Starting in March, the BendTech coworking space on SW Emkay Drive will make one of its private offices available at no charge to the founder of an early stage company.

The Startup Founders Office is meant to solidify ongoing efforts to make the coworking space a hub of startup activity, said Tim Riefke, executive director of the nonprofit organization that runs BendTech.

Close to a dozen startup founders already run their companies out of BendTech, which has 20 private offices and 46 desks in an open room, Riefke said.

The coworking space has hosted a startup resource fair and the unConference, an open pitch competition during the week of the Bend Venture Conference.

The office will be available for three-month stints. After that time, Startup Founders Office participants will be eligible for a 25 percent discount on coworking memberships.

Supporting an early stage company has been on BendTech’s wish list for a long time, Riefke said. “It’s been a matter of how to pay for it.”

In addition to the office space, which is worth $1,400 per month, the entrepreneur-in-residence will receive help from sponsors, which include St. Charles Health System, the accounting firm Price Fronk & Co., First Republic Bank, Economic Development of Central Oregon and the investor groups Portland Seed Fund, FoundersPad and Cascade Angels. The Innovation CoLab and Oregon State University-Cascades and Technology Association of Oregon are also sponsors.

“Our goal is to help connect entrepreneurs with resources and to ensure that exceptional ideas are provided the best opportunity to succeed,” Brian Vierra, venture catalyst at Economic Development of Central Oregon, said in an email.

EDCO will be represented on the committee that decides which companies are admitted into the program, he said.

BendTech is taking applications for the first three-month position through Feb. 22. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year.

Companies from any industry are eligible, but their business must have the potential to grow to a national or international scale, Riefke said.

BendTech is evolving as an organization. Riefke, formerly a volunteer board member, became the first full-time executive director last year.

BendTech also tweaked its coworking business model to meet demand for cheaper, shared desk space.

The coworking space, which has a waiting list, designated more of its desks as flex desks for $100 a month, instead of dedicated desks for $250 a month. As a result, membership more than doubled from 70 to more than 150, Riefke said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7860, kmclaughlin@bendbulletin.com

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