Startup Weekend Maui inspires entrepreneurs, patterns life

What happens when you unleash a group of inspired entrepreneurs who have only 54 hours to create a new business from concept to market? The answer is what played out at this year’s Startup Weekend Maui on May 19-21 – an empowering event designed to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs presented by Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB).

Startup Weekend Maui

(Pictured from left) Maya Ooki, Naomi Glass and Tom Jones participated in an ice breaker during the Startup Weekend Maui kickoff on Friday. According to Jones, “This experience really flipped the way I thought things should happen when creating a startup. It’s not product first. It’s problem first, then validation, and then product.”

Bryan Butteling who has served as facilitator for Startup Weekend Maui for the past four years and who has played an active role in this global grassroots movement in Hawaii explained “The goal of Startup Weekend Maui is to teach business creation. It’s a process that patterns life. Everything that these participants experience is what anyone who starts a company goes through – the highs, the lows, the conflicts, and the resolutions.”

Frank De Rego Jr., Director of Business Development Projects for MEDB added, “Team dynamics is the engine that drives this experience forward. Everyone has a role to play in completing all the tasks involved in building a startup from the ground up such as conducting market research, creating a business model, developing marketing strategies, and establishing a cost structure.  One of the most important tasks, and one we constantly stress, is validating your product or service to make sure people actually want what you’re intending to sell.”

Over 30 people participated in this year’s Startup Weekend Maui which kicked off at the MEDB Malcolm Center in Kihei on Friday. Over 17 startup ideas were pitched. Teams formed around the top ideas and then it was a race to the finish where participants worked throughout the weekend. The culmination was the presentation of their business ideas to a panel of judges on Sunday. Along the way, teams received helpful advice from this year’s Startup Weekend coaches and judges.

Startup Weekend Maui

Doug Nelson, one of this year’s Startup Weekend Maui coaches, shared his insights with the “Lighten Up Leadership,” team on Saturday.

This year’s coaches were: Erik Blair, Owner of The Accidental Consultant; Doug Nelson, Founder and President of Kinection; David Fry, Founder and President of Tanuki Interactive; Chris Speere, Site Coordinator for UH Maui College’s Maui Food Innovation Center; Nick Heyd, Co-Founder of Galley; David Daly, BDC Director of MEO, Inc.; Wayne Wong, Director of Hawaii Small Business Development Center – Maui Center; Jeff Milone, Co-founder/CEO of Invulu; and David Morgan, Co-Founder of Organic Themes, GivingPress and Kahuna Host.

This years judges were: Omar Sultan, Co-Founder of Sultan Ventures and Founding and Managing Partner of XLR8UH; Donavan Kealoha, Senior Associate for Startup Capital Ventures; Britanny Heyd, Managing Director and General Counsel for 1776; Luana Mahi, Owner and Principal Broker of Kismet Natural Foods Brokerage; and Susan Yamada, Executive Director for Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (PACE) at the University of Hawaii.

Erik Blair shared, “As a coach, it inspires me to see everybody coming forward with their ideas, trying to find ways to achieve their goals and then validating their business concepts. Everyone who participates in Startup Weekend Maui walks away a winner having gained something from this experience.

I absolutely love coming out to Startup Weekend Maui,” said Omar Sultan. “Each year this event just keeps getting better and better and the pitches are always unique and fresh.”

Startup ideas that were presented during the finale on Sunday were:

All In All – A property/asset management software that creates cooperation between owners, managers and tenants.

Team members: Sam Curtis, Joyce Mundon.

Startup Weekend Maui

Michael Reeves pitched his idea, the “Digital Doorman,” during Friday’s kickoff event. Reeves came up with the idea after being locked out of his college dorm room four times. “This is a product for students like me, kids who don’t have a lot of money and don’t always remember their key.”

Digital Doorman – A secure entry smart lock accessible via Bluetooth, mobile app or by keypad on device for renters and Air BnB properties at an affordable price.

