Kathleen McLaughlin
The Bulletin

The Bend Venture Conference is known as an opportunity for Oregon entrepreneurs, but the investing side of the event might get more attention now that it has three payouts in its 12-year history.

The BVC’s host, Economic Development for Central Oregon, announced this week that investors in the 2016 Bend Venture Conference fund have cashed out their stake in RFPIO, a Beaverton software company that landed $25 million from a California private equity firm. RFPIO, which makes software that helps companies respond to requests for proposals, is the third BVC winner to bring a return on investment.

Terms of the payout are confidential, but Brian Vierra, venture catalyst at EDCO, boasted that the BVC’s investor funds have one of the best track records in the world of angel investing. Angels are high-net-worth or high-income individuals who invest to help entrepreneurs get their companies off the ground.

Someone investing in every BVC fund since the event began in 2006 would have received a cash return of four times the initial investment, Vierra said.

The average return for angel funds across the country is two times the original investment, he said. Earlier this summer, BVC investors cashed out of Jama Software, a 2008 conference winner that landed $200 million in venture capital.

The first company to bring a return on investment was Elemental Software, which won the conference in 2007 and was acquired by Amazon Web Services in 2015.

With a minimum investment of $7,500, the BVC fund offers a way for less-experienced investors to see how companies are evaluated and participate in portfolio selections, said Doug Layman, a Bend angel investor.

“If they want the opportunity to get a big return, the BVC has all that,” he said. “Of course it’s really risky. The return could be zero.”

Layman invested in the BVC in 2016, when the fund awarded $100,000 to RFPIO.

“The CEO was really dynamic,” said Layman, who helped evaluate the company, led by CEO Ganesh Shankar. “I remember they had a solid business plan and a good business model.”

To see a return after less than two years is unusual, said Robert Pease, another Bend angel investor who participated in the 2016 fund and evaluated RFPIO. Seed investments usually take five to eight years, or more, to bring a return, he said.

A new BVC fund worth $150,000 to $350,000 is created each year. With parallel investments by independent angel investors and venture capital firms, the October conference has brought in more than $4 million in the past. The BVC fund is open only to accredited investors, who, by U.S. law, must have a net worth of at least $1 million, excluding the value of one’s primary residence, or income of at least $200,000 in each of the last two years.

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