THE FOLLOWING IS A ROUGH TRANSCRIPT OF THE VIDEO ABOVE
The second entrepreneur into the Shark Tank this week was presenting his business See Rescue and was seeking $200k in exchange for 20% of the business. He has developed a portable streamer that can be extended in emergency situations so that you can increase your visibility for rescue.
As for his numbers, it gets a bit interesting. He licensed out the product years ago and the licensing group saw $15Mill dollars in sales over 15 years. Now the license has expired and he has taken it back. Even without the financial backing of the licensing group, he saw $200k in sales last year and $250k this year. The smaller version sells for $78 and the large one sells for $118.
First of all, I was really disappointed in the Sharks’ hesitation to get involved with this product. I understand their reasoning, but this is a proven product. Since it’s creation it’s saved 4 people’s lives. And that might not sound like a lot, considering it’s over the course of almost two decades, but I’d argue that it would be thoroughly proven if it had only saved a single person’s life. I can’t even imagine the feelings this entrepreneur had when one of those people personally thanked him for saving his life.
Anyway, like I said, I understand their reasoning. The biggest problem they had was with the challenges that would be presented with a strategy that targets a consumer market. The enterpreneur didn’t get into this too deep, but I feel like the only reason they Sharks would be so concerned about this is because much of the 15 years of licensing was focused on military contracts. The entrepreneur didn’t explicitly say that was the case, but he did mention that they had done military contracts in the past. Perhaps there is some clarification on how much of their business was done on those contracts that got edited out for time.
Other than just straight retail, the entrepreneur was also hoping for a path toward a mandate to include this product on lifejackets and in emergency kits. Personally, I think that should definitely be a major focus for his business. Mark is right though. That’s such a binary path. You either succeed and make millions, or you fail and make nothing. So although I think that’s the right path for him to go down, it’s not a path that excites investors. It’s far too risky.
All this being said, I think this product is amazing. It literally saves lives and has been proven to work. The military approves of it and I entirely agree that it needs to be included on all lifejackets and emergency survival kits. So good luck to this entrepreneur. He needs to keep pushing this out as far and wide as he can so more and more people can benefit from it.
Anyway guys, that you so much for watching! Please, please, please comment down below. I would love to see your thoughts on See Rescue. Don’t forget to like, favorite, subscribe, all that jazz. But until next time, I love you guys and I’ll talk to you later! Bye!
Instagram has recently made quite a few changes to their platform, including live stories, carousel posts and shoppable photo tags. These changes all provide new opportunities for brands to monetize the platform.
Assuming you’re new to Instagram, or just haven’t had much luck yet, let’s start with the basics. Below, I’ve listed five simple but useful tips to help you achieve your Instagram marketing goals.
1. A Cohesive Instagram Grid
The first step is to lay out your photos in a way that not only makes people want to scroll through your grid but also incentivizes them to follow your account. If your page is messy and there is no consistency in your messaging, then all of your growth efforts will be wasted.
2. Engaging Captions
An image catches the eye, a caption captures the mind. Writing a captivating caption begins with understanding the “give before you take” rule. Not every caption needs a call to action — some can purely be educational. Providing value is more important than asking your followers to do something.
A posting schedule you can actually follow is a must. Think of all the different content variations that align with your brand and your consumers. Create a posting schedule that allows for 2-3 posts per day and tackles major aspects of your ideal customer lifestyle. An Instagram feed should not only be product/service based. Providing value is essential to growth and retention.
4. Follower Engagement
There is nothing more exciting than having your favorite brand respond to your comments, like your pictures or comment on a photo you tagged them in. Whether a user is asking a question, raising a concern or even complaining on your page, always address it.
The worst thing you can do is leave unanswered comments, delete complaints or block people. Social media gives people a voice. Encourage it and you will see results. Attempt to take it from them and they will go out of their way to spread negativity about your brand.
5. The Emotional Connection
Oftentimes new brands get caught up in the idea that professional photos are the only way to go. I’m here to tell you that this isn’t true. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to have quality content. On many occasions, users will create it for you. Not only is this cost-effective, but it also fosters one of the most important components of any social media strategy — the emotional connection.
These five steps will help ensure you have a strong foundation onto which you can build a successful Instagram strategy.
Talking of Instagram themes, are you a bit of a neat freak? You know what we’re talking about, the squares have to match perfectly, you’re a sucker for everything being matchy-matchy. Plus, you’ve had sleepless nights because your feed was looking ever so slightly ‘off.’
Sound familiar? Then you need UNUM, an Instagrammer’s best friend.
The app is a layout tool, which has the same configuration as Instagram. It allows you to upload potential images into the grid and play about with their placement, meaning you can create that perfect Instagram theme. Yeah we know, it’s a perfectionist’s heaven.
Instagram is a fantastic tool for photographers to promote their work. It’s not incredibly complicated to get the hang of it: post your pictures, add a description along with a couple of hashtags, and people can find your images. However, if you’ve been using it long enough, you may have noticed that your stream quickly looks like a mass of pictures with no continuity. Since the app doesn’t allow for pre-planned posts, it’s difficult to keep a visually appealing account. That is unless you use an app such as UNUM to help you out.
