Wedgis, a spontaneous swimwear startup founded by Sarah Drake, won the Wild Card spot at Bend’s unConference on Wednesday. Drake, 35, moved to Bend three months ago from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to launch her business – and for the opportunity to pitch during the Bend Venture Conference week.
With the Wild Card spot, Drake will have the chance to pitch her idea today during the Bend Venture Conference‘s Early Growth Stage competition in which the winner receives $15,000 from BendBroadband Business. Wedgis is swimwear that fits in your pocket so that you’re ready to go for any unplanned swim.
“I read an article about how Bend has become a key player in the outdoor industry,” Drake said. “I knew I was sitting on this idea of Wedgis and I wanted to invent it. I was like, ‘[Bend] is the perfect place. That’s where I want to go.’”
Seventeen entrepreneurs pitched their companies Wednesday afternoon at The Capitol in downtown Bend, all of which are in various levels of startup model. Wedgis beat out Fireside Audiobox by only four votes according to Kelly Kearsley, whose blog StartupBend, along with the Tech Alliance of Central Oregon, hosted the seventh annual event. Around 100 people from the Bend business community were in the audience and voted for the winner.
“I think Wedgis is starting with swimwear, but ultimately it’s going to be athlete apparel,” Drake said. “Any apparel you need to have spontaneous fun.”
Tierney O’Dea was one of the organizers of the unConference. She said the unConference is an exciting way for people to who have a great business idea to get a chance to present at the Bend Venture Conference if they weren’t ready by the initial sign-up deadlines. She added that the event is also a good way for entrepreneurs to connect in the Bend business community.
Shane Roy, 43, moved to Bend two weeks ago and was in the audience.
“I relocated from Boston, and I’m just excited to see what the Bend startup scene is about,” Roy said. “I’m looking to join the local business community.”
The unConference was created six years ago by the Tech Alliance of Central Oregon and StartupBend as a way to help startup companies gain exposure at the Bend Venture Conference, the largest angel investment conference in the Pacific Northwest, even if they didn’t get a chance to pitch in time.
This year’s unConference filled its pitch slots in six minutes, a record amount of time for the event.
By Bronte Dod for BendBroadband Business