Blue Startups Open House – Cohort #8




Open House – Cohort #8

Join us on Tuesday, November 1 at Blue Startups HQ to meet the companies of Cohort #8!
Here’s a great opportunity to talk story and network with founders and mentors, and listen to each team pitch their company idea.
Free drinks and snacks provided.

Date: Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Time: 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Location: 55 Merchant Street, Suite 1700, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813

Startup accelerator Blue Startups names companies in latest cohort

Read the original article by Anna Hrushka of Pacific Business News here.

Henk Rogers

Henk Rogers, founder of Blue Startups

Honolulu-based business accelerator Blue Startups has revealed the list of the eight companies accepted into its eighth cohort.

The list includes two fantasy sports platforms, two apps designed to improve communication between property owners and their guests or residents, a subscription-based online yoga resource, an automobile buying and selling platform, a hotel marketplace specializing in suites and a real estate crowdfunding platform.

Blue Startups told Pacific Business News on Wednesday that it received a record 350 applicants for its latest program.

Each business will be given $25,000 up front and have the opportunity to receive a total investment of $100,000 from the startup accelerator. Each can pitch for an additional $25,000 at the end of the cohort and can ask Blue Startups for another $50,000 after the program if the business is able to raise $250,000 separately with a lead investor.

Blue Startups Program Director Jared Kushi said Hawaii makes strategic sense for many of the companies in the program.

“Strategic interest in Hawaii includes access to Asian markets, hospitality industry and gaming interests, leveraging our relationship with Tetris,” Kushi said. Blue Startups co-founder Henk Rogers owns the rights to the iconic video game.

“We are very excited about this cohort coming from all over the world — Tel Aviv (Israel), Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada), San Francisco — and four companies from Hawaii including a company from Maui, as we want to reach out to more Neighbor Island entrepreneurs,” Kushi said.

The public can meet representatives of the new round of startups during an open house on Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m. The event will take place at Blue Startups’ headquarters in Downtown Honolulu at 55 Merchant St., Suite 1700.

Here are the eight companies that Blue Startups selected for its eighth cohort:

The Condo App
The Condo App attempts to cut out the paper trail between property owners and their residents through the use of its mobile app. The app allows managers to send push notifications to residents, make important documents available and showcase property or events through videos and photos. The app lets residents reserve recreation areas, register their guests’ vehicles and request maintenance to their units. According to the Hawaii-based company’s website, it already lists Imperial Plaza, 1717 Ala Wai and the Hokua as clients.

Hostfully is another platform designed to make communication easier for property owners. Based in San Francisco, Hostfully targets people who’ve listed their homes on multiple home-sharing platforms and allows them to create guidebooks for their guests. The platform’s home information section gives guests access to step-by-step instructions, photos and videos of a home’s unique features.

Draft Fantasy
Tel Aviv-based Draft Fantasy is a free fantasy sports league for fans of the English Premier League, the U.K.’s top tier soccer league. Users can join existing leagues or create their own public or private leagues.

Virtual Fantasy League
Vancouver-based Virtual Fantasy League combines in-game play with real-world sporting events. On its website, the company says it “has developed a proprietary analytics and scoring system with patent-pending real-world gamification technology.”

Mojo Yoga
Mojo Yoga is a subscription-based online yoga resource based in Maui that gives instructors access to a global audience. Yogis can stream classes as well as receive personalized feedback from teachers by sending in their own videos. Among the company’s goals is to give yoga instructors a chance to build residual income by posting their classes online.

Suite3Sixty is an online travel agency specializing in hotel suites. The platform, co-founded by Associa Hawaii President Doug Hesley, includes local clients such as the Sheraton Waikiki, The Royal Hawaiian and Moana Surfrider.

Also based in Hawaii, RoxyCar is a buying and selling platform that allows users to place bids on vehicles from over 1,000 live wholesale auctions in real time. Users can have cars shipped directly to their doorsteps, complete with a factory warranty and money-back guarantee.

RealtyReturns is a crowdfunding platform where investors can invest in individual properties for relatively little money. Users can sign all legal documents and invest online in under 10 minutes. According to its site, the San Francisco-based platform “allows investors to participate with less capital than most REITs [real estate investment trusts] require.” RealtyReturns aims to cut out the middlemen, therefore reducing overall fees. The site offers minimum investments as low as $1,000.

Blue Startups Expands Asia Strategy



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Partnership with Korean Accelerator

Hebronstar signingMOU Signing Ceremony in Honolulu

Blue Startups has partnered with Korean based accelerator and international consultancy Hebronstar. Hebronstar Strategy Consultants operates in 7 regional offices across 5 countries consisting of South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and China. Together we are developing a joint program for Korean startups – providing programming in Seoul and Hawaii for a handful of selected high-growth Korean technology startups. The program is being run in conjunction with the Korean government’s K-Global Startup Booster program.