UNUM is an app for mobile devices which lets you create a virtual grid of images. Its interface is very intuitive. No need for a user guide or lengthy tutorials. Open it up, connect it to your Instagram account, and load all the images you’d like to post.
From there, you can organize them on a virtual grid to make sure your stream of images is attractive for viewers. The goal should be to make your audience want to scroll your whole feed. To make the posting process even more efficient and quick, you can write in advance the description for each image your import in the app. Then, with a simple press of a button, you can copy and paste the description and picture to Instagram. It’s even possible to be reminded when to post so that you never forget the high peaks of the day.
Best of all, unless you have tons of pictures to post across multiple accounts, the app is entirely free. So if you are serious about Instagram and want to try and keep a slightly better-looking stream, be sure to give it a try. UNUM is available on both the App Store and Google Play.
Two local schools in Hawaii will be using technology from Honolulu-based Smart Yields this upcoming school year after winning grants from Whole Foods (Nasdaq: WFM).
The supermarket chain has awarded two $2,000 grants to Lanakai School in Kailua and Koloa Elementary School on Kauai.
As part of the grant requirements, the schools must partner with a local business or organization for support. Honolulu-based Smart Yields will serve as a local partner for the two schools.
Lizzy Schiller, Smart Yields’ co-founder and head of education, told Pacific Business News the schools will use some of the grant money to utilize the Smart Yields app as well as purchase the ag-tech company’s sensors, which measure moisture and fertilizer levels in the ground.
Schiller said Smart Yields will donate time and energy to help the schools grow and tend to the edible gardens.
Schiller said Lanakai will also use the grant funds and Smart Yields technology to expand its existing eighth of an acre micro farm, while Koloa will be using the support to help grow its newly established garden.
“Working with the schools in this way and in any capacity really goes back to our longer-term vision, to educate and empower the next generation of leaders,” Schiller said.
Smart Yields said it will be expanding its education initiatives this year. Its its pilot schools Iolani and SEEQs will try to integrate the company’s technology into their curriculum.
The ag-tech company recently announced the launch of its newest version of its mobile app to 2,000 external beta users, while at Elemental Excelerator’s annual Interactive Week event in Silicon Valley.
The company was accepted into the Honolulu-based accelerator’s go-to-market track in February and will be launching its next seed round, raising $1 million.
Kingsley Edwards is the CEO and Founder of Leet.gg, which provides consumers an end-to-end tournament management solution, and he’s also a co-founder of Rogue.gg the team which DJ and Producer Steve Aoki invested in not too long ago.
We had a chat to talk esports entering casinos, Facebook rumours and more.
ESI: Hi Kingsley, can you introduce Esports Insider readers to what it is you do at Leet and your background in esports?
Kingsley: I am the founder & CEO of Leet. We provide technology and know-how to integrate esports and video games with casino groups in order for them to attract a younger demographic.
I mostly work on business and product development. Gaming has been a part of my life since I was a child starting with the original Nintendo. I started getting heavily involved in the PC scene with Counter-Strike 1.0 and StarCraft while in high school. I started Leet in 2013 with just an idea for me to play against others for money in the then new CSGO. Since then, we’ve been focusing more on B2B integrations.
Currently, I am also co-owner of the #1 Overwatch team in the world (rogue.gg) along with Steve Aoki and a few other partners.
ESI: How did Steve enter the fray?
Kingsley: Steve has been a passionate gamer all his life. He was looking to get more involved in the esports scene and lucky for us we were talking to the right people at the right time. Now he’s taking more of an active role in the industry by attending events and promoting the team.
ESI: With Amazon seemingly set to enter the mobile esports space in a big way, what is your take on the potential for mobile esports at large? What makes for a great competitive mobile game and how can brands get involved?
Kingsley: In my opinion, mobile esports still has some way to go. It seems like Vainglory is off to a great start though. I don’t follow the space too closely yet. There’s enough in the competitive PC world that I need to keep up with!
ESI: You recently sponsored the Esports and Casino Resorts conference in Vegas. What’s your opinion on how casinos can bring esports into their ecosystems and appeal to gamers without alienating some of their current comfortable clientele?
Kingsley: Casinos can attract gamers as players and spectators. There’s more crossover than you think when it comes to traditional casino clientele and gamers. We currently host weekly tournaments at the Downtown Grand and Silver Sevens in Las Vegas. We have also done events at the D and the Westgate. We feel that our tournament platform is a good way to bridge the gap. Our other technologies include skill-based p2p wagering and chance-based applications.
ESI: We’ve heard rumours recently about Facebook making moves into the streaming space. Do you think Twitch has been around long enough to establish brand loyalty, and moreover what can it do to prepare for this invasion of its space by such a big player?
Kingsley: Twitch still owns the streaming space but I look forward for Facebook and others to gain marketshare. A lot of gamers will stick with Twitch and YouTube since it’s been their only comforting outlet for so long.
