By Rachael Rees
Several Bend organizations that share a mission of developing tech startups hope to soon share an office that will allow them to improve their connections.
“We want to be the space for startups,” said James Gentes, president of Tech Alliance of Central Oregon — a nonprofit dedicated to helping tech companies get off the ground. “It’s going to be Central Oregon’s startup community in a physical location.”
The plan calls for moving TechSpace Bend, a co-working office; FoundersPad, a business incubator; and possibly Seven Peaks Ventures, a venture capital fund, under one roof: the former home of the Deschutes National Forest Supervisors Office in southwest Bend.
An investor, whom Gentes would not identify, is buying the building at 1001 S.W. Emkay Drive and has agreed to lease 7,000 square feet to the tech group.
The plan calls for 20 offices, 32 desks, three conference rooms and an event area. The building totals 26,000 square feet. The additional space is expected to be filled with other tech companies, as well as a cafe.
The initiative coincides with Central Oregon’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem, which has received national publicity and includes the Bend Venture Conference and Startup Weekend events.
The need for more room at TechSpace Bend, the offices for technology professionals operated by the Tech Alliance, fueled the decision. The 4,000-square-foot building on Northwest Greenwood Avenue houses 19 companies and is at capacity, Gentes said.
“We wanted to find a way to expand our footprint, and we found someone who is willing to take a risk and invest on us,” Gentes said. The investor is “fronting the cost of building the new space for us, exactly how we designed it, which is pretty amazing.”
The alliance also wants to raise $80,000 through sponsorships, donations and memberships to pay for office furniture and other equipment for the new location.
Gentes anticipates prices to rent a desk and office will increase about 20 percent at the new location because of the additional value from new amenities. Per month, the current cost is $175 to rent a desk and $450 to rent an office. The new location will also offer a drop-in program for those who do not need an office every day. The Tech Alliance hopes to open similar workspaces in Sisters and Redmond.
Along with a new location, Gentes said, TechSpace Bend plans to change its name to BendTech and expand its offerings.
The goal is to not only create a space for tech companies to collaborate, but also provide educational opportunities and access to investment capital, Gentes said.
Dino Vendetti, who launched Seven Peaks and co-founded FoundersPad, said similar tech hubs are in other entrepreneurial hot spots such as Las Vegas, Boulder, Colo., and Salt Lake City.
“It’s the next point of progress that needs to be made,” Vendetti said.