrepreneur be that much closer to success.

Written by Jenny Palm

Jenny a current Oregon MBA and Graduate Teaching Fellow in the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. When she is not busy exploring how she can change the world, you can find her outside doing almost anything...especially finding that secret stash of powder on her skis! She has hopes to either help develop an awesome outdoor-oriented start-up or flex her organizational prowess in ski resort event operations.

The LCE at the BVC

Two weeks ago, students from the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship attended the 11th annual Bend Venture Conference. While there, we saw entrepreneurs from 11 unique companies pitch their business plans to compete for grant and investment funding.

On our way out east, we stopped for breakfast at the home of John Rosen, MBA ’72.  John was gracious enough to spend time getting to know each one of us, inviting us to share the interests, experiences and passions that brought us to Oregon and the MBA program.  His words of advice and encouragement were all the more valuable given his own impressive career as an innovator and entrepreneur in product technology.  John then gave us a tour of his beautiful cabin, which reflected the personal dedication, ingenuity and attention to detail that have made him a great business leader.  Best of all, we ended the tour at the zip line John had built on his property—proving that a harness, an incline, and a rush of wind can make a “respected businessman” and “mature grad students” inexplicably excited.

Sufficiently caffeinated and adrenaline-pumped, we continued our drive to Bend.  Of course we wouldn’t be very good business students if we didn’t capitalize (bad pun intended) on our opportunity to learn even more from a few of the many companies that call Bend home.  Over the course of the afternoon, we had interesting discussions with folks at Hydroflask, Kialoa Paddles, and Deschutes Brewery.

The conference began bright and early the next day at the Tower Theatre in downtown Bend. Five “concept stage” companies pitched anything from aquaponic food systems to veterinary vaccine licensing in front of a sold-out audience. Everyone was divided into smaller groups for lunch among various nearby restaurants, where we all got some valuable and more informal face time with other local entrepreneurs, investors and students.  I was personally impressed with the high level of collaboration and camaraderie that characterizes Bend’s unique startup “ecosystem” of “brew, bio, rec and tech.”  After pitches from six more “launch stage” companies, the day came to a close with the awards reception.  Just about $1 million in funding was awarded to several winning companies, based on votes from the audience and judges.    It was truly inspiring to be a part of the enthusiasm and support that the conference devotes to innovative thinking and creative vision. As students, I think we all benefited from seeing the different presentation styles, levels of preparedness and poise from each of the competing entrepreneurs.

We’re back in Eugene and have survived the busy weeks of midterms, looking forward to the next opportunity to learn more from the start-up world—and, of course, some more Duck victories on the field! 

Written by

A native of Atlanta, GA, Ally is pursuing dual degrees with the UO’s MBA and M.Arch programs. After studying architecture at the University of Virginia, she spent several years working and learning at a highly regarded hospitality design firm in Washington, D.C. She values any opportunity to apply creative problem solving, and believes that good design should be a standard for any venture, no matter the scale. After graduation, MacLean aspires to bring an entrepreneurial attitude to the architecture and urban development industries.

Entrepreneurship Club Hits the 2014 Bend Venture Conference

The entrepreneurial community of Bend Oregon proved itself to be alive and thriving the weekend of October 16 and 17 as business professionals flocked to the Bend Venture Conference (BVC). Between visiting highly successful local companies like Hydro Flask, Kialoa Paddles, Deschutes Brewery, and seeing the amazing startup companies competing for capital at the BVC, Chad Wiley and I (we’re the VP and president of the UO Entrepreneurship Club, respectively) got to see a fully supportive and connected community that values the determination and innovation of their entrepreneurs.

On Thursday, the day before the final competition, Chad and I accompanied 12 Oregon MBA students from the entrepreneurship track and Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship program manager Nathan Lillegard as they went on several site visits.