ESI: For a newcomer to the scene that wishes to host an esports tournament. Talk us through the differences, in your opinion of hosting one online or a LAN, in your opinion which is tougher and what are the pros and cons involved?
Kingsley: LAN events are more work but I feel like once you have it down they may be easier because you control everything that goes on in the space. Tournaments can be very frustrating to deal with but also very rewarding when run smoothly. Luckily I have a team now that has “been there done that” and we are comfortable rolling with the punches when we have to.
The mass adoption of the radio changed American homes forever. In 1930, more than 40 percent of American households owned a radio; a decade later, 83 percent owned at least one. The radio brought news, entertainment, music, sports, politics (think Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats), and advertisements to millions of Americans. It was the first time that ordinary people had access to live, broadcasted information from the ease and comfort of their living rooms.
Before the radio, American homes were largely organized around activities such as sleeping and eating. However, after the mass adoption of radio, Americans needed gathering areas to listen to their new radios. Parlors, or drawing rooms, once used for conversation, poker games, or perhaps playing the piano, became living rooms with radios as their focal point. People huddled together to listen. Radio transformed American homes and American home culture, formalizing the concept of a communal, family-style entertainment centerpiece.
After World War II, the television set moved into the mainstream. In the mid-1950s post-war economic boom, 50 percent of American households had a TV, and that percentage grew to 90 percent by 1960. The TV replaced the radio physically — and metaphorically — as the symbol of home entertainment for the living room.
Since then, add-ons like game consoles, cordless TV micro-consoles like Apple TV and Roku, Wi-Fi connectivity, and more have expanded its capabilities.
No other consumer product has really challenged the television as the center of living room entertainment for over half a century. But with the popularization of voice assistants such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home, the TV may have its first major challenger.
Already more than 8.2 million Amazon Echos have been sold, and it’s predicted that over 24.5 million Amazon Echos and Google Homes will be sold in 2017. These numbers are nowhere near the percentages for radio or TV ownership, but we’re still in the early days of voice assistant adoption. (Amazon Echo was released publicly in June 2015). At the same time, the number of American homes without a TV has doubled in six years.
Some may argue that AR/VR devices are a more serious contender for living room entertainment. But AR/VR is held back by a focus on individual experiences — at least for now. And o n the spectrum from highly communal TVs and radios to highly personal smartphones and laptops, AR/VR headsets are likely to remain near the latter end.
Now, with this shift toward placing voice assistants at the center of the living room, we will experience endless changes to how we consume (and create) home entertainment. For starters, there’s a new level of convenience and ease (speaking is faster than typing or using a remote). But the most significant change is the opportunity to unify all the components of home entertainment.
For example, we may use a remote to watch TV, a controller to play XBox or PS4, and a phone or laptop to listen to podcasts. In the future, we might use a voice assistant that opens, controls, and uses all of these devices (and content). Couple this functionality with AI-powered voice assistants and we’ll have a home entertainment system that is truly connected and built to know and serve us better over time.
While AI is already being used separately in each component of home entertainment (think Netflix or Pandora), we have yet to see what happens when each piece is no longer a disparate system. Further, the emergence of such a voice assistant will usher in new types of home entertainment to add to this connected system. Examples include the Alexa command that reads books to children, or the Alexa audio game Akinator.
For the first time in over 50 years, we may see a new symbol of home entertainment. The TV won’t physically disappear from our living rooms, but it’s likely to begin losing figurative ground to voice assistants. With a new symbol comes a new era, and it will be exciting to see how voice assistants transform not only our entertainment, but also our homes and, ultimately, our home culture.
Jaja Liao works in mobile partnerships acquisitions at Google.
Learn about the winners and finalists of the Hawaii Venture Capital Association 2017 Awards
Everyone in Hawaii can and should be an advocate and champion for Startup Paradise, because we all benefit from a vibrant startup culture, says Meli James, president of the Hawaii Venture Capital Association.
One benefit is a startup culture helps keep young kamaaina in the Islands and helps bring others home, says James, who herself came back to Hawaii after a career in Silicon Valley. She now heads new ventures at Sultan Ventures.
She says HVCA’s annual awards raise awareness of the quality and quantity of local startups. And the credibility of the awards helps winners and finalists to establish partnerships, recruit good teams and raise money in the Islands and on the Mainland.
“Normally, what makes it into the media is one of two things,” James says, “failure or success. That is a company going out of business or an acquisition. But there are many successes along the way that should be celebrated, promoted and supported.”
The HVCA Awards also showcase some of Startup Paradise’s many achievements, James says, including the relatively high proportion of female entrepreneurs. “One out of four of our finalists are women. By comparison, the national average is in the single digits. And we hope Hawaii’s numbers increase in years to come.”
