Benja joins forces with XRC Labs

By Benja – January 26, 2017

We have a big announcement: we’re proud members of the latest cohort at the XRC Labs accelerator program in New York City.

XRC Labs is an accelerator for the next generation of disruptors in the retail and consumer goods sectors. Their mission is to foster companies and products that change the face of retail and consumer goods fulfillment in a rapidly changing marketplace using design thinking. The XRC Labs vision is to be at the forefront of change, disrupting the conventional system of supply chain, promoting the best experience for consumers and producers, and creating an ecosystem that matches partners for success.

Enter Benja

XRC is Providing workspace on the campus of Parsons, access to capital, mentoring, and operational support for entirety of their 10-week program.

We are amped to not only be a part of the program but to work alongside 7 other companies who were also accepted as a part of this cohort: 29th Century, Cartogram, CheckOut, Ella, Lacelook, Snappy, and Ziel.

  • 29th Century; for e-commerce businesses who can’t find or afford their own data analytics team, 29th Century provides an AI-powered virtual data analyst to help them make better decisions.
  • Cartogram; provides indoor location services to businesses. Built natively into the Google Maps platform, Cartogram’s software services work together to create an end-to-end in-venue experience to drive revenue, enhance customer experience, and lower overhead for businesses.
  • CheckOut; uniting online sales and conversion strategies with brick and mortar retail for a complete and immersive customer experience in physical stores.
  • Ella; positioned to fill the void in the women’s skincare market, as a female-focused lifestyle brand. Ella provides an elevated product and brand experience, sourcing high- quality ingredients tailored to the needs and identity of women.
  • Lacelook; building a powerful AI- backed visual search technology for visual-oriented products such as fashion goods – clothing, handbags, shoes, etc. – and helping consumers get real-time shop-the-look results and compare prices across brands and retailers.
  • Snappy; an app that makes it extremely easy to send a thoughtful and personalized gift but with all the advantages of a gift card – offering choice for recipients and simplicity for senders.
  • Ziel; a platform that enables any lifestyle company to expand the reach of their brands into activewear. Ziel provides a turnkey solution to bring high-quality, eco-friendly performance apparel to market. The service platform includes custom design with on-demand production

We have a number of major developments coming between now and the conclusion of the program in March, and we can’t wait to share the success stories that come from this experience.

Candy Lab Taps Orchard Capital Partners for Exclusive Distribution of its Groundbreaking Augmented Reality Technology in the UK and Ireland

By Candy Lab – January 10, 2017

IRVINE, Calif., January 10, 2017 – Candy Lab, the award-winning augmented reality technology company, signed a deal today with Orchard Capital Partners to bring its groundbreaking location-based augmented reality technology to the UK and Ireland.

Augmented reality technology is making exciting inroads across the globe and Candy Lab began its search for the right partner to bring its cutting edge technology to the UK market during the second half of 2016. Orchard and Candy Lab first met in London in October 2016 and quickly realised they shared a common vision for the tremendous potential for the technology. The deal provides Orchard with the exclusive opportunity to drive the growth of location-based augmented reality throughout the UK and Ireland.

“As a technology company, this is the best way to get our AR engine in the hands of those who want it and can implement mass adoption”, said Andrew Couch, CEO of Candy Lab. “We believe everyone should have access and the opportunity to experience augmented reality. License agreements are a large part of our 2017 strategy as we look for the right partners, who understand the needs of the industry, our somewhat complex technology and how brands can adopt the technology and give their customers immersive experiences. Orchard came with a lot of knowledge of the space, the right relationships and most importantly the passion that we have in Candy Lab”.

Adam Kulick, Managing Partner of Orchard said “The popularity of Pokémon Go has proven the potential for location-based augmented reality to excite, entertain and educate broad segments of the population. We are thrilled to be working with Candy Lab and are already fielding strong interest from brands and agencies about using this powerful and innovative technology to engage and grow their customer base and audiences.”

Industry analysts predict that revenues from augmented reality are set to reach 150 billion dollars by 2020 which could be the driving force for the interest in the AR engine that Candy Lab built and owns.

For more information, please contact:
Josephine Munis

About Candy Lab:

Candy Lab is an award winning location-based, augmented reality company. We have built the only Augmented Reality engine that combines GPS and Beacons and a content management system. Our Augmented Reality technology is used to power mobile games and apps. We advocate for brands to create immersive experiences to deepen customer engagement.  Learn More at

About Orchard

Orchard Capital Partners is a media-focussed boutique investment and advisory firm. Specific areas of expertise include digital media, virtual reality, augmented reality, film and television.

