Bend has evolved from a sleepy logging town to a vibrant, thriving community. The palpable entrepreneurial vibe here has only grown in intensity. According to Entrepreneur magazine, 2012:
Bend is humming with new ideas, businesses and capital. “You can smell it in the air,” says Scot Bayless of Irvine, Calif.-based gaming company FireForge, which recently expanded to a Bend office. Bayless previously worked at companies including Sega, Electronic Arts and Microsoft. “The diversity of people bringing businesses here is astounding. A community of big brains, here because they want to be.
“Bend is a Silicon Valley Bedroom Community”
Bend, Oregon is the 16th largest metro area in the country for high-tech startup density. Bend currently boasts 95 startups across multiple technology sectors: 47 software, 26 hardware/semi and 22 med tech related startups, according to Bend Venture Capitalist Dino Vendetti, co-founder of FoundersPad and local venture fund, SevensPeak Ventures. See Forbes “Bigger In Bend — Building A Regional Startup Cluster”
What I found in Bend was a deeply entrepreneurial community that is leaps and bounds beyond just a destination resort town. Bend fights way above its weight class and is professional scale for its size. Its ability to do so is tied to the deep entrepreneurial DNA that permeates the region (a very similar characteristic to Silicon Valley), originally out of necessity and now out of strategy.
Nurturing the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
Some people who make the move to Central Oregon need/want to start a business to make a living. Investors and leaders in Central Oregon have created an entrepreneurial network to nurture burgeoning businesses.
Economic Development Council for Central Oregon (EDCO): Many business owners, investors and civic leaders consider EDCO to be the beating heart of Bend’s entrepreneurial network.
Rita Hansen, Cascade Angels:
I see EDCO as the center of the entrepreneurial universe. I don’t believe Bend would have reached number two in Oregon as the startup hub without the services and value of EDCO. EDCO is the glue that binds these entities together. They are the beating heart of all the various entrepreneur programs in Bend.
Central Oregon Startup Weekend – Startup Weekend was founded by Jim Boeddeker, EDCO’s Venture Catalyst Manager. The mission of the Startup Weekend is to promote and encourage a spirit of innovation, entrepreneurism and collaboration for everyone in the Bend community.
There are so many individuals out there who have an interest in starting a company but don’t know how to engage the system. When we have a Startup Weekend here in Central Oregon, they’re meeting a good portion of the coaching, mentoring and infrastructure we have in place in the first couple of days.
Founders Pad – Founders Pad is Central Oregon’s Technology Accelerator that helps entrepreneurs navigate the early rapids of a startup. FoundersPad’s Technology Accelerator supports entrepreneurs with top-quality programs based on evidence-based entrepreneurship (data and metric driven) and Lean Startup principles.
Bend Venture Conference – The Bend Venture Conference is the largest Angel Conference in the Pacific Northwest. Over 400 attendees, 50 prominent investors and 65 companies are expected to attend the conference in 2014.
Cascade Angels – The mission of Cascade Angels is to create opportunities for investors and businesses in and with connections to Central Oregon to drive economic growth and fuel prosperity. Cascade Angels intends to build an economic engine in Oregon for investors with a connection to Central Oregon to contribute to a sustainable economy that creates jobs.
Big Bend Theory – Bruce Cleveland, general partner with InterWest Partners, and Bend Venture Capitalist Dino Vendetti have a proposition. It’s called the Big Bend Theory.
We’re calling on all of you startup founders to take a challenge. We’re calling it the Big Bend Theory. If you have a high-growth startup, or an idea for a startup, send me your pitch. Tell me what you are doing and why Bend is where you should be doing it. We are going to sponsor and host the top three applicants to a weekend up in Bend, so you can see if this is a community for you.
OSU Cascade Computer Science Program – OSU-Cascades is a branch campus of Oregon State University that provides students personalized instruction and OSU’s excellence in both academics and innovative research, as well as the lifelong advantages of a premier research university.
Becky Johnson, Vice President, OSU-Cascades:
The OSU-Cascades Computer Science degree program was developed after having interacted with small entrepreneurial companies in Bend. What we heard over and over is that they could not get programmers, computer scientists, software engineers to come to Bend and work for them. We think this program will not only draw new enterprises to Central Oregon, it will also help in terms of interactions we can have with the entrepreneurial community. There is a lot of creativity, a lot of talent at a university that can then get out into the community and help those businesses thrive.
Dream in Bend Oregon
Whether building a business, enjoying active retirement, raising a family, attending school, Bend, Oregon is a dreamer’s paradise.