Tarik Sultan, managing partner at Sultan Ventures and XLR8UH, and treasurer of the HVCA board, gave a quick overview of Hawaii’s startup culture during a recent HVCA meeting. Among the points he made:
• About 145 startups have gone through four Hawaii accelerator programs over the past four years and a large majority are still alive and growing. There have been two exits. The four accelerators are Blue Startups, XLR8UH, Energy Excelerator and GVS Transmedia Accelerator.
• Those startups have generated a total of $250 million in revenue and funding.
As expected, Sultan says, “A few outlier companies that are outperforming are raising the average for the rest of the startups.” That’s to be expected, but, overall, the trend is upward. One thing that would make a big difference, he says: The local startup community could use more support from established businesses and investors in Hawaii.
DEAL OF THE YEAR
Recognizes the Startup Paradise company that received the largest financial deal of 2016.
WINNER: Scott Mercer
Founder, Volta Charging
Volta Charging launched its pilot program on Oahu in 2012 with six stations.
“There were two (brands of) electric cars on the Island at the time,” Mercer says. “The tide has completely switched today. Even million-dollar Ferraris use our stations. All car companies are building electric cars.”
There are now 212 Volta Charging stations in Hawaii and California, with 500 more under contract to be built. But the deal of the year is for setting up the company to expand nationally. In October, Volta Charging secured $40 million in funding (headed by Virgo Investments) so it can enter Phase III of Mercer’s business plan: stations across the nation.
“We’re just starting in Arizona, Chicago, Seattle and D.C. and we’ll have a couple more locations to follow,” Mercer says. “That is our 2017 goal. We’ll grow from there.”
ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR
Individual or team that has gone above expectations with their company. A clear example to other entrepreneurs.
Finalist – Tina Fitch
Hobnob’s concept struck Fitch while she was using social media.
“The irony of social media was that it was making us less social,” she says. “I felt people were craving a return to real, offline relationships and dialogue, and want to use technology to enhance our humanity, not detract from it.”
Hobnob is Fitch’s third startup. After creating the successful travel platform Switchfly, Fitch built one of the most popular free-invitation apps. Hobnob can be downloaded to smartphones and, within 60 seconds, users can create their own layout or choose from existing layouts for an invitation. Talk about the life of the party: Hobnob has sent more than 3 million invitations since launching in November 2015.
Finalist – Michael Pfeffer
CEO, Ibis Networks
Pfeffer didn’t start out wanting to be a serial entrepreneur, angel investor and venture capitalist.
“Believe it or not I started in archaeology,” he says, “but my passion and focus for the last 20 years has been in helping startups get funded, grow and, ultimately, be successful” – both as an investor/mentor and as a startup CEO.
Ibis, with projected 2017 sales in the low seven figures, is all about saving power. The company’s InteliSockets fit on a regular electrical outlet and become part of a wireless network that monitors each device in real time and allows them to be remote controlled.
Finalist – Bianca Tubolino
Founder, Jetset ESL
Tubolino is on the cusp of creating a lucrative venture from a startup that gives free English lessons on Instagram.
Few English teachers want to go to Brazil, since they get paid $8 an hour, she says. So she partnered with Amanda Leal, who owns three English-speaking schools ranked in the top five in Brazil.
Within six months of using Tubolino’s Instagram teaching approach, in which students learn from native English speakers, Leal saw her student retention grow to 98 percent from 85 percent, and her book sales increased 150 percent, Tubolino says.
By mid-2017, Tubolino says, she hopes to secure contracts with some of the largest language-school franchises in Brazil.
PEOPLE’S CHOICE STARTUP – Presented by Hawaii Business magazine
Chosen by the votes of the Innovation Community, this company is a model to others based on its successes, popularity and community support. (Winner to be announced at awards ceremony)
Cast Your Vote for People’s Choice Startup of the Year here:
http://bit.ly/hbstartupvote | Deadline: February 20, 2017
Finalist – Zachary and Lawrence Hester, FareHarbor, Fareharbor.com
Lawrence was sleeping on Zachary’s girlfriend’s couch when the brothers signed North Shore Catamaran to be FareHarbor’s first client in 2013. Today, the reservation software company has more than 500 accounts across Hawaii and more than 3,500 throughout the United States. Zachary says it is the world’s largest online booking application, with 130 employees and projections of $3 billion in bookings in 2017.
“When we started we averaged three hours sleep, tops,” he says. “It took a lot of hard work to get here. We’re not sleeping on couches anymore, but we’re not oceanside, either. We’re still growing.”
Finalist – Mitzi Toro
Owner, The Maui Cookie Lady
Toro is a teacher turned Cookie-preneur.
She started her business as a fundraiser to thank nurses who took care of her terminally ill father and today her “cookies for a cause” are featured at top hotels on Maui, Lanai and Hawaii Island. themauicookielady.com still has a photo of the ICU staff.
Toro’s goal is global sales while keeping production on Maui. She started shipping across the nation when she resigned from her teaching job and went full time in 2016. This year she will start shipping internationally.
Finalist – Bianca Tubolino
Founder, Jetset ESL
See profile under Entrepreneur of the Year
Finalist – Isabella Hughes & Harrison Rice
Co-owners, Shaka Tea
Hughes and Rice were living in Dubai when Hughes, then pregnant, flew home to Oahu.
