The software company is among other Growth Stage finalists at the Bend Venture Conference. From October 15 to 16, startups and investors will gather in Bend to recognize entrepreneurship and innovation in the region.
Early Stage Finalists competed for $15,000 Bend Business prize:
AirFit: Creating spaces in airports after the security lines that include gyms and showers so that passengers can stay active and healthy while traveling.
Outdoor Logic – Solutions: Creates products that help make outdoor activities easier to participate in.
QuakeWarn: Sets up early warning detection for earthquakes. When one is detected, QuakeWarn sends SMS and push notification alerts.
Radventure: An online marketplace used to connect outdoor adventure travelers with expert locals.
SnoPlanks: Handmade in Bend, SnoPlanks constructs bamboo snowboards that are made for powder days on the mountain.
Growth Stage Finalists competed for larger investments:
HoneyComb: Uses data and drones to transform agriculture and forestry.
NemaMetrix: A platform that reduces the cost of drug discovery and increases the success of drug identification.
Odysys: Builds software for boutique hotels to make booking easier.
Perfect Company: Makes cooking and baking easier by combining software and products.
Scratch-it: Using “reveal,” the software and marketing solution company increases customer engagement.
You’ve likely heard stories about entrepreneurs who got their start with a lemonade stand or newspaper route. Kent Schnepp is that guy, though with a distinctly Oregon narrative. A Portland native, Schnepp put himself through the University of Oregon by building bikes and websites, both skills he taught himself.
“I’ve only ever worked for a handful of companies,” Schnepp said. He started his own web design firm two years out of college. He then joined forces with a mountain biking buddy in 2006. Together they transformed Schnepp’s design business into a data-driven internet marketing company called EngineWorks. As organic search began to dominate, demand for search engine optimization and marketing business in Portland exploded. They sold the successful company six years later. Schnepp relocated to Bend in 2014 with his newest startup, Odysys, a company that combines his knowledge of digital marketing with a software platform to help independent and boutique hotels boost their bookings.
While building EngineWorks, Schnepp had taken a vacation to Thailand and came back with a new target market. “We kind of stumbled into the hospitality vertical,” Schneppsaid. “I thought it would be a great excuse to travel more.” The whim turned into a solid business after EngineWorks reached out to web development agencies specializing in destination resorts. “We ended up running all the digital strategy and SEO for Vail Resorts, and we had clients around the world,” he said.
When Schnepp founded Odysys last year, he returned to that travel market. He saw that boutique hotels much smaller than his previous clients were becoming dependent on online travel agencies (OTAs) such as Priceline and Expedia to acquire customers. These OTAs, however, command a steep commission of up to 20 percent per booking.
Schnepp saw an opportunity. “Our goal is to drive customers to book on the hotel’s direct website instead of through the OTAs,” he said. Odysys offers clients a platform that houses their website, search, content marketing and reservations system all in one place.
Same fundamentals, smaller place
With interior brick walls and an open floor plan, Odysys’ office in downtown Bend has the appearance of a startup in any major city. City life, though, is the last thing Schnepp wants for himself or his burgeoning business. “I want to have a balanced life, and I want my employees to have balanced lives,” he said. “It’s a fallacy that everyone at a startup has to work fourteen hours a day and give up every hour of their life for the cause.”
He’s hired nearly a dozen people, all of them local, with an eye toward more growth. “It feels like we can have a positive impact on the community,” he said. “I’ve done that in Portland, but it’s more tangible here.”