AirWander for your wanderlust: legitimately impressive


By Jon Evans, Tech Crunch – January 8, 2017

It’s reassuring to know that, jaded as I am, every so often, I can still stumble across a service that makes me think: “At last! I’ve waited years for this to exist!” So I’m exceedingly pleased to tell you all about AirWander, a web site built for peripatetic travel junkies like me; one which — at last — allows you to easily search for, and book, multinational flights with multi-day stopovers.

This is admittedly something of a niche market. Most people want to travel straight to their destination. But the truly itchy-footed, like myself, love the notion of spending three days in Nation X on the way to Destination A, and maybe three more days in Nation Y on the way back. Alas, I can tell you from painful experience, most online booking sites are terrible at this sort of thing; they theoretically offer “multi-city” bookings, but their search algorithms either roll over and die before returning any results, or they offer you ludicrously overpriced bookings with byzantine routings only a mileage runner could love.

AirWander is noticeably better. It’s not perfect, of course. Hey, it just launched last month, at TechCrunch Disrupt London. But I can assure you, as an inveterate traveler (I think I’ve been to ~90 nations now? Though as the numbers mount up you realize that both “been to” and “nation” have a surprising number of edge cases) and frequent airfare hunter, they are definitely a step in the right direction from anything that previously existed.

Consider: I’m loosely plotting a trip to Japan sometime this spring. On a whim, I told AirWander to find me an itinerary with a 3-day stopover in Jakarta on the way there, and 3 more days in Hanoi on the way back. It promptly fetched up multiple itineraries for a decent price ($1800.) It wasn’t perfect — for one thing, between time zones, the International Date Line, and connecting flights, I’d actually get only about 36 hours in Jakarta — but it’s a far better aspirational airfare browsing experience than its competitors, which generally insist on knowing precisely when and where you want to fly if you’re planning anything more complex than a round-trip, and then make you tap and type for what feels like ages.

 Admittedly, If you do know your exact dates and destinations, I’d still recommend my usual go-to, Kayak. But if you’re just looking for an interesting place, maybe any interesting place, to spend a little while on the way to or from your final destination, AirWander, as its name promises, already seems to be the site to use. And best of all, it’s so young that I feel confident that it will only get better. I look forward to a world where people use it to wander more, just for the sake of wanderlust.

(As a semi-irrelevant personal aside; I’ve been columnizing here for more than five years, and I get something like a dozen PR pitches a day, but this is only the second time I have ever written a piece as a direct result of a cold email pitch. I suppose the moral is: don’t lose all hope, PR people, but don’t harbor much, either.)

The Future of Farming in Hawaii

Co-founder and CEO of Smart Yields, Vincent Kimura, was recently featured in a Hawaii Business Magazine article entitled “The Future of Farming in Hawaii”, which covers how technological innovations is helping to grow Hawaii’s agricultural industry.  The Cohort #6 alumnus talks about how the Smart Yields mobile and desktop application monitoring capabilities can better assist farmers in making decisions through data analysis.

Read the Hawaii Business Magazine article here.

Ujoin on Bytemarks Cafe Episode 436: Real Property/Estate Apps – Jan 4, 2017

By Bytemarks Cafe – January 4, 2017

Photo (l:r) Burt Lum, Jason Sewell, Kory Payne, Rexford Hibbs, Bello Silitshena, Ryan Ozawa

We kick things off with Jason Sewell from Dev League who’s here to tell us about the upcoming Global Game Jam. Then Kory Payne is here to tell us about, a site to help online organizing for grassroots advocacy campaigns. Then, after the break, we talk about to a couple of startups building new tools for real estate and property management. Joining us are Bello Silitshena from the Condo App and Rexford Hibbs from RealtyReturns, both members of the latest cohort of Blue Startups.

Chenoa Farnsworth: Blue Startups partner hopes to grow Hawaii’s entrepreneurial sector

By Maureen O’Connell
Posted December 30, 2016



Three years ago, when the state-run HI Growth Initiative — created to attract private investment to Hawaii’s innovation sector — began to take shape, so did Blue Startups, a Honolulu-based startup support program.

The two are now teaming up to host the third East Meets West Conference, which will assemble scores of entrepreneurs and investors from Hawaii, Asia and North America in Honolulu next month. An opening party slated for Jan. 18 will be open to the public.