“All of her aunties kept telling her to drink mamaki tea because of all the health benefits,” Rice says. “When she got back we looked it up and they were right. It has five times the antioxidants of green tea and lots of other benefits.”
The married couple produced their batch of Shaka Tea in April 2016, getting into 100 markets and drawing the attention of Paradise Beverages, which has since ramped up Shaka’s distribution.
“When I go to the Northwest to sell tea, people love the fact that it’s from Hawaii,” Rice says. “There is a huge market out there for this.”
Finalist – Vincent Kimura
Co-founder, Smart Yields
Vincent Kimura likes to call the heart of Smart Yields’ technology “ground satellites.”
“Our sensors are in the crops and give better indications of what is going on than an image from above,” he says.
The vision of Kimura and his five fellow co-founders – Justin Hedani, Isar Mostafanezhad, Ryan Ozawa, Michael Rogers and Lizzy Schiller – is to not only supply farmers with information to maximize their yields, but also interpret the data and offer suggestions on how to get the most out of their crops.
“It’s like crowdsourcing only you don’t see the other farmer’s statistics directly. Our software lets farmers know how others are dealing with the same climates or problems.”
Finalist – Kainoa McGee
McGee is one of the top watermen in Hawaii. Professional surfer, bodyboarder, standup-paddle boarder – if it’s in the ocean, he’s on it.
But much of that is on the backburner since he created KMBCo. to help people with disabilities enjoy the ocean. His company is creating “Versatility Krafts,” a half-surfboard/half-canoe that comes with stabilizing arms on each side similar to outrigger canoes, offering enough stability and room for individuals and families to paddle together.
“There is a bigger need than I initially thought,” McGee says. “There are people in walkers and wheelchairs who look at how big standup-paddle boarding is today and think ‘I can never do that.’ Our Krafts crush that myth.”
SOCIAL IMPACT ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR
An entrepreneur or company that substantially contributes to helping solve some of Hawaii’s toughest problems.
Finalist – Purple Mai‘a
Co-founders Donavan Kealoha, Kelsey Amos, and Olin Lagon
Purple Maia is designed to give underprivileged children exposure to computer science and, after every session, the students fill out surveys. Those surveys put a smile on Kealoha’s face because they show the children gaining confidence and recognizing their abilities.
“These are the communities myself and my co-founders grew up in,” Kealoha says. “We are the throwaway kids not considered the best and the brightest.
They don’t have all the opportunities. But we tell them they can do it from Day 1 and right away they see they are capable and smart enough to do it.”
He expects Purple Maia will be reaching 260 children in 11 schools by the end of the school year.
Finalist – Katie Chang
Executive Director, Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders
When students at the center learned that hot classrooms were a problem at Campbell High School, they started crowdfunding and raised $22,000 for air conditioning.
“They took it on themselves,” Chang says. “None of them went to school there. They just saw a need and that’s what this program is about. It gives you a feeling of empowerment that you can do more.”
Chang knows the impact firsthand. In 2004, she was a part of the initial first class when it was a “pet project.” Back then, there were 20 students; now there are 250. In 2013, CTL became a nonprofit and Chang left her job in London to work with kids on the island where she grew up.
Finalist – Kainoa McGee
See profile under People’s Choice finalists
CLEAN TECH/AG ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR
An entrepreneur and company whose technology supports a greener future or helps farmers with innovative agricultural practices.
Finalist – Jack Beuttell and Bobby Farias Jr.
Co-founders, Kunoa Cattle Co.
Today, 97 percent of the beef eaten in the state is imported, but Kunoa Cattle Co. wants to help make Hawaii self-sufficient in food.
“The problem in Hawaii has never been the capability to raise cattle,” Farias says. “It’s the perfect place because we don’t need to feed them hormones to keep them healthy because of our climate. We can raise grass-fed, free-range cattle from pasture to plate. The problem ranchers here have had in getting their meat to market is we didn’t have enough cold storage or a processing plant that could handle demand.”
Farias and his partners already had cattle and pastureland, but in November they bought Oahu’s only slaughterhouse. He says the Kapolei facility will harvest 40 head a day and offer premium beef and pork.
Finalist – Brian Goldstein
Founder, Manoa Botanicals
Goldstein loves helping launch new industries. He worked in Silicon Valley with Oracle when the internet took off and he was a pioneer in the electric-vehicle-charging industry. Today, he is the founder of Manoa Botanicals, holder of one of eight medical marijuana grower licenses in the state.
“It’s not often in Hawaii you can be part of creating a new industry,” he says. “What attracts me is the incredibly fast pace of innovation taking place in this field. This is by far the most rapidly evolving industry I’ve ever been involved with.”
What’s changing most rapidly is how people ingest marijuana and continue to find new medicinal purposes for it, he says.