Bend’s outdoor recreational activities—kayaking, mountain climbing, skiing, running, biking, and more—play a huge role in the direction and environment of local business. At all three companies, a culture of sustainability and taking time to enjoy the outdoors was present and fully encouraged amongst employees. When the group arrived at Hydro Flask, our host had just gotten back from a run. Deschutes Brewery invests $20,000 every year in the Deschutes River watershed to make sure that the river is fit for water sports during the summer months, and Kialoa Paddles are designed to be the best possible paddles for specific types of boat racers and are tested thoroughly by employees before ever hitting the market.

At Hydro Flask, Lucas the marketing director discussed how the six-year-old company became successful by determining their target customers and building a brand focused on fulfilling the values of those customers. By refusing to compromise their brand through cutting costs in production or selling to retailers with unaligned values, Hydro Flask has proven their authenticity to core customers and created an evangelical following.

After an evening touring the production facility of Deschutes Brewery and sampling some of the newest additions and seasonal offerings off the brew list, the UO cohort prepared to attend the conference and see a day’s worth of pitches, speeches, networking, and awards. Starting at early check-in, the feeling at the conference was full of excitement. Professionals from all over the state of Oregon gathered to view new ideas and create a stronger network to promote business innovation.

During the first round of pitches, where concept-stage startups displayed a promising future of a diversified economy being built locally, attendees heard from individuals like the winning team Shannon & Jimmy Sbarra of Volcano Veggies. The venture promises to create hyper-localized organic produce across the country. By streamlining aquaponic technology, in which fish production fertilizes vegetable production in a closed loop ecosystem, Volcano Veggies wants to cut production costs and CO2 emissions of produce for anyone using their system. With the $10,000 prize, Shannon and Jimmy want to validate their business model by expanding current operations.

By the launch-stage round of pitches, the entire conference was buzzing. BVC had yet to really get started and still the audience had already seen six amazing concepts with enormous potential. Attendees had also heard from an inspirational keynote speaker. Steve Silwa, the former CEO of Insitu, an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) company located in The Gorge.  A literal rocket scientist, Silwa unexpectedly provided not only a logical approach to business but hilarious anecdotal evidence about how a little dash of luck is key to the success of any venture. He described how a team member created a code that stabilized aerial video by chance, just a couple of days before a surprise test from the US military that made Insitu’s UAV perform significantly better than the military’s own favorite, the Predator drone. This happenstance was instrumental in the success of the company and Silwa fully admitted that luck was on his side.

The first launch-stage pitch of the day competing for a grand prize of more than $250.000, Amplion Research, aims provides an easily navigable database to pharmaceutical companies to increase the success of their new product testing based on genetic biomarkers. The science and potential market of their product, is impressive, over $500,000,000 in annual revenue impressive. Another medical company,, the second pitch of the day, presented a solution to combat a problem that everyone faces, long waits for professional medical care. allows patients to interact with their care providers through a survey of typical symptoms to diagnose everything from earaches to stomach flu without the days of waiting in discomfort.

Third in line, Crowd Street, democratizes industrial real estate projects through crowdfunding and makes investment in those projects easier than ever for accredited investors. Currently, only 3 percent of accredited investors have real estate in their portfolio despite it currently being one of the most desirable securities on the market. Fourth, Homeschool, a winter sports apparel company from Portland, proved that they were nothing more than dead serious about disrupting the current market. Over the last year the company experienced 100% growth and have produced apparel rated far above their larger counterparts like North Face, Columbia, and Volcom. Last up to the stage was Poached. The website aims to ease the pain of over 80 percent employee turnover in the restaurant industry. By filling in the gap between professional hiring websites like and more general sites like Craigslist, has already become a favorite tool for HR in the Portland restaurant industry and is being used by heavy hitters like Panera Bread and Starbucks.

Amplion proved to be the champion of the day winning $250,000 and Poached followed with a check of $100,000. Overall, every business proved to be well chosen to pitch in front of the crowd and looked to have plenty of opportunity in the near future. Before the awards ceremony, no one could pick a guaranteed front runner. Besides the official BVC prizes, over $550,000 in venture capital was awarded to both concept and launch stage ventures. The conference this year blew previous Oregon venture competitions records out of the water with near $1,000,000 given to entrepreneurs from the community.