“There has never been a better time to start a company in Hawaii than right now because there are so many resources for that early-stage company to get off the ground,” said Chenoa Farnsworth, a managing partner at Blue Startups, which was
founded by Henk Rogers of Blue Planet Software and Tetris video game fame.

Farnsworth first lived in Hawaii as a teenager. After leaving for college on the mainland and a subsequent Washington, D.C.-based career in health policy issues, she moved back to pursue an MBA, and in 1999 — at the height of the dot-com boom — quickly immersed herself in the fledgling local technology sector.

“I got fascinated with the whole thing,” she said of her ongoing work with startup
business strategy and private equity investing.

After weathering the dot-com bust — followed in the islands by a slow-and-steady regrowth led by co-working spaces, incubators and accelerators — Farnsworth is encouraged by Gov. David Ige’s recent push to earmark $10 million in his proposed state budget for HI Growth’s continued support of public-private partnerships. With the initiative’s help, she said, Blue Startups has so far invested in 60 companies that have raised $60 million and created 200 jobs.

Question: You have said that the innovation sector holds the key to our future in Hawaii. How’s that?

Answer: While the tourism sector is strong, it cannot keep up with our growth requirements. We want to create more high-paying “knowledge worker” jobs. Really, the only solution … is innovation and technology. It is very low-impact in terms of the environment and very high-impact in terms of the pay that we can expect from that industry and also the level of interest among young people.

Q: Blue Startups describes itself as a “thriving early-stage entrepreneurial ecosystem.” How does an aspiring entrepreneur gain entrance to your program, or ecosystem? Is a good idea enough?

A: It’s competitive. So, yes, you need a good idea. More importantly, with the companies we work with, you need a good team. Initially, that’s what we look at most. Is this a team that can execute on this business plan? … We get to know the team and understand their strengths and whether they’ve got what it takes.

Our accelerator program is a little bit like an MBA on steroids. It’s 14 weeks of intensive learning. We take them through everything from how to incorporate to how to get funded and market your product. We provide space, services and funding.

Q: Who’s knocking at the entrepreneurial door these days?

A: We’re seeing a diverse group of people coming through Blue Startups. In general, we’re seeing a cultural shift in Hawaii with this new generation of young people. I do think that back in the day, so to speak, there was more reticence to go out on your own. That was not a culturally acceptable path. … You’d want to go work for the government or get a stable job. Now our young people are seeing entrepreneurship as a path. And I think what’s so hopeful about that is entrepreneurs and new companies create new jobs.

Q: If state lawmakers go ahead and allocate $10 million for HI Growth, how would the money be spent?

A: It would really go to a doubling down on efforts already underway. Now is the time to stay the course. … In other cities around the country that have really put an effort into building this type of sector, it takes about 20 years of concerted effort. … If we continue on this path, we will get there. I have no doubt about that.

Q: What are those efforts already in place?

A: There are three. One is supporting early-stage mentorship programs like Blue Startups. There are several of them, and all of those funds are matched by private dollars. … In order to get that money, we have to raise private funding. Then it’s just leveraged by the state funding. Also, some of that HI Growth money goes to match private investor money in early-stage venture capital funds. The third (effort) supports events throughout the community that bring investors and  companies together. The networking activities are key to building an ecosystem. We need all of those parties, so to speak, to bring people together so that they can meet, mix, mingle, start companies, start conversations that end up, hopefully, in deals getting done.

Q: That’s what the East Meets West conference aims to do?

A: Yes. We’re showcasing, basically to the world, that Hawaii has startups, Hawaii can compete. Hawaii can be known for something other than beaches and palm trees. We’re bringing in investors from Asia and the mainland (managing a total of more than $1 billion) and are showing them what we have. Every time we do that — this is our third year — it really opens a lot of eyes.

Q: What do the visiting investors find most eye-opening?

A: The quality of our companies. I think there’s an assumption: “Oh, well, they might have startups out there but they’re probably not competitive.” And that’s not true. So many investors are now coming back because they have found good companies here that they’ve invested in and want to get access to that deal-flow again.

Q: What do you say to the complaint that Hawaii startups with big potential eventually take off for the mainland to tap the vast resources there?