Team members: Michael Reeves, Tom Jones, Todd Karzen.

Phetch.co – Premium service for travelers that allows you to store your stuff where and when you need it.

Team members: Doug Allan, Gil Kasparek.

Lighten Up Leadership – A leadership company that uses improv comedy, language and games to assist leaders to lighten up when things tighten up.

Team members: Marc Levine, Beverley Buckley, Tracey Fonville, David Johnston, James Nelson, Ariana Stugard.

Life Search – A waterproof, GPS-integrated wrist-ware with a panic button, safe zone light indicator and complimentary mobile application.

Team members: Jeremy Amano, Debbie Hauguel, Ashley McKenney, Ethan Moengchaisong, Maya Ooki.

Poi Belly –Hawaiian on-the-go baby food using locally-sourced ingredients.

Team members: Jody Yoshida, Lauren Burgess, Naomi Glass.

Motor Pig – IT services for eSports industry. Their first product makes it easy for team owners to generate a high-end, dynamic team website that is easily created and maintained.

Team members: Joe Baranowski, Conan Crawford, David Pickett, Michael Rodby, Shane Tajima, Ben Ward.

The Poi Belly team captured first place, the Motor Pig team placed second, and the Life Search team third.

Startup Weekend Maui

MEDB’s Jeanne Skog (far left) and Frank De Rego Jr. (far right) with first place winner, the team of Poi Belly (from left): Lauren Burgess, Jody Yoshida and Naomi Glass.

This business creation process was extremely valuable,” said an ecstatic Jody Yoshida. “I had this crazy idea for a Hawaiian baby food product and I didn’t know how it would go, but after our team did a lot of the market research we figured out it could work. It all came together when I talked to a local taro farmer about the viability of this product and I guess I’ll be contacting them shortly as well.

The Poi Belly team received a first prize package consisting of one pass and book to Maui Economic Opportunity’s Core 4 Business Planning workshop, a 36-hour business planning course that helps you analyze your business opportunities and plan for success; four nutritional labels from the Maui Food Technology Center; a Maui Chamber of Commerce one-year membership; two hours of legal advice from McKeon Sheldon Mehling; two hours of consultation with David Galper, advisor at Flybridge Capital Partners; a one-day rental of the MEDB Malcolm Center in Kihei; two hours of branding advice from Sae Design; a two-hour digital branding consultation by The Accidental Consultant; design of a rack card or business card by Linn Nishikawa & Associates; printing of 1,000 rack cards or business cards from Maui Printing Company; and a $200 gift card.

The Motor Pig team received one pass and book to Maui Economic Opportunity’s Core 4 Business Planning workshop plus a $100 gift card. The Life Search team received a $50 gift card.

MEDB’s Jeanne Skog (far left) and Frank De Rego Jr. (far right) with second place winner, the team of Motor Pig (from left): Michael Rodby, Joe Baranowski, Conan Crawford, David Pickett, Shane Tajima.

MEDB’s Jeanne Skog (far left) and Frank De Rego Jr. (far right) with second place winner, the team of Motor Pig (from left): Michael Rodby, Joe Baranowski, Conan Crawford, David Pickett, Shane Tajima.

Startup Weekend Maui

MEDB’s Jeanne Skog (far left) and Frank De Rego Jr. (far right) with third place winner, the team of Life Search (from left): Ethan Moengchaisong, Ashley McKenney, Debbie Hauguel, and Jeremy Amano. Missing from photo: Maya Ooki.

Startup Weekend Maui is presented by the Maui Economic Development Board. Event sponsors include: County of Maui Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, High Technology Development Corporation, Pacific Media Group, Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation, HI-Growth Initiative, Sultan Ventures, XLR8UH, and Startup Capital Ventures.

MEDB’s business development program focuses on leading and inspiring innovation in our business community to build a vibrant, prosperous, and diversified economy for all of Maui’s people. For more information on their services and upcoming events, please visit www.medb.org, email info@hightechmaui.com or call (808) 875-2300.

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