I’m sitting at home in the middle of summer socked in by fog with a dash of drizzle, dreaming of white sandy beaches and plenty of sunshine. Who wouldn’t rather build a start-up in paradise?
That’s what the State of Hawaii is betting on, as it has recently signed legislation releasing $2 million to fund multiple accelerators in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. They’re also holding an Innovate Hawaii conference on Oahu, bringing in Steve Case, chairman of Startup America Partnership, co-founder of AOL, and CEO of Revolution LLC, as the keynote speaker. The August 2-3 event will also include a startup competition for entrepreneurs on the islands.
It’s not a far-fetched idea to invest in a startup community in the middle of the Pacific as entrepreneurs and investors from across Silicon Valley and throughout the world already vacations there, including Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. Also, many have annual and semi-annual trips already set for Maui to kiteboard. Some spend a week, others a month or longer, like Scott Painter, CEO of TrueCar, a site that helps inform consumers about the best deals on cars.
Painter started coming to Maui to participate in the annual MaiTai Kiteboard event, started nearly seven years ago by Charles River Ventures Partner Bill Tai. MaiTai is a gathering of successful entrepreneurs, executives, and investors who share a passion for the sport. They not only dance on the waves, but they also network and get deals done. Not one attendee heads to the beach without his/her smartphone or iPad.
Last year, I even caught Keith Powers, who now is the VP of Business Development for education non-profit Khan Academy, on the beach strategizing with a partner on a whiteboard.
Several entrepreneurs at this year’s event met with Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa to ask him to create a real workspace for them on the island to work and play. They gave him a lot of ideas and now Arakawa is serious about not just creating a workspace, but developing an incubator and/or accelerator to truly drive tech innovation on Maui.
Arakawa is seeking not just state funds, but also federal funds to help him. Take a look at the video below to find out the ideas being tossed around. Entrepreneurs such as Schematic Labs CEO Steve Jang suggested the island develop an actual “Workation” space for startups.
Share your ideas as well in the comment section below as Mayor Arakawa’s communications director, Rod Antone, will be checking this post for your thoughts on how to create a startup tech hub on Maui.