A: That is totally true in a sense. We are a small economy. There’s 1.4 million people here. If we took a company that was based here and said: “You have to stay here,” it’s like tying a hand behind their back. So I think it’s really about re-framing what is happening. And the way I put it is: “Good news our companies are expanding.” Most of them stay here, too. They have offices here, they’re employing people here. But, yes, they are growing and opening offices in San Francisco or Hong Kong. I’m celebrating those successes.

For example, Volta Charging started here. Their electric-car charging stations are at Kahala and Ala Moana malls. They have staff here who service clients (on Oahu and Maui). They also have an office in San Francisco (and charging stations there as well as in Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and Chicago).

Q: When Blue Startups opened, it focused on internet, software, mobile, gaming and e-commerce. Is that lineup changing?

A: Our first priority is to serve the local market. Whatever our local, smart entrepreneurs are coming up with, that’s what we want to fund. Priority No. 2 is looking at companies outside of our local market that we think we can serve. In other words, we have strategic advantage in helping them — primarily that’s in that East-meets-West thesis. It is companies from Asia that are trying to get into U.S. markets, and U.S. companies wanting to enter Asian markets. We’re looking for that confluence.

The more those two worlds become closer together from a business perspective … it’s important for Hawaii to plant a flag and say: “We’re open for business. We can serve both markets.”

Q: What sorts of new technologies or related industries do you see on the horizon?

A: We’re excited about eSports — competitive video-gaming for money. That’s an industry that’s on a very rapid trajectory. Straight up. … There are teams that are funded and sponsored and go through training just like an NBA team, but it’s to play head-to-head video games in stadiums. The future of that industry is expected to be huge.

We have a couple of companies in that space. One that collects data analytics from the best players and sells it to the novice players.

Q: Looking back on your tenure of nearly two decades in business here, how has the local innovation sector changed over the years?

A: We’re getting smarter about what Hawaii can bring to the party. We’re not going to be the next Silicon Valley. I think it’s really important for us to understand that and stop comparing ourselves and thinking that formula is going to work for us. … We’re unique. We are finding out what works for us now. That vision has to be aligned with who we are and what we believe in as a community.

The Best Advice 11 Inspiring Women In Tech Would Give To Their College Selves

By Natalie Au, Forbes – December 29, 2016

“You’re not even an engineer — why are you so involved in the movement to advance women in tech?” This is a question I’ve been asked multiple times since starting the Hong Kong chapter of the global nonprofit Girls in Tech earlier this year. The answer is simple: I’m not an engineer, true, but what I am is an advocate for gender equality and sustainable development across different issues and industries in the world.

The international lack of women in tech is one of the issues I’ve chosen to dedicate my time to, because it’s a problem both intrinsically and instrumentally: the fact that women aren’t in tech merely because of their gender is a problem in itself, and its negative effects bring another problem as equal opportunities to access and shape technology are essential to further equality in other areas. When solved, its impact also has the potential to snowball into immense benefits to technological innovation, which I believe would in turn advance international development.

As I spoke with more and more people working on this issue, it became increasingly clear that providing mentorship for women in tech is crucial as one of the solutions. However, not everyone will have access to mentorship programs or be able to get in touch with someone they wish to be mentored by, especially people who are just beginning their tech career in college. That’s why I decided to talk with some amazing women in tech whom I look up to — engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists — and to ask them, looking back, what advice would they give to their to their college selves. I hope their answers can provide a little online mentorship and inspire you the way they have inspired me!

“Don’t be held back by stereotypes. If it’s something you’re passionate about and you believe you can do it, go for it. So many times I’ve said to myself, ‘Is this something I can do? I don’t know, just try!’ And every time I try, I realize that anything can be done. It’s a matter of time, effort, and attitude.”

-Advice from Jenny Lee, Managing Partner, GGV Capital to her college self (BS and MS in Engineering at Cornell in 1995, and an MBA at the Kellogg School of Management in 2001)


Photo courtesy of Avni Shah

“Take the time to explore as much possible. You have a unique opportunity to try out different disciplines, activities, and classes to discover interests you didn’t even know you had. Don’t worry so much about what it means for your ‘career’ — this exploration will ultimately open doors, not close them. By knowing what’s possible and what excites you, you’ll be able to forge your own path.”

 – Advice from Avni Shah, VP of Product Management, Google to her college self (BS in Computer Science & Electrical Engineering at MIT in 2003)

Photo courtesy of Tiffany Pham

“Collaborate to learn. Join different organizations that are representative of different industries and obtain positions that will help you learn different skill sets in each. For example, become the editor for your school newspaper but also become a producer for your school musical. This will help you learn much earlier on in life what you are passionate about and what you are good at. Keep an open mind, and have fun all along the way. The friends you make today will become your greatest business collaborates tomorrow, and looking back, you will be grateful for your ongoing relationship built on a history of trust and friendship.”

