By Rachael Rees • The Bulletin

How it works

At the Bend Venture Conference, representatives from selected startups seeking financing pitch their companies to investors and the audience at the Tower Theatre in Bend. The conference has two categories:

• The concept stage: The companies must be located in Central Oregon. They may still be working on technology or proof of concept and typically have not generated revenue. The winner gets $10,000 cash.

• The launch stage: Companies have a complete business plan, have essentially solved technology issues, may have generated revenue and need financing to grow. They are competing for a total investment amount of $500,000, which could be offered to one or more companies.

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Source: Bend Venture Conference

If passers-by get close enough to Adam Carroll while he bicycles to work, they might overhear him practicing the presentation he hopes will win his company, Amplion Research Inc., hundreds of thousands of dollars in investment.

“I ride my bike to work, and it’s about 10 minutes, which is the length of the pitch I’m going to give on stage at the Bend Venture Conference,” he said. “Works great, as long as I can keep the bike in the right lane. Anybody driving up and down Century Drive, keep an eye out.”

Amplion is one of five startup companies scheduled to compete in the launch-stage competition of the Bend Venture Conference on Friday for a chance to win an investment up to $500,000. And it’s the only launch-stage company currently headquartered in Bend.

Carroll, co-founder and chief science officer of the software company, has made it through three rounds to reach the Tower Theatre stage at the angel investment conference.

During an earlier presentation Carroll made to Economic Development for Central Oregon — which manages the BVC — he received a lot of what he called, “I don’t get it” feedback. That told him he had a lot of work to do.

Amplion organizes information for the makers of drugs and diagnostic tests. It shows them what biomarkers — biological molecules — are currently being used and tested, which cuts down research time.

“One of our biggest challenges is telling the story in a way that’s clear,” he said. “I want to make sure everyone gets why we’re passionate, but also sees why it’s a viable business.”

In his pitch, Carroll said, he tries to draw analogies to problems audience members understand, and personalize the real-world applications of Amplion’s software.

“Instead of focusing on those little biological details,” he said, “I like to focus on the impact (Amplion) has on health.”

Just because an entrepreneur knows his or her company inside and out, doesn’t necessarily mean that entrepreneur can clearly explain it to investors in 10 minutes, said Erin Reilly, EDCO’s membership development and events manager.

“Getting the right pitch in place for the right audience has been what we’ve really helped them with in the last five months,” she said, referring to Amplion.

Reilly said the BVC audience includes representatives from other venture firms and investors from the Silicon Valley, Portland, Seattle and other regions, so it’s important for presenters to have polished pitches, not only to put on a good show, but for their exposure.

“These companies are pitching to experts in different fields, and some of those experts could join forces with them … and help those companies get to the next level,” she said.

When Carroll learned Amplion made it to the top five, his first thought was, “What the hell am I going to wear?” he said.

“I’m a scientist by training, so my wardrobe consists of jeans and shorts. I’m going to be standing on stage at the Tower, so I thought, I’ve got to go shopping.”

Amplion has raised about $300,000 to date from Seven Peaks Ventures of Bend and individual angel investors. If the company wins the launch-stage competition, Carroll said, it would allow Amplion to hire employees and grow faster than it could organically.

“We absolutely take pride in being the one hometown representative in Bend,” he said. “It is a point of pride to have built something in town that can make it to the stage.”

CrowdStreet Inc., another BVC launch-stage finalist, also has Bend ties.

The commercial real estate crowdfunding site was born in Bend and relocated its headquarters to Portland earlier this year.

Last year, the company applied for the BVC, but pulled out to take time to prove its business model, secure clients and build its team, said Darren Powderly, co-founder of CrowdStreet.

“The truth is, last year, while we thought we had a great business model and we thought we’d be entering into a really large market … we were yet to prove it,” he said.

The company has secured $800,000 in seed funding from Green Visor Capital, of San Francisco, Seven Peaks Ventures and the Portland Seed Fund.

CrowdStreet provides an online marketplace where accredited investors and commercial real estate developers can meet. It creates commercial real estate investment opportunities for accredited investors, those with a net worth exceeding $1 million or have annual income exceeding $200,000 in each of the two most recent years. It also helps commercial real estate developers access new sources of funding.

Tore Steen, CEO, said CrowdStreet participated in the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network’s Angel Oregon program. Although CrowdStreet was not a finalist, Steen said he took away some valuable lessons that he plans on applying at the Bend Venture Conference.

“Try and simplify it, make it as succinct as possible and leave them wanting more,” he said. “Leave them with excitement about what you’re going to do and a good foundation about your company.”

Once he gets on stage, Steen said, he’s going to tell himself to remember to smile and try and convey his enthusiasm in a way that becomes infectious to the crowd.

Winning the BVC would finish the company’s round of funding. But whether or not CrowdStreet wins, Steen said, the experience will be invaluable.

“Every time we go through this process and meet with potential investors, we’re excited about the feedback we receive and the lessons that we learn through that process,” he said. “By no means is our business model finished. We’re taking a lot of external feedback and input into consideration as we grow our business.”

Additionally, he said, the competition gives CrowdStreet a platform to share its story.

“Everybody we meet is a potential user that could join CrowdStreet,” Steen said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7818,