Reflections on the Bend Venture Conference

Getting funding for a business idea isn’t easy. A strong pitch can help but it’s not the only thing that will get you there. Omar Ellis, a RAIN Eugene Associate and co-founder of Cricket Flours, speaks about the importance of the Bend Venture Conference not only for early-stage companies but also for attendees seeking to launch their own business idea.

Stephanie Imah (SI): How hard do you think an event like this is for an early stage company?

Omar Ellis (OE): It is tough for most early stage companies when pitching at events like these for numerous reasons. First, most company founders in early stage companies tend to come from more technical backgrounds. This usually means that they are not intimately familiar with how the pitching process works and are often still quite nervous when pitching to large groups.

Second, there are certain variables that you just don’t know that early in a venture but you still have to make a compelling case as to why you think you can overcome them, whether it is financial projections or the customer acquisition process.

Finally, the competition is incredibly strong. Companies that make it past the screening process and into the actual conference usually are all very attractive for the investors. This makes it tough as an early stage company because there is little margin for error during your presentation and Q&A.

SI: What role do you see BVC playing in the bigger state-wide initiative of bringing new scalable business to the region as well as helping existing ones to grow?

OE: BVC plays a very pivotal role in helping companies establish themselves in the South Willamette Region. Most importantly though is it pools a large amount of influential people together that can help young entrepreneurs get started on the right track. Though the conference is only a 2 day event, the resources that it brings together is actually quite amazing.

SI: Why is attending an event like the BVC important, even if your company is not actually pitching?

OE: Networking. Networking. Familiarity with Oregon’s largest venture conference. And Networking.

SI: Even if a company doesn’t get a large amount of investment, how beneficial is a conference like this for an early-stage founder?

OE: This is a great opportunity for founders to meet with investors and potential clients. Even when a team walks away from these types of conferences with no financial gains, the benefits that usually transpire from the networking opportunities are well worth it for the teams participating.

SI: What is the most important thing you think you learned? What was the most important takeaway you got from attending?

OE: With every pitch you hope to learn something new, either about an industry or a new innovation. This year was no different, and I was impressed with the amount of details included in some of the pitches. Overall, the importance of these conferences is in creating innovative businesses, and that is not just for those up on the stage pitching but those in the audience as well who can leave the BVC being inspired to start great things.