– Advice from Tiffany Pham, Founder and CEO, Mogul, Inc. to her college self (BA in Economics and International Studies at Yale in 2008 and MBA at Harvard Business School in 2012)

“Force yourself outside of your comfort zone to experience new things and establish relationships with people from many different cultures and backgrounds. The best part of college is the exposure. I did a lot of awesome things: studied abroad in Japan, became active in Stanford athletics, and spent a semester at an Historically Black University. However, my biggest regret was not stretching myself further.”

– Advice from Stephanie Lampkin, Founder and CEO, Blendoor to her college self (BS in Management Science and Engineering at Stanford in 2006 and MBA at MIT Sloan in 2013)


Photo courtesy of Edith Yeung

“Volunteer to work for the best people in the industry you really want to get into. No need to worry about title or pay. Once you get into the company, talk to everyone. Meet as many people as possible and learn as much as you can about how the business works. And remember to always follow up. Do what you said you would do.”

– Advice from Edith Yeung, Partner, 500 Mobile Collective Fund to her college self (BS in Industrial Management at Purdue University in 1998)


Photo courtesy of Chenoa Farnsworth

“Be aggressive. You have all the goods – be confident! Sometimes it may feel that’s not what society expects of women, but just keep going and be bold. In my experience, women tend to be over prepared and under-confident. It’s important to match your competence with your confidence.”

– Advice from Chenoa Farnsworth, Managing Partner, Blue Startups to her college self (BA in Political Science & Government at UC Santa Cruz in 1992 and MBA at the University of Hawaii in 2000)

“Don’t be afraid to take risks. You don’t have to have it all figured before taking the first step toward your dreams. Trust your intuition, believe in your brilliance, and take advantage of the opportunities in front of you.”

– Advice from Brit Fitzpatrick, Founder and CEO, MentorMe to her college self (BA in Journalism at Howard University in 2009 and MA in Digital Media Marketing at the University of Memphis in 2011)


Photo courtesy of Shalini Govil-Pai

“Do not be intimidated by people who have experience, but know that it’s the young that change the world and just speak your mind — because that’s what the world (including the experienced leaders) need and want from you.”

– Advice from Shalini Govil-Pai, Director and Global Head of Partner Product Solutions, YouTube to her college self (BS in Computer Science at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay in 1990 and MS in Computer Science at Penn State in 1992)


Photo courtesy of Isa Watson

“Take initiative and create your own opportunities. I proactively sought out ways to network with employees of companies I wanted to work for (school events, community events, or other), then learn a bit more about their initiatives and listen for what their gaps were. After that, it was just a matter of proposing to the right team member a project that I could take on to help – even as an unpaid intern during the semester.”

– Advice from Isa Watson, Founder and CEO, Envested to her college self (pursuing a BS in Chemistry at Hampton University in 2008, an MS in Pharmacology at Cornell in 2011, and an MBA at MIT Sloan in 2013)


Photo courtesy of Adriana Gascoigne

“Get to know your professors. They aren’t just people giving you lectures and homework. Think of them as your allies — they’ll be great future resources for you if you give them the chance. College professors became some of my most powerful early career mentors; they wrote reference letters for me; they also offered up their connections when I needed them.”

– Advice from Adriana Gascoigne, Founder and CEO, Girls in Tech to her college self (BA in Sociology and Economics at UC Davis in 2000)


Photo courtesy of Sandhya Sriram

“Be fearless and just do it. If you’re just sitting there and contemplating, things will never move forward. The world is so fast-paced now that there is no time to sit and think for too long. Don’t think about the pros and cons too much – if you have an idea that you can’t get out of your head, just go for it! I’m sure your family and friends will support you too, once they see the spark that your project lights in you. Always try and always ask – because if you don’t, you’ll never know. If you try and it’s a no, then so be it. You won’t lose anything. But if it’s a yes? You’ll open the door to infinite possibilities.”

– Advice from Sandhya Sriram, author; Co-founder, Biotechin.Asia; and Founder and CEO, SciGlo to her college self (BS in Microbiology and MS in Biotechnology at the University of Madras in 2008 and a PhD in Biological Sciences at Nanyang Technological University in 2013)