This week we are heading to the blue waters of Hawaii, or 'Startup Paradise' as the ecossytem here has been described. Blue Startups are located in downtown Honolulu. After a recent visit to San Francisco, we spoke with the team about their accelerator programme. How did you come up with the idea for your Accelerator? What is the “founding story” or inspiration?
Technology and gaming entrepreneur Henk Rogers (Tetris Company) had a vision for creating a technology hub in Hawaii. Having chosen to make Honolulu his home, he believed strongly that technology companies can and will thrive anywhere in the digital age. Henk teamed up with Chenoa Farnsworth, a long-time technology investor in Hawaii, to create Hawaii's first technology accelerator.In just one sentence, what is your accelerator called and what do you do? (briefly describe the program)
Blue Startups is a Top 20 Accelerator in the US (Techcrunch) that concentrates on helping scalable-technology companies including Internet, software, mobile, gaming and e-commerce compete on a global scale.
What makes your program different or unique? And related, what’s your primary value-add?
What makes Blue Startups unique is that we are the bridge between the United States and Asia. We host an annual East Meets West Conference bringing together investors and entrepreneurs from Asia, Hawaii and North America. EMW’16 featured our demo day, amazing international speakers, deep-dive learning opportunities, and ample networking in a tropical Startup Paradise.
In addition to our Asia connections, we operate in “Startup Paradise” a growing tech scene in Hawaii made up of an informal collective of organizations working together to strengthen the innovation ecosystem in Hawaii. We offer a fantastic place to live, work and have fun!
Each cohort ends with a capstone week in San Francisco where our 2nd demo day is held at 500 Startups. This week is filled with office hours, workshops, and company tours with our mentor network In San Francisco.
What do you love the most about working with startups?
The most enjoyable part of working with startups is witnessing the improvements companies make throughout our program and seeing them realize the opportunity at hand. Being able to celebrate the wins and support them through the set-backs, even after our program, keeps the job fun.
We also enjoy learning about new niches and opportunities from the entrepreneurs that are living in these spaces. The more dedicated an entrepreneur is to their business the more we can learn from them.
What is the hardest or most surprising part of working with startups?
The most difficult part working with startups is making sure they take full advantage of the program. Entrepreneurs can be very singularly focused – and while this can be a good thing, it can also hinder their ability to take feedback and change direction when necessary. The Blue Startups program is very fast and furious and if an entrepreneur does not participate fully they will miss out on valuable information and resources.
Do you have a success story to share? Who are the most notable or interesting companies to go through your program?
Volta builds free electric car charging networks for communities. They partner with commercial site owners providing charging stations and installation and a split of advertising revenue. Currently they secured $12.5 million of equity and project financing and is set to expand its network of more than 100 outdoor stations into more communities with the goal of positioning brands as enablers of the future.
FloWater is using the newest technology in reusable water bottle Refill Stations, we’re delivering a high quality, environmentally friendly alternative to bottled water. They have raised $4 million and have deployed over 400 units.
Vantage Sports goal is to affect all aspects of sports by combining the best minds of the game with the best technology in the world. They have raised $3 million in follow on funding and has partnered with multiple NBA teams to provide deep analytics to improve their player’s performance.
AreaMetrics raised $2 million and they gather powerful foot-traffic insights and empowers brick & mortar merchants to create meaningful connections with customers. Their platform leverages a network of millions of app users to gather retention rates, customer demographics, bounce rates, and other key performance indicators.
How, if in any way, has Foundersuite helped your companies?
Being an early adopter, Foundersuite has been extremely involved and helpful to our companies through workshops, one-on-one sessions and perks.
Finally, what is your best tip for running a startup?
Take every opportunity to leverage the network you’ve worked so hard to build and don’t be afraid to ask for help!