A Eugene data visualization company took home an event-record amount of investment funding on Thursday from the seventh annual Willamette Angel Conference.
Moonshadow Mobile, which has developed a software program it claims can provide high-end graphical representations of very large datasets at much lower costs and much higher speeds than conventional data visualization solutions, was presented with an oversized check for $400,000 — the most ever raised by the regional investment conference. That amount was expected to rise as individual investors decided to up the ante on their funding commitments.
Last year’s winning company, biotech startup Dune Sciences of Eugene, received $380,000 in investment funding.
Moonshadow CEO Eimar Boesjes thanked the conference’s investment committee for believing in his fledgling venture and for forcing him to sharpen his business plan through the rigorous vetting process all participating startups are subjected to.
“It was wonderful yet really frustrating,” he told the audience in a brief acceptance speech.
More than 200 people, many of them participating investors and local entrepreneurs, attended the daylong event at Oregon State University’s CH2M Hill Alumni Center. Angel investing guru David S. Rose gave the keynote address, but as always the focus was on the early-stage companies competing for a big shot of investment capital.
The annual investment conference is sponsored by the Corvallis and Eugene chambers of commerce and alternates between the two communities. Funding comes primarily from the Willamette Angels, a group of accredited investors from the Willamette Valley interested in bankrolling the region’s most promising startups.
Participating members pool their resources to provide an investment prize of at least $250,000 for each year’s conference, and additional funding was provided this year by the Oregon Growth Board, Oregon Community Foundation and Meyer Memorial Trust.
At the end of the conference, several people approached Boesjes about the possibility of joining the investment pool or adding to their original funding commitments, a common practice at past editions of the event.
“It could go to $450,000,” he speculated. “I’m not sure if it will top $500,000.”
Boesjes, a serial entrepreneur who has launched five software companies, said the cash would go toward beefing up Moonshadow’s marketing efforts and making some product enhancements customers have been asking for.
As welcome as the funding is for a startup looking to move into the next stage of growth, the connections developed through working with the Willamette Angels could be even more useful.
“These people have funded existing companies. That CEO will take their call,” Boesjes said. “The money is one thing — and the money is great — but the contacts are at least as valuable.”
Skip Rung, president and executive director of the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute, served as managing partner for the limited liability company formed to handle the money for this year’s Willamette Angel Conference. He predicted Moonshadow would get some more funding before the day was out and that additional money would flow to one or more of the other participating companies in private “sidecar” arrangements.
“I expect to see sidecar deals in excess of $100,000,” he said.
But he also pointed out that the Willamette Angels have begun to spread their wings since the annual business competition kicked off in 2009, evolving into a group that is active year-round. So far in 2015, Rung said, the local angels have invested around $140,000 in startup firms from throughout the region.
“The flagship event is the conference,” he said, “but it isn’t limited to that anymore.”
Red Duck Foods, a Eugene organic food company that makes a line of flavored ketchups and other original condiments, won the People’s Choice Award, a designation that doesn’t come with any prize money.
The other finalists were Abom Inc., a Portland company that makes anti-fog goggles for winter sports; Arria Live Media of Hillsboro, which sells a line of ethernet-connected microphones and speakers for live music performances; and Portland-based Civil Co., the developer of a platform for hosting civil online comments.
Cricket Flours won the $2,500 launch-stage competition, where five startups that didn’t quite make the initial cut got a chance to make short pitches to the audience and answer pointed questions from a panel of four investors. The Portland venture makes a line of high-protein flours and food additives containing finely ground crickets.
Next year’s Willamette Angel Conference is scheduled for May 11 and 12 in Eugene.