Hawai‘i’s Startup Challenges

Jun 12, 2015

Credit Ramunas Geciauskas / Flickr

Tech start-ups are a key part of the 21st century economy and Hawaii has a growing number of them.  As Pacific Business News Editor in Chief A. Kam Napier explains, getting this sector off the ground presents both challenges and opportunities.

We hosted six guests at the Pacific Business News offices for a roundtable discussion on Hawaii start-up scene. They included Henk Rodgers of Blue Planet Foundation and Blue Startups: Chenoa Farnsworth, also of blue Startups and Hawaii Angles, Bill Richardson of the University of Hawaii Office of Technology Transfer and Economic Development as well as representatives from the venture capital and startup incubator world.

All of them are busily funding and coaching Hawaii’s startups, seeing more success than ever, but there are some critical elements missing in Hawaii that keep us from being competitive, and they don’t just mean competitive with Silicon Valley where almost unimaginable levels of talent and money abound. They mean competitive with say… St. Louis Missouri, a city praised for an all-hands approach to creating a tech start-up economy. In St. Louis government, big business, financiers and entrepreneurs all collaborate freely with a sense of urgency.

One of the biggest impediments to keeping local startups in the islands is a lack of money.  As Rodgers notes “There is big money Hawaii, but it’s managed by risk-averse people who are afraid of the failure rate of startups.” Consequently, while Hawaii has no shortage of people trying to come up with the next Facebook or Instagram, they’re all but guaranteed to leave the islands in search of better backing, taking their operation with them just as they were about to be a hit.

For more on what these start-up experts had to say about what business and government could be doing better to nurture a startup scene, check out todays cover story in Pacific Business News.