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A Portland firm that created a new system for storing energy and an Oakridge company with a new model for health care were the winners at this year’s Willamette Angel Conference, held on the University of Oregon campus.
The conference, in its sixth year, links investors to entrepreneurs seeking funding for startup companies.
Energy Storage Systems Inc. of Portland won the top prize — estimated to be at least $260,000 — for launch stage companies, according to Dave Hauser, president of the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce. The chamber organized this year’s conference.
ESS has developed what it describes as a low-cost, high-efficiency battery system that uses iron as a storage medium. The system allows energy to be stored and then released as needed, so small- and medium-size businesses don’t have to pay peak rates and can coast through power outages, ESS said.
Winner of the prize for companies that are more in the concept stage was Oakridge-based OrchidHealth. The prize — $4,000 in cash and $1,000 in business services — is determined by a vote of the audience, which totalled about 175 people this year, Hauser said.
OrchidHealth developed a membership health care plan targeted at underserved rural communities. It is based on payment of a flat monthly fee for unlimited visits to a local clinic for primary care, preventative care and urgent care.
The final investment totals may increase, Hauser said, because investment money often continues to come in after the conference concludes.
There also are side deals made at the conference between investors and companies they view as promising but that may not have won the prize.
Last year, for example, investors made side deals worth $260,000 at the WAC. That was in addition to the prize money that came from the partners in the official WAC investment group.
Through the conference, which is a joint project of the Eugene-Springfield and Corvallis-Albany communities, investors have placed nearly $1.5 million in early stage businesses since the event began six years ago.
“There’s a growing energy around startups, around the entrepreneurial community,” Hauser said.
In recent years there has been increased state and local support of startups and entrepreneurs, as well as increased public awareness, he said, including plans for a new state-supported Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network.
“That energy has contributed additional electricity to this year’s angel conference,” he said.
Other finalists competing at this year’s conference in the launch stage were Carts & Tools Technology (Corvallis), Dune Sciences (Eugene), Gruntworks (Portland) and Kiddologic (Carlton).
Other finalists in the concept stage competition were ADASA (Eugene), BT Biotech (Eugene) and Manage My Co-op (Eugene).