Finalist – Dennis Furukawa
Founder, RealGreen Power
When he was an architect, Furukawa says, he would push his clients for environmental solutions, but the ideas often fell on deaf ears. Now that he’s an entrepreneur and land developer, he takes matters into his own hands.
“The two real critical blocks for land development is where to get water and where to put sewage,” he says. Those are keystones to sustainability. He says that’s why he founded RealGreen Power, a company devoted to producing clean energy and clean water without pollution or waste.
“We’re working on a project now with Blue Planet on the Big Island that involves recycling a quarter of a million gallons of wastewater a day that will be used for creating landscaping on the moonscape of Kohala.”
CORPORATE INTRAPRENEUR OF THE YEAR
A person who creatively challenges traditions and changes a company’s culture to ensure fellow employees are engaged and can be intrapreneurial.
Finalist – Ian Kitajima
Director of corporate development, Oceanit
If the crowd turns left, Ian Kitajima is sure to go right.
It is the way of Oceanit, and the 1983 Castle High School grad embodies the tech company’s policy of constant change and looking beyond the normal.
“I call where I go the ‘white spaces,’” says Kitajima. “It’s part of my job to go where nobody else does because that’s where the person with the new idea or innovation is.”
Internally, he’s called the “Tech Sherpa” because he is both a recruiter and someone who discerns what customers really want from what they say.
Finalist – Dora Nakafuji
Director of Renewable Energy Planning, Hawaiian Electric Co.
Nakafuji is a linchpin for renewable energy across Hawaii. Solar, wind, geothermal, wave – when an alternative source touches the grids of the Hawaiian Electric Co., she’s probably had a hand in making it work.
Her nomination comes from the dozens of vendors she coordinates as she leads HECO’s charge to integrate and harness all the alternative energies and get them working together. Other utilities across the country are watching HECO innovate with new technology and programs.
“I see it coming soon where customers will get more involved in how they’re using their energy,” Nakafuji says. “It’s not demand response, it’s more like grid response or demand plus grid response.”
Finalist – Stacy Clayton
Executive Strategy Consultant, Strategy & Innovation Division, Kamehameha Schools
Clayton is proud that KS has created a Strategy & Innovation Division. “It’s a bold statement that this isn’t status quo,” Clayton says. “This is a commitment to growing the next great venturer, innovator or entrepreneur.”
Clayton’s new role includes finding ways to make sure Hawaiians get the best opportunities to succeed in the future. Two programs that helped lead to her nomination are a new meeting house on Beretania Street, Halau Inana ma Kapaakea, where Clayton says innovation and creation come to life, and her mapping of youth, collegiate and adult innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems statewide.
LIFE SCIENCE ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR
The entrepreneur whose company’s innovation helps solve some of the biggest problems in health care.
Finalist – Jeffrey Yu
Yu was starting his career as a radiologist when a co-worker took him to his first medical trade show.
“I remember seeing the MRI images at the show and being blown away because ours never came out that clear,” Yu says. “I was going off on them and my friend quietly turned to me and asked, ‘Jeff, what type of patient are in these pictures?’ It was cadavers. Ah, yes. The reason they were so clear was the patient wasn’t moving. That never happens in real life.”
Kineticor’s motion-correcting technology is expected to cost about $100,000 per unit, Yu says, meaning it will easily pay for itself by eliminating poor images and misdiagnoses.
Finalist – Luke Joseph
Founder, iFirst Medical Technologies
iFirst’s technology is complex, but its life-saving app operates simply.
“We’re measuring the blood’s performance with the use of smartphone technology that can be sent to doctors within seconds,” Joseph says. “Five million people die from trauma injuries every year and this test can save 20 percent of those lives. That just scratches the surfaces of how this will be used.”
iFirst has one job: Measure how fast blood is coagulating. When medics get that one vital piece of information, Joseph says, they can stop bleed outs and other problems. He is hoping for FDA approval this year and to launch in 2018.
Finalist – Andrea Fleig
Co-founder, Cythera Pharmaceuticals
If all goes as planned, in about four years, a patented cream made with drugs already approved by the FDA will be on the market to bring relief to nearly 8 million Americans suffering from psoriasis. If it works on that autoimmune disease, Fleig says, it would likely work on Vitilgo (Michael Jackson’s skin discoloring disease) and systemic administration for multiple sclerosis.
“We just call it Cytherazine after the name of our company for now, but we’ll leave the real naming to whichever major drug company buys it from us.”
Fleig and her husband/business partner Reinhold Penner are clinical researchers at Queen’s and founded CyThera in 2014 to reposition FDA-approved drugs for new therapeutic indications based on ion channel targets.
STARTUP PARADISE CHAMPIONS
Someone who consistently contributes to the successes of Hawaii’s startup community.
WINNER: Burt Lum and Ryan Ozawa
When Ryan Ozawa attended the HVCA awards last year, he was happy to see that nearly every one of the nominees had appeared on Bytemarks Cafe, the science and technology show on Hawaii Public Radio that he co-hosts live with Burt Lum every Wednesday at 5 p.m.
