Building a Kick-Ass Hawaii Accelerator – An Invitation to Collaborate

Last week’s Wet Ware Wednesday announcing state funding for venture accelerators was an event to be remembered. State representatives, techies, entrepreneurs, investors, and service providers were all mixing and mingling. This was an eclectic mix – but an important one to move the entrepreneurial community in Hawaii forward.

There have been some dark days in the start-up community since the end of Act 221 and the dissolution of groups like HiSciTech. Those of us who have been in the start-up scene here longer than we care to admit, found ourselves asking where is the next generation of entrepreneurs to lead us out of this malaise?

I am happy to report – they have arrived. Now, we have to grapple with the generation gaps, perceptions of power, and misunderstanding of intent. When we were them, we were equally suspicious of those who had done it before but in a much different way. My hope for this next wave of entrepreneurship in Hawaii is that it can speak with a unified voice. This is our last shot to come together as one community and regain our power of influence and impact– we won’t get another one.

The models of success from elsewhere have these attributes in common – strong leadership, with unified community support. I know that we are capable of the same – I have seen glimmers of this over the last few months. It will require disregarding our preconceived notions, putting aside our egos, and speaking with one voice. Perhaps this is possible now – but it will take all of us.

The accelerator platform offers a great opportunity to showcase this unity and strength in the ranks. If we are successful, the State and other funders may actually pay attention and provide more than token support for our start-up community. If we are successful, we may actually find that working together has its benefits. If we are successful, we may discover that Hawaii has what it takes to compete on a global scale.

Recently, some colleagues and I have started HI Impact, a group focused on bringing together social entrepreneurs and impact investors. The idea of investing in companies to positively impact society and the environment is a new development in the start-up world. These new concepts may hold some of the keys to building Hawaii’s unique identity in the start-up world.

Regardless of what tact we take, our approach needs to be unique to this place. Hawaii is different – culturally, geographically, and ecologically. How do we turn these differences into strengths? How do we create a start-up scene that is uniquely ours – and claim our rightful place in the world of entrepreneurship? If we have learned nothing else over the past decade, I hope we have learned that striving to be a “me too” entrepreneurial environment will not work.

In Hawaii, as elsewhere I suspect, we tend to get overly focused on our point of view, defending our territory. While we say that island economies are good for forcing collaboration, we also fiercely defend what is ours due to the perception that there is not enough to go around.

All this is to say, Hawaii Angels, HI Impact and others collaborators are focused on developing an accelerator model that will work for Hawaii. This is my open invitation to anyone who wants to join us and help put forth one vision. I would love to see one proposal to the State where we all come together, pool our collective resources, and say this is it: we all support this effort – we will all work towards its success.

I know this may be a radical concept, I know there will be those that will not show up to the party; and there will be those who come to the party and we will wish they stayed home. But, I believe, big challenges require big solutions. We have tried carving out our small tech and start-up niches – let’s try working together and just see what happens.

This is my open invitation to you – get in touch, get involved – let’s show the State and the world that we can rise above our differences and develop a model that has the best chances of success.

Chenoa Farnsworth
Managing Director, Hawaii Angels
Founder, HI Impact

This post was submitted by Chenoa Farnsworth.