At the end of the day, I sat convinced that Oregon’s commitment to new ventures and the community behind that commitment is stronger than ever. The Bend Venture Conference shows only a sliver of the small businesses around today but displays the larger more diversified economy in the state’s future.

— Jordan G. Johnson ’15


Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.

Bend Venture Conference

Going to the Bend Venture Conference as a first-year MBA was an incredible opportunity. Watching real startup companies pitch real ideas to investors definitely solidifies the experiential learning that the Lundquist College of Business is known for. The most advantageous part, though, was getting to network with some of the most prestigious people in the entrepreneurship world, like keynote speaker Steve Blank. It was truly an incredible experience, and I will definitely go again next year. (Omar Ellis, Class of 2015)

Congratulations to BVC 2013 winners Nouvola! Past winners of BVC include Sonivate Medical (2012), RES Enquine (2011), Manzama (2010), Jama (2008) and Elemental (2007).


In addition to the Bend Venture Conference, first- and second-year Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship students had an incredible opportunity to meet and network with University of Oregon alums from the Bend area. As we begin our professional careers it is so important to gain experience in speaking with other professionals and learning from them. A big thank you to the office of development and external relations for allowing us to be a part of this event.



Written by lloepp

Lauren is an MBA Candidate in the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. She is a native Oregonian who came to the Oregon MBA after receiving a BS in Psychology from Linfield College and working in business development at an Oregon Research and Development company. She plans to work with businesses in organizational behavior and culture to manage organizational change.

Finding Inspiration at the Bend Venture Conference

A few weeks ago I attended the Bend Venture Conference for the second year in a row.  I first attended as a newly-admitted student to the Lundquist College of Business who was intrigued by entrepreneurship, but not quite sure what it was. I signed up for the trip through the Entrepreneurship Club in the hopes of learning more about what it meant to own my own business.  I was amazed by what I saw at the conference, and after going I knew without a doubt I wanted to be an entrepreneur.

The BVC is a prestigious competition where start-up companies pitch their businesses to a group of investors in the hopes of attaining the winning prize of $265 thousand.  However, these businesses are not your run-of-the-mill mom and pop stores.  They are companies leading the way in cutting edge technology, medical care, and inventions.  At the conference we heard from the 2007 winner who owns a software company that enables streaming video for applications and online channels.  In 2007 his company had seven employees and $0 revenue.  This past year his company was in charge of every online streaming video for the 2012 Summer Olympics on behalf of NBC.  He will be adding $22 million in revenue to the $33 million they have already made.

Not only do you get to watch these amazing entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to investors, but as attendees you are invited to an exclusive networking reception where you can have one-on-one conversations with business owners, investors, and entrepreneurs.  One of the attendees this year was keynote speaker Daymond John, creator of FUBU clothing and one of the judges on the popular TV show Shark Tank.

It truly is an amazing experience to see these successful start-ups pushing the boundaries of how we define entrepreneurship.  And, it is an amazing opportunity to grow your professional network.  I would encourage anyone interested in the exciting challenges of being an entrepreneur to attend this conference.

–Brittany Lundberg
Marketing Officer
Entrepreneurship Club

Written by Andrew White

Andrew is an MBA Candidate in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. A native of Massachusetts, he came to UO to refine his business skills and build his expertise in the sustainability arena. His primary interest is in helping organizations implement environmentally and socially sustainable strategies for long-term success, and he is a regular participant on many of the MBA intramural sports teams.

OregonMBA Entrepreneurs Attend Bend Venture Conference

Last Thursday, six MBAs from the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship (LCE) headed east to attend the Bend Venture Conference. After a beautiful drive over the Cascades with a brief rest stop and photo op, we arrived in Bend, one of Oregon’s coolest cities and home to a vibrant and growing startup scene. The festivities began with the “unConference”, a jovial gathering of conference attendees at the Oxford Hotel. We primed ourselves for the next day’s activities by mingling with friendly folks, and ended the evening with karaoke… easily the greatest “get-to-know-you” activity in the history of social mixers!

