Category Archives: technology Hawaii business

Fashion + Tech with Anouk Wipprecht

anoukpromo-p This rare opportunity to directly experience the nexus between tech and fashion is coming to Hawaii featuring Dutch designer Anouk Wipprecht. Sixteen local fashion designers will create Fashion+Tech designs with Anouk Wippprecht during the workshop event.
  • Workshop dates: Nov. 10, 11 & 12, 2015
  • Time: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
  • Location: Manoa Innovation Center, Ideation Room
Organizers are looking for volunteers able to support teams with programming hardware like arduinos or other devices (teensyoctoneopixelsxbee), coding and soldering. Contact HiCapacity (Aisis Chen or Noah Hafner) if you can assist.
  • Fashion show will follow: Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015
  • Time: 7:00pm - 10:00pm
  • Location: Modern Hotel
These events are free. Additional information about the workshop and fashion show can be found here.

Mixed outcome for PISCES budget

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Bytemarks Cafe w/ Rob Kelso, Henk Rogers, Noah Hafner & Joan Matsukawa
We just interviewed Rob Kelso and Henk Rogers on Bytemarks Cafe to learn about PISCES and the opportunity for an aerospace industry in Hawaii. We touch on the topic of funding for PISCES during this legislative session. This press release provides some additional insight into the situation: Hawaii Legislature Approves $8.5 Million PISCES Headquarters; Rejects Funds Needed for General Operations Hilo, Hawaii – The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems, or PISCES, is in an awkward financial position after lawmakers approved the purchase of an $8.5 million state-of-the-art headquarters and test facility for the agency, but declined to add $1.4 million in general funds needed to cover personnel, administrative and operations costs for the upcoming fiscal year (July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016). The state-funded aerospace agency is excited and thankful for the legislative backing of a world-class, multi-purpose processing facility that can support the High Tech Development Corporation's incentive to create 80,000 new technology jobs with salaries of $80,000 by 2030. However, additional funding needed to keep the current level of operations was not appropriated, and PISCES is now working to save the agency from shutting down. “We are actively investigating funding options to allow continued operations through Fiscal Year 2016,” said Rob Kelso, PISCES Executive Director. “Otherwise, PISCES will close in early 2016, and unfortunately, that will mean we would have to cancel current and impending contracts and agreements.” Among the high-profile PISCES projects on the line is Moon RIDERS (Research Investigating Dust Expulsion Removal Systems), a program in partnership with NASA that has given Kealakehe High and `Iolani School students the opportunity to develop a historic experiment on the surface of the moon – a feat that, to the agency’s knowledge, has never been done before. Another project at risk is the “lunar sidewalk” that PISCES recently installed in Hilo, in partnership with the Hawaii County Department of Research and Development, NASA, University of Hawaii at Manoa, and Kodiak FRP Rebar. The project could pave the way for cost-saving, green alternatives for Hawaii construction, but also for the moon and Mars. Over the last two years, PISCES has not only gained interest from NASA, but from international space agencies in Japan, Canada and Europe, and from the private sector as well. “Our goal within PISCES has been to attract new aerospace industry to Hawaii, help create a high technology workforce, and provide dual-use technologies toward creating new high-technology industries in Hawaii” said Kelso. “But as it stands, the Center’s future is now in doubt.”IMG_2724

Hawaii Innovation Alliance: A voice for tech in Hawaii?

