Kathleen McLaughlin
The Bulletin

The Bend Venture Conference has opened to applications at a time when funds are flush and capital is flowing to Oregon companies at the fastest pace since 2014.

Oregon firms raised nearly $421 million in venture capital in the second quarter, according to Dow Jones VentureSource’s second-quarter report, released Thursday. Nationally, venture capital fundraising was at the highest level in three years, both in the amount invested and the number of funds created, Dow Jones reported. A total of 159 venture funds collected $17.7 billion, double the amount raised in the first quarter.

“There’s tons of capital available, all over the place,” said Jason Moyer, principal of Cascadian Group LLC, a Bend consulting firm. Moyer is also fund manager of the 2018 BVC, LLC, the main investment fund behind the conference that takes place downtown in October.

So far this year, Oregon companies have raised close to $510 million, putting them on pace to exceed the $562.5 million raised in 2014, according to Dow Jones’ data.

The record is $719 million in 2000, according to Dow Jones’ data going back to 1992.

Oregon’s second-quarter deal tally includes $200 million raised by Jama Software in Portland, the largest deal in the Pacific Northwest. Jama won the Bend Venture Conference in 2008, and investors from that year decided to exit after the new round, led by Madrona Venture Group Inc. of Seattle.

While venture funds are brimming with investors’ capital, not every company that wants money is finding it. The amount invested in U.S. companies increased only slightly in the second quarter, Dow Jones reported. Companies raised $27 billion, a 4 percent increase from the first quarter, across 1,426 deals.

Investment-worthy companies haven’t become more plentiful, Moyer said. So fund managers, who are under pressure to put investors’ money to use, are pushing companies they’re backing to take more money, he said.

The median deal size in the second quarter was $7.5 million, the largest since 2015, Dow Jones reported.

The availability of capital also has fund managers rethinking limitations on industries or geographic regions where they’ll invest, Moyer said. “There’s tech in other places. It doesn’t have to be straightforward tech sector.”

The Bend Venture Conference, which takes place Oct. 18 and 19, isn’t focused only on technology, Moyer said. Last year’s top BVC winner was LeadMethod, a Bend software company that helps global manufacturers track and grow sales. But a Tigard company that makes active apparel, Handful, was the runner-up.

The BVC awarded a total $1.65 million last year, and Moyer said he expects this year’s conference to be in the same ballpark.

The conference will feature three competition categories: Growth Stage, which is open to companies with a proven concept and generating revenue; Early Stage, which is open to companies in the process of testing their product; and Impact for companies whose business models are tied to a social or environmental mission.

Growth Stage finalists could collect $250,000 or more from the 2018 BVC LLC, but winners in recent years have taken home significantly more money through deals with other venture funds with representatives attending the conference.

The application deadline is Aug. 8. The conference, which is in its 15th year, is sponsored by Economic Development for Central Oregon. Tickets are available online.

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