I’ve recently started keeping a mini-blog on Google+, and if you find any of my ramblings interesting I’d encourage you to ‘circle’ me. Accordingly, I live-blogged much of the conference. Below is pretty much a ‘play-by-play’ of the conference presentations with links to many of the companies’ websites. From biotech firms to ‘socially-oriented groupons’ and clean energy solutions, we were introduced to an inspired and eclectic group of promising entrepreneurs. On the drive home, we promised each other that at least one of our group will make it to the stage next year. Another engaging and enthusiastic outing for the LCE!

rallycause… Kickstarter meets Yelp. An elegant concept. Their concept lets you vote with your money for the things you believe in. It’s sort of like a groupon, but instead of savings you make a contribution with your purchase.

Element 1… A group that’s providing hydrogen generators to fuel-cell integrators with an early target market to cell phone tower backup power systems. Very cool!

Really enjoying these pitches at the Bend Venture Conference! Next up, ‘Intelligent Power‘… Providing energy management control that helps supermarkets save on their energy bills. Simple concept with a juicy, little piece of technology at its core. Save money. Save energy… Save…

Classmate +Derek Schloss thinks the winner is… JettStream – a superior treatment delivery system for children with asthma. Emotional and compelling presentation!

Okay, now I’m calling the winner… Sonivate – disruptive, proprietary, FDA-cleared medical imaging technology that address critical needs in the $5B ultrasound market. +Kyle Spradling agrees, so I must be right!

Daymond John, founder of FUBU and angel investor on Shark Tank, shares his wisdom… Amazing to reach a point at age 34 that folks will pay to hear it!

Really cool to hear the stories from some of the companies that have previously won at the BVC. Brett Mills is the cowboy CEO of last year’s winner, RES Equine Products. A true pleasure to hear his journey!

–Jonathan Evans, MBA ’14

Written by Andrew White

Andrew is an MBA Candidate in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. A native of Massachusetts, he came to UO to refine his business skills and build his expertise in the sustainability arena. His primary interest is in helping organizations implement environmentally and socially sustainable strategies for long-term success, and he is a regular participant on many of the MBA intramural sports teams.

Bend Venture Conference

The Innovation and Entrepreneurship track at the Oregon MBA went on its first field trip to the 8th Annual Bend Venture Conference. Bend is in Central Oregon, about 3.5 hours east of Eugene on the other side of the Cascade mountains. With a population of around 80,000, Bend has grown about 150% since 2000. It’s known for its extreme weather relative to the Willamette Valley and Portland, with the Cascade range due west and the desert just to the east of it. It’s a gorgeous town with a lot of charm, all kinds of natural activities, and killer beer.

The conference itself was a blast. The event was split into two parts, a Thursday night reception and an all-day Friday event. The reception was at the Broken Top Country Club, which offered a scenic venue and a great introduction to Bend. With the open bar and snacks powering me, I went from group to group and chatted the night away, distributing and collecting business cards along the way.

The second day, however, is where all of the meat was (both literally and figuratively). More of a presentational format and less about networking, we were introduced to five companies competing for a large amount of funding, and also a handful of other “concept” companies that competed for a concept prize as well. I’m pretty sure that all of the students that came on this trip each made mental decisions on who they liked for each division. For me personally, the thing that stood out the most was the emphasis on intellectual property. Does it really take over 2 or 3 years to file for a patent? That’s pretty crazy.

The winner of the concept prize (AudioName) was announced just slightly after the last presentation, and the winner of the funding prize (RES Equine Products, Inc.) was announced at a reception in the building just next to the theater where the presentations were held. Each winner was awarded a novelty-sized check, which we agreed was motivation to compete in future events.

It was a great experience and an opportunity for the first years in our track to get to know each other better as classmates, friends and life-long cornerstones in each others’ networks. I very much look forward to the next trip!

– Paul S. Chun, MBA ’13
Lundquist Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.