Hawaii Innovation Alliance Back in the 2012 legislative session, several poorly crafted Internet bills galvanized the local tech community to discuss how to respond. What resulted was a townhall meeting and a the formation of Facebook group for the Hawaii Innovation Alliance (HIA). It had all the good intentions to formally organize and provide a voice for Hawaii's technology community. Previous organizations like the Hawaii Technology Trade Association and the Hawaii Science and Technology Council had already come and gone, leaving a huge void for this nascent economic sector. (Note, these links for HTTA and HiSciTech are only stubs as their original website have been long discontinued.) Three years later, the HIA continues to survive primarily as a Facebook group, with online discussions motivated by key individuals like Jared Kuroiwa, Peter Kay, Derek Gabriel, Ryan Hew and others. Interestingly, the group has not met face-to-face to discuss plans to organize, although many of the individuals know each other -- until now.
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Jared Kuroiwa, Jason Axelson, Sen. Glenn Wakai, Spencer Toyama, Burt Lum (l-r)
The question whether there is a voice for tech in Hawaii still remains. It came up repeatedly during a Hawaii Venture Capital Association lunch in January 2015. It was also a topic of conversation at the f2f gathering of the HIA. Jared Kuroiwa along with Robbie Melton, help moderated the discussion and summarized the following conclusions in the Facebook Group:
  1. Investigate having a "technology group" within the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii (or other organization).
  2. Look at if there are enough people wanting to form our own organization/501cX (pledge vote coming up).
  3. HIA will still track bills and will have a wiki.innovationhawaii.com site set up to make it easier for people to find things.
  4. HIA will continue to work with other tech organizations to form a unified position. If you are a leader (or member) of other tech groups, please feel free to share.
Derek Gabriel made a strong case for #1. Consulting with Len Higashi (HTDC) and with strong support from Sen. Glenn Wakai, the idea of joining an existing business association like the Chamber made a lot of sense. The organizational structure already exists and credibility established. The Chamber already has an Economic Development and Innovation Committee. Companies and individuals only need to spend the money, somewhere between $150 - $300 to join. With case #2, Ryan Hew continues to be willing to provide the services, gratis I might add, to form a 501cX organization for the HIA. He has graciously offered this from day one and continues to do so. The challenge here, and probably the main reason it has not happened since that first meeting in Feb 2012 is that once the organization has filed the paperwork, the hard and laborious work begins. Maintaining a 501cX requires a dedication to administrative work that very few have the time or resource to commit to. So as much as an independent HIA as a 501cX is appealing, until someone steps up to work the day to day details, HIA will most likely continue as a Facebook group. With item #3, Jason Axelson volunteered to set up a wiki for the group. One complaint expressed was that information about the original charter for HIA was hard to find. It is scattered between the Facebook group and the website HawaiiInnovation.com. One good thing over the years is the Charter has remained consistent:
The Hawaii Innovation Alliance (HIA) aims to create a more unified voice representing the islands' innovation community (technology, startups, entrepreneurs, new and social media, etc.) to foster innovation, educate lawmakers, and advocate appropriate policy.
Finally, it may not be a bad thing to have HIA continue as loose gathering of individuals, dialoging on Facebook. The tech/innovation community speaks through many organizations, like the Chamber of Commerce, High Tech Development Corp., Hawaii Venture Capital Association, Hawaii Business Roundtable and Enterprise Honolulu. Having one more formal organization may not be the most productive. What is productive is building an informed community well versed in the issues. HIA may not 100% of the time agree on which bills to support, but its individual participants can still submit testimony and that voice according to Sen Wakai is still a very valuable one.

#StartupParadise Demo Day

IMG_1434 Someone new to the islands came up to me at the recent Startup Paradise Demo Day and said there are a lot of people in the tech community. Compared to 15 years ago, I think that is true. When you take snapshot views like this it becomes clear the tech community has grown considerably. The main difference in my mind is the number of young people (to me everyone looks young) that have joined the ranks. Programs like Blue Startups, XLR8UH and Energy Excelerator have done wonders to nurture the up and coming young entrepreneurs, something we did not have 15 years ago. For this fourth Demo Day, Blue Startups featured 5 companies from their recent co-hort: TipTop Health, Selly, Job Rangers, Sagely and Advlo. XLR8UH featured Diagenetix and Flywire. With Energy Excelerator, instead of company pitches, short interviews with the founders of Shifted Energy, Pono Home and Stem gave the audience a peek into the business operations after the accelerator program.
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Energy Excelerator Interns
To close out the program Energy Excelerator brought on stage three interns from Hawaii Pacific University and the RISE program who worked within the three energy companies. It's rare to see interns featured in a program but it worked well for this demo day. They were billed as the next generation of entrepreneur and the organizers did a good job of demonstrating the potential pathway from college into to startup. Although intuitively obvious, but not often well executed, having a continual pipeline of graduates looking to start new companies is key to a healthy ecosystem. It appears the concerted effort demonstrated at Startup Paradise shows the focus on nurturing this pipeline. It will be interesting to follow not only the companies graduating from the accelerator programs but also the accelerators themselves. Karl Fooks from the Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation told me that he is not seeking any funding from the 2015 Legislative session. Previous sessions helped fund LAVA and the Hi Growth Initiative. Chenoa Farnsworth, Managing Director of Blue Startups, said they have enough money to go another year. They received funding from LAVA and from founder Henk Rogers. To reach sustainability and to eliminate the need for public money, Blue Startups will need to cash in on their equity stakes in successful startups. So if this model is successful, we should see some of the graduating companies reaching a point of acquisition to trigger a liquidity event. To see this in the fourth year would be awesome but if they do seek public money to continue for a couple more years, I think it is well worth it. The momentum created with #StartupParadise needs to continue to grow and thrive.  