Casey Lau Joins Blue Startups

casey blueCasey Lau

With an eye towards doing more business in Asia, Blue Startups recruited Casey Lau, a technology and business development professional that has spent the last 20 years in Hong Kong. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Casey Lau is one of Hong Kong’s tech startup pioneers, having launched one of the first HK-based web design studios; co-founded Hong Kong’s first e-commerce company; a new media development agency and StartupsHK – a community of startups, investors and connectors.

Casey speaks regularly around the world at events and conferences from Japan to China to the U.K. and the U.S. focusing on Asia’s startup scene and is the co-host of the RISE conference – Asia’s largest startup conference. For the past 4 years he has headed up the Asia-Pacific arm of Community for IBM SoftLayer’s Global Entrepreneurship Program.

Casey will serve as the Entrepreneur-in-Residence for Blue Startups’ 8th cohort starting in October and will transition to Venture Partner after that, continuing to build bridges to Asia for Blue Startups and Hawaii.

East Meets West Pitch-Off

Interested in pitching at East Meets West this year?

We will select 5 Asia based startups and 5 US based startups for our East Meets West All-Stars Pitch-Off in conjunction with East Meets West 2017. Companies need to have won a pitch competition in their region prior to qualify to pitch EMW. Companies should be seed stage having taken in less than $1 million USD in funding. Selected companies will pitch in front of a panel of international investors from both sides of the Pacific. Winning companies will have option to go through the next cohort of Blue Startups, in addition to other prizes. Complete our online form to apply..better yet, get recommended by one of our regional friends: 500 Startups, SoGal, Technode, NEST, Brinc, 0-1 Booster, Creww, Startup Stadium Taiwan, AtWork, and China Accelerator.

EMW pitch

EMW bugs 2017-02


East Meets West is the startup event of the year in Hawaii – bringing together investors and entrepreneurs from Asia, Hawaii and North America. EMW’17 features amazing international speakers, deep-dive learning opportunities, and ample networking in a tropical Startup Paradise. We look forward to seeing you there!

Watch our 2016 Highlights Video!


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AreaMetrics Wants to “Democratize” Location Data Insights

By Joe Morsello, LSA Insider – October 4, 2016


Understanding the consumer journey into and inside the store offers valuable insights for brands and businesses. However, getting this data is a challenge for all but the largest retailers and brands.

With the help of beacons, AreaMetrics is looking to bring location intelligence to businesses of all sizes. It’s currently working with malls, restaurants and individual retail locations.


AreaMetrics is a software platform that collects location data derived from mobile apps that are programmed to communicate with a network of in-store beacons. These apps aggregate location data that AreaMetrics then transforms into actionable consumer insights for their retail clients.

Given that more than 92% of purchases still take place locally, the company’s objective is to make offline behavior data as accessible to marketers as online behavior data. A better sense of when customers enter a store and where they go inside can help companies and retailers optimize offline tactics like signage, merchandising and the customer experience, among other things.

The company has developed tremendous range and currently reaches millions of mobile users. High-density saturation allows the company to achieve significant location granularity in specific geographies.

As a new LSA member, I spoke with COO Carey Bennett and CEO Brandon Bennett, the husband and wife duo behind the company. It was interesting to hear how the journey to AreaMetrics actually started with an app that helped users find happy hour information in Hawaii.

In an effort to save money, the couple wanted to find restaurants that offered discounted happy hour menus near their home in Hawaii and realized just how hard it was to find this information. As a result, the couple went on to develop the “Happy Hour Pal” app, which brought this data together.

Their restaurant customers wanted more insight into how the app was helping to drive foot traffic. This is where the beacon strategy arose and AreaMetrics was born.

Today the company’s goal is to make location data available to all by delivering location insights to retailers big and small. As for what is next, the founders said they are working on some really exciting things related to the user/indoor experience side of the business.

– See more at:

Automotive Finance in the Crosshair of a Big Millennial Makeover

Selly Automotive

By Zach Klempf, The Street – October 3, 2016

None of us know anyone who would look back on their first car purchase and say, “Ah, I miss the good old days of buying and financing a car?”

Even baby boomers and Generation Xers recall their first car financing deal with groans more normally associated with root canals. Millennials in particular, with their one second click-to-load screen tolerance, have zero patience for that kind of old school process pain.

Having already blown up the traditional car buying experience with their smartphone digital addiction, millennials are focusing their next extreme makeover squarely on the dealership finance and insurance shop.

Let’s face it. Automotive F&I hasn’t exactly been considered a hotbed of innovation.

