Big Island Accelerator, Nalukai, Launches Website – Updated

Nalukai Hawaii Startup Accelerator

Nalukai Hawaii Startup AcceleratorAfter much anticipation, Nalukai, Hawaii’s third state-supported accelerator, has launched a website, finally giving some minimal clarity into their team, plans, and program.

With what little information is available, it’s clear that Nalukai is combining highly-experienced tech startup executives with seasoned accelerator management and alumni, setting themselves apart from both Kinetiq Labs and Blue Startups.

On the experience side, Nalukai’s managing partners Darius “Bubs” Monsef and Don Kosak both have significant tech backgrounds, with Kosak the former CTO of internet search pioneer Lycos, and Monsef a Y Combinator alum, 500 Startups mentor, former Microsoft program manager, and current founder and CEO of venture-backed CreativeMarket. They are joined by Nalukai managing partner Spencer Jackson, a corporate and IP attorney with noted global law firm Orrick, and Nalukai program director Laura Reitel, former program manager at both TechStars and Global Accelerator Network, and current mentor at two European tech accelerators.

Yeah, that’s definitely a stacked deck of tech, startup, entrepreneurial, and accelerator experience!

Program Differentiation

While Nalukai doesn’t offer many details about program specifics or start dates, they do seem to have a typical “seed+mentor” accelerator model, putting them head-to-head against Blue Startups’ Global Accelerator Network (TechStars) methodology, which is a three month session plus $20,000 for 6% equity.

For mentors, Nalukai’s site alludes to their startups having access to “expert advice of mentors currently building the world’s great web startups.” For seed funding, they mention providing “a chunk of survival cash that will allow their team to focus 100% on launching their startups.” I’ll assume that “survival” equates to minimal, so expect the standard accelerator $20,000, or in that range.

It’s clear, however, that their differentiation lies within their management team’s experience, real-startup-experienced mentors, and significant connections to mainland startup capital. While names have yet to be mentioned, just the management team’s resumes alone point to potential connections with top-tier tech talent that will be tough to match.

It will be interesting to see how or if Nalukai and Blue Startups “compete” for teams to enter their respective programs. From what I’ve learned, however, Nalukai is focused primarily on mainland teams while

Via email, Kosak stated that, “Nalukai is focused primarily on building great startups in Hawaii.  The teams might be relocating (or returning) to Hawaii from the mainland, from the neighbor islands, or maybe even from Honolulu or overseas.  Where they come from is less important than the fact that they are building a high-growth business in Hawaii.”

Blue Startups is seeking a blend of Hawaii-based, mainland, and international teams, so there may be minimal overlap.

Obviously, in a small market such as ours, cooperation and collaboration need to take precedent over competition.

Waiting for the Starting Gun

As for which Hawaii-based accelerator follows-through on successfully matching the state’s funds and publicizing accepted startup teams, there have yet to be any announcements. Kinetiq is an existing incubator, having had several projects underway before the state’s funding program. Blue Startups recently ended their open application period, is currently in their selection process, and has March 4, 2013, listed as their session start date (all according to their website).

I’ve reached out to both Blue Startups and Nalukai for clarifications and input, and will update have updated this post if/when they respond below.

UPDATE: Rechung Fujihira, Blue Startups’ strategic partnerships lead, responded to clarify perceived overlap and signal a clear intent to cooperate:  “I’m sure there will be companies that are attracted to both programs. Nothing wrong with that. We both want to see each other succeed. Ours being in the City and Nalukai being in the country will naturally shape different programs.

UPDATE #2: And from Nalukai, managing partner Don Kosak added:  “One of the important things to point out about the accelerators is that the people running them are making an effort to reach out to one another and work together. Building a strong startup community is something we can all put our efforts behind.” (Kosak provided additional comments, added above, regarding Nalukai’s focus on Hawaii-based startups, regardless of where they originate.)

Very well said!