The growing geographic reach of the Bend Venture Conference was on display Friday as companies from Portland, Scottsdale and Seattle earned $1.87 million in investments.
The big winner at the 15th annual conference was Talkoot, a software company founded by Hood River product description writer Brian Hennessy, who landed close to $1.14 million from four different sources. The largest single investment came from Seven Peaks Ventures of Bend. Talkoot, which landed $135,000 from the local angel investing fund BVC, LLC, also rounded up money from the Cascade Angels Fund and Elevate Capital of Portland.
“I met them three days ago, and in 10 minutes I knew I was going to make an investment,” said Nitin Rai, managing director of Elevate Capital, which invested $300,000.
Hennessy said he began working on the software, which manages workflow for content writers and their clients because e-commerce was exploding and traditional methods couldn’t keep up with demand, which had grown from 3,000 product descriptions to 35,000. His clients were threatened with lawsuits over the product language on their sites, he said. “My business is going to go under if I don’t solve this problem.”
Hennessy said Talkoot, whose users include Adidas and Reebok, will use the investments to hire a sales force.
The BVC, LLC, a Bend-based angel fund that originated the conference, will also invest $100,000 in CommLoan, Inc. of Scottsdale, Arizona, which has created a commercial real estate finance marketplace.
Cascade Angels will invest $200,000 in Stabilitas, a Seattle company with an artificial intelligence-driven system that generates alerts for security teams.
Nicola Iotti, co-founder of conference finalist Caligoo, moved to Bend from Italy in August with is wife and two children. Caligoo, which will receive a $250,000 investment from Seven Peaks, was recruited by the Bend venture fund, managing director Dino Vendetti said.
Iotti said Caligoo’s research and development team will remain in Italy while he builds the company’s presence in the United States. The company’s software allows consumer brands to merge information about their potential customers’ physical location with data from their online activity.
While the large investments go to companies with a history of generating revenue, the conference’s Early Stage competition draws a large pool of contenders from the startup world. This was the first year the Early Stage competition was open to companies outside of Bend, and a $20,000 investment from the Portland Seed Fund went to Pl’over Inc., a Portland car wash startup that’s using computer vision and robotics to clean cars using only steam and water, rather than chemicals.
LuDela, a Bend company using smart technology to create a live-flame candle, landed a $2,500 cash grant, which was decided by audience vote.
The conference has also added a third category for companies with a social or environmental mission. OCO Corp. of Vida, which converts carbon dioxide generated by power plants in a useful chemical, formic acid, was awarded $100,000.
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