Techspotting

What you are looking at is the (soft) launch of our new web project called Techspotting. Soft because we don't have a big budget for a SXSW party with swag, fancy pupus and an open bar. Techspotting is just a couple of geeks equipped with their iPhone, Glif and mini tripod recording video of the latest tech that has wash upon the shores of Paradise. As Ryan puts it, "We got so much bandwidth, we might as well put it to good use." We did our first edition sequestered in the quiet of the CR-7 studio and talked about the new social conversation platform called Namesake. The company was founded by a couple of ex-Myspace execs, Dan Gould and Brian Norgard and written up in Techcrunch back in Sept 2010. Last week there was a sudden explosion of users and my inbox got flooded with followers. What was once an invite only access was now open to the public. I love the clean interface and the fact that it has all the real time hooks. It's a little bit of Twitter, Quora and Google Wave all wrapped up in one site, IMHO. I find myself going back to it each day either because I have a conversation I am following or someone has endorsed me. Namesake's persistence is winning me over and the community right now is quite vibrant. Our second video was about Square, a big disrupter in a very little package. They been out for about a year but just got written up in Fast Company for their strategy to go after the retail register market. They elevated themselves from a novelty to a potential game changer. I started off using it just to sell some t-shirts at the last Unconferenz. Obviously Square has a lot more potential that a guy selling t-shirts out of the trunk of his car. Any business looking to purchase a point of sale system needs to consider Square as a potential option. It'll be interesting to track their progress. Stay tuned for more Techspotting videos. Feel free to send in your comments and suggestions for future editions. We love to hear what you think.

Road to IPO

Taking a company to IPO (initial public offering) is not a simple process. It has gotten harder by orders of magnitude since the post-Dot.com bubble and with the introduction of Federal legislation like Sarbanes-Oxley to regulate financial practice and corporate governance in the post Enron-era. Nevertheless, for a company that has a great idea and the potential to scale to a national or even international size, it is one way to raise needed capital. Few Hawaii tech companies that have gone IPO come to mind, like Digital Island, Hoku Scientific and Cyanotech. There have been previous pitch competitions before but none that was a pitch in and of itself. Road to IPO says it all. The competition was open to any Hawaii company willing to go through the arduous evaluation and critical review process with the team from NASDAQ OMX. Of the 40 or so companies that initially applied, 10 were selected as semi-finalists. These were: Kuehnle AgroSystems, Inc., GreenCar Hawaii, Actilytics, Inc., TruTag Technologies, LLC, CBI Polymers, LLC, Eyegenix, LLC, MobiRez, LLC, Ocean Network TV, Labels That Talk and PromoStream Inc. On Wed. Feb. 16th, after another round of presentations, this list was paired down to three finalists. They are: TruTag Technologies, LLC, Labels That Talk and PromoStream Inc. I learned recently that PromoStream is like surf cams for cities. They develop digital content for travel destinations and provide this content for destinations, counties and properties. In addition to the installation of webcam systems, the business model includes ad insertions into the video streams to monetize viewership. We got to visit TruTag on a Bytemarks Lunch outing back in Sept 2009. This technology is a novel approach to tagging medicine, food, consumer goods and industrial products. The micro tag is made of purified silica and can be place in pills to ward against counterfeiting. The micro tag is inert and can be ingested. Ken Berkun's website for Labels That Talk reveals little about his product but we did have the benefit of a demonstration at a Manoa Geeks gathering in July 2008. Labels That Talk aka SoundPaper can be thought of as a barcode with sound. You can record a short audio and the SoundPaper printer prints a strip that looks like a 3 inch QR code. This code is then read by a mobile device like an iPhone (which by the way wasn't around in 2008) and plays back the audio. These three companies compete on Wed. February 23rd and the winner will get an all expense paid week of networking and VC introductions in Silicon Valley. The event on the 23rd is open to the public and you can register online to attend. It'll be well worth the admission to see how these companies present and to track their journey on the Road to IPO.

