Angel investors back asthma meds dispenser

Central Oregon firm takes top prize after some lessons learned

JACKSONVILLE — Lessons learned from a Central Oregon angel investor conference last fall paid off to the tune of $220,000 Thursday for a Bend firm that has developed a dispenser to administer medicine for children with asthma.

JettStream walked off with the money in the third annual Southern Oregon Angel Investment Conference competition after coming up just short in a similar competition in Bend last October.

Joma Films LLC secures $11,000 in 'Concept Stage' competition

Ashland film production company Joma Films LLC captured the "Concept Stage" competition of the Southern Oregon Angel Investment Conference Thursday at Bigham Knoll Events Center.

Joma Films will receive a package worth $11,000 to help prepare the company for growth.

The company, which already has produced "Calvin Marshall" and "Redwood Highway," is now working on a third feature, "Black Road," a sci-fi thriller set in 2039.

While Oregon has attracted more and more movie makers in recent years, Southern Oregon has been relatively ignored. "We believe in Southern Oregon and are laying down roots," said Gary Lundgren, who owns the company along with his wife, Anne. "The independent film is becoming much more regional, and we think this can be a hotbed of independent film making."

Gary Lundgren was a film editor and screenwriter in Southern California, while Anne Lundgren is a producer.

Their first effort, "Calvin Marshall," was a baseball film done in 2007.

"After that got going we spent 14 months in Ashland and decided to relocate where we could be a bigger fish in a smaller pond," he said.

Attracting investors is an art in itself for filmmakers.

"This legitimizes us and makes it easier to find investors," Lundgren said. "Entertainment investors can be a cynical bunch because so many lose money. And, it attracts crazy people. The movies we are making are with investors in mind."

Film expertise is one thing. Now they begin nailing down the front-office elements.

"This will enable us to be more organized and professional," he said.

The package going to Joma Films included $2,500 in cash from Palo Alto Software of Eugene, two paid seats to the Oregon Entrepreneur Networks Jefferson U Bootcamp worth $1,100, website design from Pixel Productions of Medford worth $3,200, and two seats to the Rogue Community College/Avista Center for Entrepreneurship to be launched next fall, worth $4,200.

— Greg Stiles

"Any time you go through a due diligence you get feedback that's nice to hear. But all those nice things, you don't learn anything from that," said Sarah Cota, who cofounded the company while searching for a better way treat her son Jett's asthma. "It's the hard questions that challenge you and how you fill those holes in your strategy that help you."

The company has developed a non-intrusive dispenser for nebulized medications for children of all ages with asthma and chronic breathing ailments. The medicine is administered while the child is sleeping, so there isn't the urge to pull off the mask.

Cota told investors and other conference attendees at the Bigham Knoll Events Center she took Jett to the emergency room 18 times before introducing the prototype.

"He's our guinea pig," Cota says."Since we began using the prototype we haven't had to take Jett to the emergency room."

In preparing for investors, the company's pitch has gotten more targeted, she said.

"We were a finalist in Bend," Cota said. "We learned we had to refine our message, describe what our target was and focus on staying focused."

In the interim, Cota said she pushed hard to form partnerships with medical industry people and get customer feedback.

"We needed to bring in the right advisers," she said.

The 2-year-old Central Oregon company has patients signed up for clinical trials at St. Charles hospital in Bend. Trials have been launched overseas, as well. The company has raised $200,000 already through a convertible note and plans to raise an additional $550,000.

Proceeds from the investment will go to research studies, tooling production, marketing and working capital.

"This gets us all the way to market," she said.

JettPaks cost $200 and the corresponding Jett Utilities are priced at $45.

Parents need to be in the room with children while they are taking the treatment. The approach "takes the fight out of the treatment," Cota said, assuring effectiveness.

The company has six employees in downtown Bend. "We will be able to hire more people now and begin paying some of the people who have been working for free," Cota said.

Potential customers include direct online buyers, managed care networks, and broader sales and marketing efforts.

The first two angel investment winners in 2011 and 2012 were from Ashland.

"Of the 52 unique investors participating in three angel LLCs, nine have participated in all three rounds," said the conference's founder, Steve Vincent. "The 30 percent turnover is standard for angel groups."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, and read his blog at Edge.

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