As one of the fastest-growing small cities in America, it’s a good bet that lots of people see moving to Bend, Oregon as an opportunity to live a successful, fulfilling life. The burgeoning population has also given rise to numerous successful new businesses, proving the town also provides an opportunity to start or grow a company. In fact, parts of downtown Bend are officially “opportunity zones,” federally-recognized areas where—courtesy of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017—”certain investments will be eligible for preferential federal tax treatment when it comes to the private investment of capital gains in local businesses and land development opportunities.”
The Act also set the stage for the 2019 Growth Accelerator Fund, which provides grants to the nation’s most innovative accelerators and awards them cash prizes that they may use to fund operations costs focused towards helping entrepreneurs apply for Government R&D funding. And wouldn’t you know it? Our very own BendTECH (Bend Technology Entrepreneurial and Coworking Hub)–a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 2012 and dedicated to the promotion and support of tech-enabled companies and business professionals in the Bend, Oregon area—is just such an accelerator, located adjacent to one of Bend’s opportunity zones and already an integral contributor to a rapidly growing technology startup community here in Central Oregon.
BendTECH has 154 members at its 10,000 sq. ft. space in Bend, Oregon, and leverages these members to provide peer to peer assistance. The accelerator has also partnered with the Oregon State University-Cascades Co-Lab, an incubator program to provide one-to-one advising and access to their media studio to produce open courseware and workshops for SBIRs.
What will the accelerator do if we win the Growth Accelerator Fund grant?
- BendTECH will work with the Technology Association of Oregon to include the 400+ members of their trade group/tech community, and partner with Cascade Angels and the Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) to provide access to over 50 C-level mentors in and outside of Oregon.
- We’ll also establish an advisory board made up of representatives from BendTECH, OSU-Cascades, TAO, EDCO, and Cascade Angels to review startup candidate’s online applications. An integral part of our selection process is consideration for commercial and government use of technologies and innovations.
- We’ll expand upon our regular networking opportunities, such as the One Tech Meetup to Rule them All and Remote Worker Meetup, and will implement a monthly SBIR/STTR-focused event to bring awareness of the federal small business programs available to startups and to provide a forum for collaboration among business accelerators, federal contractors, tech startups and entrepreneurs, and SBIR/STTR subject matter experts.
- In conjunction with the OSU-Cascades Co-Lab, we will host webinars about building startups, pursuing SBIRs, the benefits of Opportunity Zones, and finding other funding sources, etc. Further, the Co-Lab will add templates to its online library of startup materials, provide one-to-one advising, and help tech-driven startups connect with mentors via an online mentorship platform. BendTECH will leverage the Co-Lab as an industry liaison with researchers, innovators, and machine shops within the university system to get these startups help with building/developing their technology.
And much, much more.
At its heart, BendTECH is a coworking space built on a mindset of collaboration, community, and innovation. We provide access to flex desk space at no cost to startups and will access the OSU-Cascades Co-Lab for additional surge space as required and to further integrate our strong startup community. Should we win the grant, entrepreneurs and startups will receive free additional SBIR advising from VertueLab, get access to Business Oregon’s Phase 0 program, and have access to pro bono office hours with local law firms, digital strategy professionals, and business consultants who are already part of the BendTECH ecosystem.
Through our work and partnerships with other organizations, we have existing relationships with local entrepreneurs and investors. Further, we have board relationships with the local economic development organization (EDCO) who has been integral in convening the community around Opportunity Zones. Many of the individuals in our targeted entrepreneur group are already users of BendTECH services, and we are all part of the thriving technology and start up scene of Central Oregon; expanding our focus to include the SBIR/STTR programs is a natural evolution and one that we are already set up to rapidly and successfully implement.
Winning a grant from the Growth Accelerator Fund would allow BendTECH to further assist local startups and other organizations grow their businesses in our local opportunity zones, cementing Bend as a hub for economic growth here in Central Oregon.