GoAkamai.org

Go AkamaiThe GoAkamai.org website got rolled out this past Wed. 8/11 to quite a bit of media attention. Articles appeared in the Star Advertiser and pieces ran on KHON2, Hawaii News Now and KITV. There were even a couple of sites like this one and this one that liberally lifted the Star Advertiser article right onto their blog. [Ed. note: the two bloggers have since reformatted their blog posts to give proper attribution to the Star Advertiser article. 8/16/10] Obviously this is a very popular story. The GoAkamai site provides real time traffic stats on the major freeway routes through the Honolulu to Ewa corridors. Previous to this, people would listen to their radios for traffic updates to find out what road conditions were like. I'm not sure how this will impact the psychology of leaving from work but as you watch the traffic conditions from 3:30pm to 4;30pm you can literally see the colors change from green (no congestion) to yellow (moderate) to red (heavy) to black (stop and go). You can watch as the obvious bottlenecks get choked during rush hour. I suppose if you see the entire H1 airport viaduct turn black, which I have on many occasions, then staying in town for another half hour might not be a bad idea. 511.orgICx Transportation, the company who built the website is quite experienced at providing this integrated information resource which brings together doppler radar sensor data and up to the minute camera shots of the major intersections. Areas like the San Francisco Bay Area and New Jersey also have systems installed like the one in Honolulu. Each site references the number 511 which you can dial for the latest traffic information. Something we do not have here in Hawaii. It is also clear that the highway systems in both the Bay Area and New Jersey area are much more extensive than here requiring an ICx system that scales to include orders of magnitude more sensors and camera. I did notice a mobile version of the 511.org site which hopefully will be available soon for GoAkamai. Of note, ICx Technologies is also involved with the City and County of Honolulu and State of Hawaii's Dept of Transportation's Joint Traffic Management Center that just broke ground on the Alapai Transit Center. It will be interesting to monitor what new features get added to the GoAkamai site as the JTMC and rail projects get underway. We will get a chance to talk to Glen Fromm from ICx this Wed 8/18 at 5:00pm on Bytemarks Cafe KIPO-89.3FM, Hawaii Public Radio. He'll join us as a news guest to share some insights into the building of GoAkamai.org.

