VC in Rockies Gets Under Way

Ketchum, Idaho -- The Venture Capital in the Rockies Fall 2008 Conference debuted Tuesday at the Sun Valley Resort here in this secluded mountain town.

The 13 presenting companies selected from nearly 100 applicants spent the afternoon rehearsing their presentations for Wednesday. Though just practice runs, members of the association's selection committee sat in to offer guidance and feedback.

After a brief meet-and-greet reception, attendees adjourned for invitation-only dinners comprising entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and banking companies.

One of the presenting companies, Enerpulse Inc., failed to attend. A conference official said the Albuquerque, N.M.-based manufacturer of novel technology automotive spark plugs had to withdraw due to a conflicting presentation in Europe.

Alternate presenter Podango Inc., a Bountiful, Utah-based publisher of online video and audio shows into niche-focused channels, assumed Enerpulse's place on the conference schedule.

"We prepared as if we were going to present," said Douglas Smith, Podango's founder and president. "We know the selection process was difficult, with 60 to 80 companies applying, and we're impressed with the quality of those presenting. We're honored to be here."

Hosting the conference is the Rocky Mountain Venture Capital Association, a consortium of venture capital firms and investment professionals from an eight-state region. This is the first year that the association has put on a fall conference—it has staged a winter meeting in Beaver Creek, Colo., for decades.

Carl Ledbetter, an association board member, praised the fall event's turnout, noting that it met its attendance goal.

"I haven't seen the official numbers, but our objective was to have this first event be about half the size or so of our Beaver Creek event, which has been going on for 26 years," said Ledbetter, who is also a partner with Utah-based investment firm UV Partners. "It looks like we're pretty close to that."

Ledbetter said the fall conference is part of an expansion plan that was put in place two years ago when the association decided to grow beyond its Colorado roots.

"Part of that plan was to expand to a larger part of the region, to bring in VC firms and service providers from the other states in the Rocky Mountains, and then to create this conference to attract companies from elsewhere in this region and give them a forum for presenting," he explained.

Ledbetter categorized the inaugural event's turnout as a sign of good things—and future conferences—to come.

"While the Venture Capital in the Rockies Winter Conference will always be in Beaver Creek, Colo., we will rotate the fall event through some of the other states," he said. "This year, it's here in Sun Valley, Idaho, and it's going to be in Utah next year. We haven't settled on a specific location, but we've decided that it will be in and around the Salt Lake City area."

The conference delves into the meat of its agenda today with company presentations and keynote speakers.