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Tackling Weird Business Solutions with Oceanit


Oceanit is a pioneer when it comes to developing a locally based high-tech business. The company was established 30 years ago by Dr. Patrick Sullivan, who’s got some new ideas for the decades ahead.  Pacific Business News Editor in Chief A. Kam Napier has more on what’s ahead for this company.

Patrick Sullivan started Oceanit with just a hundred dollars in his pocket, right after graduating from the University of Hawaii.  His first big idea was medical diagnostic technology that he hoped to develop with the National Institute of Health.  But he had an eye opening experience that has shaped Oceanit ever since – upon travelling to Washington D.C. to pitch the technology, he was told that Hawaii was too small and too far away to be taken seriously.

He found a way to counterbalance that viewpoint, however, and it’s something any Hawaii-based company wanting to do business on the mainland can learn from.  First the Hawaiian company has to act like it’s no big deal.  Says Sullivan, “I tell my team to think of the mainland as another neighbor island.”  Second, sell the distance and difference as a plus.  Oceanit likes to solve what Sullivan calls “weird” technological and engineering problems, so he’s able to pitch Hawaii’s location as a place where out-of-the-box thinking can happen.

Of course, a Hawaii-based company also has to deliver and Oceanit went on to three decades of contracts, often with the Department of Defense, coming up with solutions to “weird” problems.  It’s business model has typically included spinning off these inventions as stand alone companies, such as Nanopoint Inc., which pioneered a way to look inside living cells to conduct cancer research.

What’s next for Oceanit? Sullivan says the company will be looking more towards mass-market technologies.  And it hopes to do for Silicon Valley what it has done for federal agencies in D.C. – coming up with solutions to weird problems for the likes of Google and Facebook, from across the Pacific.  

A. Kam Napier is the editor-in-chief of Pacific Business News.
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