HTC Incredible

These Android phones are coming out fast and furious. Late last year I got to touch a Motorola Droid. It was a little heavy compared to the iPhone and it had a built in keyboard that nobody liked. Next up, the Nexus One was sold by Google early this year with quite a bit of fanfare as the tech pundits predicted how Google was going to disrupt the cell carriers distribution model. Less than four months later Google pulls the plug on their online sales strategy. Despite all these fits and starts the Android phone, independent of manufacturer, is gaining fast on the iPhone. Obviously people are looking for an alternative and the competition is good for the smartphone marketplace. What I like about Android is how Google and the carriers are willing to try new models and offerings. Some things work, others don't, but innovation continues. In spite of its clunky keyboard, Verizon Wireless and Motorola are now pitching Droids for a special two for one sale. Over the past two weeks, Verizon Wireless loaned me a demo HTC Incredible to play around with. I will admit, I am a staunch iPhone fanboy but am a little infatuated with the Android operating system. Its Google app (Voice, Goggles, Maps, Gmail) integration and open architecture are enticing. And now, with HTC's streamline design I am about to come out of the closet. The HTC Incredible does not have a hardware keyboard making it a very light unit. Lighter in fact than the iPhone. Anybody used to typing on the screen will easily adapt to the Incredible. The 480x800 touch screen is very sharp. Some of my geek friends complaint about HTC Sense, the overlay UI (user interface) that connects you to Android, but I found it quite responsive. The power/lock button on the top of the unit is slight to the touch (compared to the iPhone) and I found myself putting the device in sleep mode inadvertently. I love the 8 megapixel camera that comes equipped with a flash. The addition of an FM tuner was also a nice treat. What I did not like about the HTC Incredible was the lack of Mac support for syncing. I connected the USB cable to my Mac Mini and the unit indicated it was recharging. Outside of that there, was no recognition by my Mac of the device. Others on the HTC Forums seem to have similar problems. One person suggested a third party application for syncing to the Mac but paying for an app that I think should be a basic feature with the phone goes against everything I believe in. All in all a nice job engineering the HTC Incredible in to a compact package but still lacking elements that make it ready for prime time. If HTC/Google fixes the syncing problem I might reconsider, but for now I am sticking with my iPhone. Update: 6/1/10 - I got a chance to talk to Verizon Wireless today and found a way to connect to the phone's disk drive. Forget what they say in the Quick Tips Guide. To get to the drive you need to plug the USB in and watch the top menu bar on the phone. You can drag that bar down to reveal additional options. One option is "Disk Drive". Once selected you can see the unit in Finder and it also automatically launchs iPhoto for picture downloads. Not too intuitive but it does work. My appreciation for this phone just went up a notch.

Aquaculture A-Team

Hawaii Geek Meet IIIBenny Ron is a one man tour de force. He is the Aquaculture Coordinator at the University of Hawaii and runs Aquaculture Hub. I caught him at Geek Meet III this past weekend at Ala Moana, Magic Island. Accompanying Benny in this photo is Shai Shafir and Yoko. It was fun watching them touting their laptops with their aquaculture presentation in hand. Only something a true geek would do. While he was showing me his preso, I asked him what he thought of the report released last week by Food & Water Watch which was hyper critical of the fledgling aquaculture industry in Hawaii. He felt it was steeped in misinformation and pointed me to a video conversation he had with Jay Fidell of Think Tech. Obviously passionate about this topic he and Jay get into a detailed discussion about the opportunity open ocean aquaculture has for creating food security for Hawaii.  It's a very interesting listen. Benny Ron on Finding a Way for Aquaculture in Hawaii from Jay Fidell. During Bytemarks Cafe last week (Apr. 14, 2010) we covered the story about FWW's report and asked Bill Spencer, CEO of Hawaii Oceanic Technologies Inc. to weigh in on the report. He wrote:
A highly funded, Washington, DC lobby organization, Food and Water Watch (FWW), is mounting a frontal attack on Hawaii State policy that supports open ocean mariculture. They have rallied a motley crew of rag tag environmental groups, paid many of them to attack a growing sector of our economy that is on the verge of showing the world a way to produce seafood that is environmentally responsible. This group of activists are disseminating miss-leading information that paints a picture of Hawaii’s small ocean farming businesses as harbingers of huge factory fish farms that pollute our ocean with horrible chemicals, antibiotics and fish poop. Food and Water Watch purports a host of problems with mariculture even though the industry is in its infancy in Hawaii, and none of their claims can be proven, only imagined by creative writers and spin doctors. The opportunity for a company to grow fish in Hawaiian territorial waters has been a matter of law for ten years. It has been seen as a potential economic engine that could put fishermen back to work, create thousands of jobs and even new businesses in support of the effort.
Federal policy is also being crafted that will affect the aquaculture industry and NOAA is touring the country soliciting public feedback on the issue. They were here this week and Ben Markus from Hawaii Public Radio did this piece. Jay Fidell also wrote this article that ran in Sunday's Honolulu Advertiser. Hawaii could potentially offer a lot to Hawaii's food security and the diet of fish eating public with a viable aquaculture industry. The reality is, the oceans are being fished out and novel ways need to be established to sustain this food source. Why not aquaculture and why not here in Hawaii. The steps we take at this formative stage of the industry could mean the difference between success and failure.