When he learned the list of this year’s nominees, it was the same thing, only this time he’s a double nominee with Burt Lum as a co-host for Bytemarks and as a co-founder of Smart Yields, where one of his partners, Vincent Kimura, worked as an intern with him 20 years ago.
“Now he’s my boss,” Ozawa says, chuckling. “Our show tries to do the same thing HVCA does. We look for the innovators and developers, the people making a difference. Burt and I don’t get paid, but we’ve done over 400 shows just because we love it.”
ISLAND INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR
Celebrating innovations that help islands like Hawaii’s, solving a major problem in communities, the ocean or the aina.
Finalist – Henk Rogers
CEO, Blue Planet Energy
Rogers made his fortune by bringing the video game Tetris to the world, but his mission today is to eliminate fossil fuels and carbon footprints globally.
“But if I’m going to ask others to do it, I need to do it myself,” he says.
His Hawaii Island ranch and Honolulu home run entirely on renewable solar and wind energy that is stored for use when there is no sun or wind by technology created by Blue Planet Energy.
Rogers’ team evaluated batteries by Tesla and Sony before deciding which to use. “We chose Sony because it uses ferrous phosphate and is safer. The batteries have a longer life, up to 20 years, and they aren’t flammable.”
Finalist – Todd Madsen
President, Blue Ocean Mariculture
From hatch to harvest, Kona-based Blue Ocean Mariculture is bringing Hawaiian Kampachi to market with a goal of protecting the ocean environment.
“Seafood consumption is growing quickly, but the size of our oceans is not,” Madsen says. “We need to protect wild ocean ecosystems from the growing global demand for seafood proteins. Our team thinks that responsible mariculture is an important part of the solution by providing a safe, alternative supply of high quality seafood.”
“We also hope to bring other Hawaiian marine species to market in the coming years.”
Finalist – Dennis Furukawa
Founder, RealGreen Power
See profile on under Clean Tech/Ag Entrepreneur
TECH ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR
Honoring the entrepreneur who has created technology and innovation to make our lives better.
Finalist – Alex Cabello
Netflix uses algorithm technology to recommend movies to viewers based on what they’ve already watched. That’s the technology Cabello wants AlgorithmHub to provide to smaller companies who can’t afford to create it on their own.
AlgorithmHub will allow users to find, share and run algorithms in the cloud. The concept is to create communities around algorithms, thus accelerating their adoption and minimizing reinvention. The UH Cancer Center and the NSA are already customers, Cabello says.
“We work closely to see what the client’s needs are. This helps eliminate, for example, doctors solving the same problem over and over because they lose what they did the first time around or don’t share findings.”
Finalist – Ikaika Sheehan
Two friends interested in golf tours started a phone app for last-minute Hawaii deals and that venture’s blossomed into a nine-person tech company that helps travel companies sell tours and activities.
Activiter lets users research, find and book travel experiences in real time, Sheehan says. “My partner (Rob LaFontaine) and I went to Blue Startups 18 months ago and they suggested we talk to vendors about they want and what is missing. We went to Waikiki and talked to people. It paid off. By 2020 we hope to be in Europe.”
Finalist – Sudesh Kumar
Founder and CEO, Kapalya
Kapalya is an application that encrypts data on endpoints, corporate servers and cloud servers in addition to authenticating the users, Kumar says. And, “It seamlessly establishes VPN tunnels so all data in transit from the endpoints to corporate or cloud servers are encrypted.”
People create copies of data when they download confidential documents from corporate servers onto their laptops, or email copies to their personal e-mails. “In doing so, they have left a copy of that confidential data on their laptop, or the cloud server where their email service is hosted (such as Yahoo or Gmail). If this data is not encrypted at all these locations, then they could get compromised with a data leak.”
STUDENT ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR
Honoring a younger member of the innovative community with a passion for learning and the tenacious spirit of an entrepreneur.
Finalist – Kyle Chang
Chang has had two concussions: Once from playing high school football, and the other from snowboarding in Oregon.
The consequences for him are not serious, but concussions are major problems for many people. So the UH undergrad has partnered with Rick Abelmann and aunt Noe Foster to create a smartphone app designed to support concussion therapy and diagnosis.
Users video themselves while answering three questions: What are the top three songs on your playlist? Where do you want to travel and why? What is your cheat meal? The videos are kept by a medical provider and, if concussion is expected, the questions will be asked again to monitor the patient’s well being.
Finalist – Zak Barry, Matt Hong, Luke Untermann, Galen McCleary
They wanted to be entrepreneurs with a purpose. The four 2010 Punahou grads and longtime friends found what they were seeking in bananas.
“When we tried this vegan ‘nicecream’ recipe that was made from bananas, the simplicity of it blew us away because it tasted so much like ice cream but was easy to make,” Hong says. “Once we came up with the local farm-to-table concept, realizing Hawaii is one of the few states where bananas are locally grown, everyone moved back from across the country and Asia to start this up and it’s been going great.”
They started with a food truck purchased off Craigslist in 2014 and last year opened their first brick-and-mortar shop, on the corner of University and Metcalf streets.
