Venture Capital Experts Share Vision on Maui
More than 30 entrepreneurs and professionals from various industries gathered at the Malcolm Center in Kīhei for Maui Economic Development Board’s “Venturing Out: Exploring the World of Venture Capital” workshop on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015.
Their goal was to learn more about venture capital: what is it, where to find it, and how to secure it.
Five experts shared advice on how to attract venture capital to expand and grow a business.
Speakers included: Warren Doi with the Hawaiʻi Energy Excelerator; Donovan Kealoha, senior associate at Startup Venture Capital; Gregory Kim, partner at Convergent Law Group LLP and president of Business Law Corps; Padma Rao, an entrepreneur and advisor to mbloom, a Maui headquartered venture capital fund; and Bill Richardson, interim director of the UH Office of Technology Transfer and Economic Development.
Doi’s advice was to, “Think big for sure and understand that you need to be better than the rest.” He said, “Here in Hawaiʻi, you have a very integrated supportive network that you don’t have in the dog-eat-dog world of Silicon Valley. I think that’s Hawaiʻi’s strength to have this entrepreneurial community where people are more inclined to help you. Ask for it and build those relationships that can help put you on that accelerated path to success.”
Kealoha’s advice was, “Make sure you have traction.” He said, “Whether it be growing your user base or having revenues growing at a significantly healthy clip, having traction makes the valuations and negotiations a lot easier and venture capitalists will look at you more favorably.”
Kim’s focus was to have fun. “There’s nothing more motivating than doing something that’s important to you and that you’re passionate about. Don’t worry if you fail. Just dust yourself off and move on,” said Kim.
“Make sure securing venture capital is what you want to do,” advised Rao. “Because, you’re taking on partners. You are actively letting other people be part of your decision process for your company. You are adding a new constituency to the dynamics of your company in general. We encourage you to do research on your own to learn more about these types of funds and if it’s right for you,” said Rao.
My advise to budding entrepreneurs is be a bit quirky about what you want in life,” said Richardson. “Since 1993, I’ve been working to build a community of entrepreneurs in Hawaiʻi. What I wanted in life was to create more STEM jobs in Hawaii for our youth to enable them to live here at home. That’s been my passion. So I encourage you to do everything with passion, because whatever you do with passion, you’ll succeed.”
The advice offered provided assistance to participants in weighing the pros and cons of venture capital funds.
“Here you have the leading minds in venture capital funds sharing their expertise,” said Chris Speere, Maui Innovation Center Coordinator for the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College. “It would be very difficult to have this opportunity to learn about these topics without MEDB bringing these people here to talk about venture capital. There’s a lot to learn, a lot to digest. But at the same time, it plants the seeds to your next step.”
David Fry, owner of Board.Vote, a team project that captured first place in the 2015 Startup Weekend Maui, is one who is currently looking at the next step. “After Startup Weekend Maui, we had an opportunity to work on our business and we’re now looking at where we go from here,” said Fry. “Do we self-fund for a bit, do we want to go through angel funding or pursue venture capital? This workshop was a great way to learn about this industry and understand from both perspectives and from both sides of the table, what we need to be and what we should be expecting out of venture capital investments.”
For others, it was all about dreams and what pathways to take to get there.
“I dream big,” said Cecilia Hercik owner of Olavine Spa, who hopes to one day establish day spas for kamaʻāina statewide. “In order to grow big, you need strong partners, you need capital. As the saying goes, it takes money to make money.”
The “Venturing Out: Exploring the World of Venture Capital” workshop was part of MEDB’s Technical Assistance Series, a grassroots effort to help small businesses establish strong systems, processes, tools, and best practices to build a solid foundation for success.
The workshop was sponsored by the County of Maui, Maui Economic Development Board, and Business Law Corps.