Tech entrepreneurs to tour Bend

Investors want them to bring their startups to Central Oregon

By Rachael Rees / The Bulletin

Published Mar 13, 2014 at 12:01AM

Two venture capitalists plan to wine and dine five tech entrepreneurs from the Bay Area, Portland and Seattle this weekend in Bend. Their mission: to convince those entrepreneurs to bring their startups to the High Desert.

Local investor Dino Vendetti and Silicon Valley investor Bruce Cleveland created a contest, the Big Bend Theory, in November to woo tech startups to Bend. They attracted about 30 applicants from as far away as Houston and Toronto.

On Friday, co-founders and spouses from the top three companies are scheduled to arrive. A fourth company dropped out. Two others, Seattle-based Vehicle and Portland-based Opal Labs, are expected to come in its place.

And if any entrepreneur chooses to relocate, Vendetti said, the company will be provided temporary office space and funding.

“The idea is to show each of those companies the awesomeness of building their business in Bend,” Vendetti said. “The goal of the weekend is to show them around, introduce them to the business community, introduce them to other tech entrepreneurs and especially just give them a good sense of what it would be like for them to build their business in Central Oregon.”

Several entrepreneurs said they want to know if Bend has a skilled workforce or would be an attractive place for recent graduates to live and work.

Matt Ramerman, co-founder and managing director of Vehicle — a mobile marketing and advertising platform — said he’s considering opening a satellite location in Bend.

“I grew up skiing at Bachelor for family vacations,” he said. “I’ve been long since hooked.”

Ramerman said he’s been doing some business in Bend for the last six months, has potential clients in the market, and Vehicle’s newly hired head of sales lives in Bend.

The company has also been working with two local investment funds, Seven Peaks Ventures and Cascade Angels Fund.

Whether or not Ramerman chooses to open an office in Bend depends on the available talent in Central Oregon, he said.

“Our company is based in Seattle, and talent (there) is extremely competitive for software developers,” he said.

Entrepreneur Eric Bahn recently sold his last startup and is considering operating his next company in Bend.

For Bahn, having an ample source of labor at his disposal is his biggest concern. Beyond that, he said, he wants to make sure his assumptions about the quality of life are valid and the amenities are comparable to what he enjoys in Silicon Valley today.

Bahn said entrepreneurs need Bend and Bend needs entrepreneurs.

“As great as Silicon Valley is, the cost of living is high,” he said, “and from an employer’s perspective, the labor market is actually very difficult to deal with because there doesn’t seem to be much loyalty anymore. There’s a lot of jumping happening between startups.”

In Bend, he said there’s more pressure from the city and the investment community to have the entrepreneurs succeed because Bend needs stories of entrepreneurial success to grow its reputation as a tech hub.

— Reporter: 541-617-7818,

rrees@bendbulletin.com