Finalist – Rob Saito
Founder and President, Herbavore
Saito has always dreamed big. His latest venture is Herbavore Tools, a customized-tool company that he thinks could revolutionize the gardening industry.
“We’ve got two patents pending and we’re about to submit our third,” says the 27-year-old MBA student. “When I was younger, I worked at a nursery and I’d always get blisters. With traditional gardening tools, you either sacrifice quality or comfort. I created a website where customers can measure their palms and get the handle that fits their size: medium, large, small. We streamlined how they’re made so you can customize color, shape, size.”
Saito founded Herbavore in May 2016 and is fundraising while working with XLR8UH on a business model.
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Virtual Fantasy League is a simple to play, easy to learn, highly social fantasy sports game.
Name: Virtual Fantasy League
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Product / Service Offering: Free to Play Fantasy Sports Mobile Game
Co-founder Interviewed: Gary Ma
This article is part of our Business Startup Spotlight series featuring entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope that these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you.
I’m a serial entrepreneur and have built businesses in a variety of industries ranging from live music entertainment, to retail, to technology.
No matter what current life cycle my business is experiencing, I will always have a passion for this stage – the startup phase. It’s exciting and fast paced. You can learn and adapt. You can create something from nothing, which motivates me. Another aspect that motivates me is the teamwork. In a startup, your cofounders are your family, quite literally. You spend more time with them than anyone else. They are the ones you communicate with most, and you depend on them at this moment in your life more than anyone. I’m fortunate to have the best team and cofounders out there.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
The company was incorporated in October 2015, but David had begun doing extensive research into the market and opportunity early in 2015. One year after incorporation our company launched a fantasy football game on the App Store in September 2016; and will be following up with basketball and baseball early in 2017 as well.
The idea for Virtual Fantasy League (VFL) first spawned when David, who is a die-hard fantasy player, witnessed the problems plaguing the industry. Some of which were lack of transparency, real money wagering, and insider trading. David himself is not a “gambler” so immediately wondered why there isn’t a product where you can play for free and for fun.
Our team has lots of experience with social networks, having built China’s first bilingual social network. David is also an inventor of two social search technology patents. So with our background, we knew we could create a much better experience for sports fans, connect the casual with the die-hard and bring fantasy mainstream. Our mission is to spark and spread the love of sports, one person, one game, one day at a time.
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
Fantasy sports can be difficult to learn, is time consuming, and recently has become associated with real-money wagering. The Virtual Fantasy League is a simple to play, easy to learn, highly social fantasy sports game. We make fantasy sports accessible to everyone, and connect the casual sports fans with the die-hard, creating one universal platform where they can play, talk and research sports.
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
One very apparent differentiation is the business model. Our competitors are gambling platforms. Players wager real money in contests against other players and the winners win real money. As a result, highly skilled players win all the money, and 90% of the players end up losing money. This is an unsustainable model.
The Virtual Fantasy League is a free-to-play model, which means everyone can enjoy the entire experience of the game for free. It has nothing to do with gambling. Now everyone can be included risk free, including the fastest demographic of fantasy sports players (teens and people under 21).
Just like other highly successful casual games (Candy Crush, Clash of Clans), Virtual Fantasy League makes money from the small percentage of people who choose to spend money and enhance their in-game experience (in-app purchases). This model is proven, and sustainable for all users on the platform.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
A challenge we faced early on was communicating what was special about our offering to those less familiar with sports.
A unique challenge we faced was the fact that our offering is a hybrid product. On one hand, it’s a fantasy sports app, on the other, it’s a casual game. Traditionally these two types of product have different characteristics. I believe we are able to overcome this with our unique approach using, patent pending, gamification, and now VFL benefits from being a hybrid. We have the loyalty and retention of sports fans and the mass audience appeal of the casual gaming market. VFL is positioned to really disrupt the fantasy sports industry.
Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
Finding the right tools can really set your company in the right direction and waste less of your valuable time. Some of the ones we use are: Nimble (CRM), Hubspot (CRM, Marketing), Kickoff Labs (Landing page and referral system), Hotjar (Heat mapping), Growth Hackers Projects (Idea mapping), Trello, Slack, and Branch Analytics.
What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
We’ve been fortunate to have great support early from friends and angels that have witnessed the successes our team has achieved together in the past and know what we are capable of. We have raised $450,000 to-date.
A suggestion to my earlier self would be to develop a more defined sales process for the fundraising. It is using a CRM tool, creating a funnel and a sales process, and also delivering consistent updates to our prospects with our progress so investors see a progression rather than a snapshot of our company.
What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
Well, while no hacks have yet to be given, guess there’s no such thing as a free lunch, there have been some that have been immensely helpful to us. Through Blue Startups, Henk Rogers is a shareholder in VFL and is also our lead mentor. We meet every week and his guidance has been phenomenal. Here is the man who brought TETRIS to the world. It is the most popular casual game of all time! Now he is working with us to create the first casual fantasy sports game.