Jim Harrer


5 Great Startups in Bend, Oregon. A Startup Friendly City.

Bend Oregon EntrepreneurBend, 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 five startups in Bend, Oregon. All 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 5 great startups in Bend, Oregon.

JettStream, Inc. (http://JettStreamInc.com)JettStream-Logo-300pxl

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Breaking down the Investor Pitch

Our VentureBox founders have finished week 5 of our 12-week Venture Launch program. The pitches continue to get better each week.  Feedback is critical to the learning process, so after each pitch we give the founder a breakdown of what we've heard, what worked and what didn't.

TechStars, a popular high-tech accelerator, has a great video series called "This Week in TechStars". This past week they did a breakdown of Flixmaster's pitch.


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VentureBox–A business accelerator in Bend, Oregon.


VentureBox is a business accelerator in Bend, Oregon, where I live. Each accelerator is a little different, so let me give you some background.

Business accelerators are different than business incubators (which focus on product ideas) primarily because all of our founders already have a business concept and a basic “pitch” of what their business is and what problem it solves.   Last December (2011) we started with 37 businesses applying to VentureBox and through our vetting process we selected 7.  Most are all in the “Early Concept”, pre-revenue stage.  We have  high-tech web based SaaS products, a mobile app and one physical product in medical devices.  The VentureBox class meets every Wednesday from 3-8pm for a class and workshop.  Each week we teach, then have a workshop on what they just learned and apply it to their business concept.  Then they go home with homework and goals for the week.

The course runs for 12 weeks and concludes with an investor day where Angel Investors get to meet the companies and hear their pitch. The cost for each company to attend the course is $1,500  plus 2% founder equity. The business community in Bend, Oregon, was kind enough to step up and sponsor each of the 7 companies so none of the Founders had any out of pocket expenses to participant in the program.

VentureBox’s executive director is Jim Boeddeker (JimBo) who I met after the Bend Venture Conference last October. He is a servant leader, and coach, over a pool of past founders and local business leaders who make up the Mentor team. Not an easy job managing all of us type A personalities, but he makes it look easy.  The Mentor team is experienced and deep. It’s made up of Founders, Subject Matter Experts, creative and talented individuals who have a passion for startups.

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