Stephen Hamway
The Bulletin

Less than 18 months after forming their company, the founders of Bend-based digital marketing startup Odysys Inc. walked out of the Liberty Theater with at least $205,000 in angel funding Friday afternoon at the 12th annual Bend Venture Conference.

“We’re just so fortunate to have this investment and entrepreneur environment in Bend,” said Odysys co-founder Kent Schnepp after the awards ceremony. “We picked a city that is so fantastic and so startup-friendly, and events like the BVC have set it up for companies like us to succeed.”

Investors chose Odysys as the winner of the growth-stage category, awarding the company an amount that’s likely to grow as investments continue to trickle in, said Brian Vierra, venture catalyst for conference organizer Economic Development for Central Oregon.

SnoPlanks, a Bend company that manufactures handmade skis and snowboards using bamboo and fiberglass, won $15,000 in the early-stage category, which features companies that have generated little to no revenue.

SnoPlanks and Odysys, which provides a digital marketing platform for boutique and independent hotels, were two of the four companies that received money at the two-day conference, not counting side deals that companies may have made with investors. Schnepp said the money would go toward expanding sales at Odysys.

In total, companies won $570,000 in investment and cash prizes, as of Friday afternoon. The Mandala Agency, a Bend-based marketing agency, also kicked in $50,000 in services.

In 2014, the conference set a record for angel conferences in the state of Oregon by giving out $1.06 million in investment and awards. But the final investments were announced in early January, more than two months after the BVC.

Five companies made investment pitches Friday in the growth-stage category, which features startups with a proven concept that are prepared to grow quickly with an investment.

Perfect Co., of Vancouver, Washington, was the growth-stage runner-up, and took home $125,000, along with the $50,000 in services. The company manufactures connected scales for cooking and mixing drinks that sync with recipes to tell users when they’ve added enough of each ingredient.

Scratch-It Inc., a Portland company whose marketing software features reveal advertising that relies on the user to uncover hidden information, won investments from two Bend-based venture funds, Cascade Angels Fund and Seven Peaks Ventures. In total, the Portland-based company took home $225,000 from the two awards.

In the early-stage category, six companies made pitches, with the winner being determined by audience vote. James Nicol, co-founder of SnoPlanks, was surprised when his company won.

“I couldn’t believe it, because I definitely didn’t think we were gonna win,” he said. “It’s a tech conference, and we’re an outdoor company. We are really, really excited to be able to represent for the outdoor companies.”

Nicol said the money would go toward a new snowboard press, which would help increase production.

The pitches were the main event Friday, as representatives from the 11 companies spoke about the merits of their businesses to the audience and panels of industry professionals. Companies like Perfect Company and Outdoor Logic — Solutions, an early-stage company that manufactures a device that removes ski boots, demonstrated their products onstage, drawing applause from audience members at the sold-out Tower Theatre.

The award ceremony, held next door in the Liberty Theatre on NW Wall Street, was the culmination of a two-day slate of activities, that included the EdVenture Seminars, a new series of educational panels that took place Thursday morning, and the sixth annual unConference, where startups networked and vied for an open slot at in the early-stage round. The unConference was held Thursday afternoon at the 1001 Tech Center on SW Emkay Drive.

Keynote speaker Darren Pleasance, managing director of global customer acquisitions at Google, spoke about staying relevant in a digital environment that is rapidly changing and increasingly shifting toward mobile devices.

“This is absolutely a world that’s ripe for transformation, and absolutely there are people out there right now that are thinking ‘how do I take traditional businesses and turn it into something really new and different,’” Pleasance said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7818, shamway@bendbulletin.com

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