It is still paper-driven, painfully slow and pretty much a black hole. F&I managers don’t always share the reasons why a customer was turned down or dig deep to find a way to make it work for every situation.

It was just a matter of time before streamlining automotive financing by digitizing the process became table stakes to capture millennial mind share.

Millennials have been at the forefront of disruption in the automotive industry and are a big cause for the push toward an ecommerce model. They are used to ordering anything they want online from their smartphones and having it delivered almost immediately via Amazon Prime-type services.

In an era where their smartphones are not only their primary information and entertainment sources but also increasingly their digital wallets, they want their car financing and leasing options to be equally effortless and online.

Enter JPMorgan Chase and its new Chase Auto Direct offer in partnership with TrueCar, an online car-buying service. The service combines auto financing with digital car buying.

Pre-approved borrowers that applied via the Chase application are referred to one of Chase’s 14,000-plus affiliated dealerships that have the car of interest in stock and have their financing paperwork already waiting for them when they hit the lot. No hassle, no waiting, just visit the showroom, and then sign and drive.

This is a millennial’s financing dream, as long as the app delivers on its promise of being digitally seamless and smooth. The service is available in 30 states and is expected to expand into all 50 states next year.

TrueCar demonstrates strong leadership in this area by continuing to forge groundbreaking partnerships that improve the online car buyers’ total customer experience. In addition to its partnership with Chase Auto Direct, it also works closely with USAA, letting its members not only choose to finance a vehicle but also offer the option to secure insurance for the car as part of the same, integrated online car-buying journey.

Across the pond, BMW Group Financial Services U.K. is trying to jump start creative approaches to auto-financing solutions with its Innovations Lab, a financial technology business incubator. The company invited five financial technology start-ups to help digitize the car F&I process and deepen customers’ relationships with the automotive manufacturer, dealerships and financing providers.

The Innovation Lab runs for 10 weeks starting this month and ending with solution demonstrations in early December.

In a recent AutoFinance News article, Jonny Combe, general manager of product and channel development at the company, said, “We know that if you take that brilliance, that expertise in the start-up community and match it with our global scale, reach and our expertise, too, we can create something really new and radical for the consumer. We don’t yet know what those solutions look like, but we know, having seen what’s out there in the start-up community in the tech space, that there could be something that transforms or revolutionizes how our customers consume our goods and services.”

The fintech start-ups selected to participate in the revolutionary lab are:

*Divido: This company offers a new approach to installment car financing via smartphones launched either from within a BMW center or at home.

*Drover: This online automotive rental marketplace connects owners and drivers of licensed cars for use on ride-hailing platforms.

* This big data play connects buyers with every car available on the market that meets their requirements for hassle- and worry-free car buying.

*Warwick Analytics: This firm offers predictive analytics with the capability to make BMW Group Financial Services more efficient via automation of its data analytics.

*Wrisk: This firm offers new take on insurance that focuses on people instead of their things to offer insurance that is both more flexible and smarter, while simultaneously lowering costs and increasing ease of use.

All the new automotive financial services enabled by the latest fintech developments hope to capitalize on an increasing number of millennial auto-financing requests that account for about 34% of the U.S. total requests from May 2015 through May 2016, according to a LendingTree study.

The same study found that millennials favor new cars 53.6% to 46.4% over used cars.

Although the study didn’t delve into the reasons driving millennials’ preference for new cars, it is interesting to speculate how much simplifying the millennial used-car financing experience via leading-edge smartphone fintech solutions might help narrow the gap.

Does all this fintech automotive activity mean that traditional dealership F&I shops are a thing of the past? In the short term, not likely.

Even Bruce Jackson, head of retail lending at Chase Auto Finance, said that “customer financing at their dealerships will continue to be popular, and that won’t change anytime soon. But we want to be ready for where customers might be down the road.”

What is likely is faster adoption of fintech automotive solutions and less old-school dealership F&I practices. Many dealerships are aware of the disruption going on and will refresh their business models, processes and tools to make the needed adjustments to stay competitive.

Those at most risk are small, used-car dealerships that run on very low margins and don’t have the resources to compete online with franchise car dealers and some of the new automotive ecommerce players and the scale of their fintech partnerships.

The pace of change in the automotive sector is accelerating with no signs of slowing down. With ecommerce players such as Amazon entering the automotive arena and even recently partnering with Hyundai to offer 2017 Elantra test drives, online companies are continuing to disrupt the automotive-buying process.

As General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra said, “I’m on record as saying I think there’s going to be more change in the next five to 10 years than there’s been in the last 50, and we’re going to talk a lot about what’s disrupting the industry, how we’re disrupting ourselves.”
Buckle your F&I seat belts and hang on as the rapid pace of automotive fintech innovations continues to break speed barriers and force major overhauls to improve the car-buying customer experience.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.