Bend software maker LeadMethod walked away from the Bend Venture Conference on Friday with four checks totaling $500,000 and plans to nearly double the size of the company in the next six months.
“This is part of a much larger round,” founder and CEO Justin Johnson said.
Larger investments will be announced in early November, around the same time the company moves into a larger office in the MillPoint building, he said. He expects to grow the company from 12 employees to 20 over the next six months as LeadMethod increases sales to global industrial manufacturing companies and rolls out a new product aimed at those companies’ distribution partners.
LeadMethod won the largest investment available from the Bend Venture Conference Fund LLC, but the money came from several sources. That was characteristic of the 14th BVC, which saw a record year for the number of investors who contributed to the BVC investment funds, and which cut more checks than last year, said Brian Vierra, venture catalyst with Economic Development for Central Oregon, the BVC organizer. Various funds at the event awarded a total of $1.65 million.
As in past years, the BVC’s own venture funds were eclipsed by outside investors, but Vierra said the BVC investors continue to drive the process. “They were the tip of the spear,” he said.
The total awarded this year fell short of 2016, when investors announced $3.9 million and put BVC on the map as one of the largest investor conferences in the Pacific Northwest. The investor totals can be deceiving, however, as about $2 million announced last year by BVC winner Hubb, of Portland, had been arranged well before the event, said Jim Huston, managing director of the Portland Seed Fund, which is one of the investors in LeadMethod at $50,000.
The Portland Seed Fund also backed Handful, a Tigard active apparel company that landed the secondary BVC prize, plus a $250,000 award from a coalition of venture capitalists for an event total of $400,000.
Vierra said he’s measuring the BVC’s success on several fronts, including the number of companies funded, which he said is comparable to last year. “You’re not going to hockey-stick up,” he said. “We’re looking at how the event impacts over a period of time.”
Business Oregon, a state-backed entity that makes revenue-based loans, was also a major source of funding this year. The agency announced $760,000 in awards to three growth-stage finalists (Drone Complier, of Portland, LeadMethod and InvestiPro, of Bend), an early-stage finalist (Voila, of Bend) and a growth-stage semi-finalist, Levrum, of Corvallis. The fact that Levrum, which makes a program to more efficiently deploy emergency services, never made it to the BVC stage but still walked away with a big check shows that it pays to apply to the competition, said Tom Schnell, business finance officer with Business Oregon.
The conference includes two more categories of competition, one for companies with a social-impact mission and one for early-stage companies with a presence in Central Oregon.
The BVC’s social-impact fund will invest at least $110,000 in Green Theme International, a Portland company that promises to eliminate harmful chemicals from the process of finishing water-repellent fabrics. As with the top growth-stage award, the $110,000 social-impact award could be an even larger figure as investors finalize their commitments, Vierra said.
BladeRunner Energy, of Bend, won the Early-Stage competition, where the prize was a $17,500 cash grant. Founder Paul Vosbeek said the company will use the money to deploy its prototype locally. The system is designed to harness the energy of flowing water, so streams or irrigation canals can be used in place of diesel generators to power pumps, Chief Technology Officer Moriel Arango said. Arango said he moved to Bend to be closer to his mother, who happens to be the CEO of another local startup, OnBoard Dynamics.
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