Maui TechOhana explores Starting Up Again

Dec 17, 2020

More than 80 Maui tech entrepreneurs logged on to join the first virtual Maui TechOhana on December 9 to network and listen to the guest speaker.  Doug Nelson, Founder, President & CEO of Kinection, spoke on the topic “We’re All Startups Again.”

Presented by Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB), Maui TechOhana is a regular networking event with a guest speaker from the innovation sector to talk story on their career path and relevant topics. “When I think of Doug Nelson and his work, I think of a person using his senses and his mind to create a better world,” said Frank De Rego, Jr., Director of Business Development Projects for MEDB, in his introduction. “He works by observing, listening, reflecting and creating.”

“I am fascinated by the process of creating new products and new businesses,” said Nelson, self-described as a hands-on consultant, helping startup companies with their pitch deck to attract investors, designing and executing sales plans and setting up experiments to test ideas. Leading into his presentation, he added “I am going to introduce two specific practices from the startup world that you can use no matter what stage a business is in to adapt and grow in these turbulent times.”

“It’s tempting to think that we are all going back to normal and its business as usual,” said Nelson. “I don’t think that’s going to happen. Some of the changes won’t be temporary because COVID has accelerated transformations that were already underway.”

Citing examples of changes including remote work and home entertainment, Nelson continued, “What’s important is that customers are adapting their expectation based on their experience during this pandemic. Our customers have changed and we don’t understand their new needs and expectations. Our products may have to change as do the ways we deliver them. We have a situation where the customer, the product, the channel and the team are all uncertain.”

“This uncertainty is what every startup faces as they work to define their product and their business model, so perhaps some techniques that startups use to navigate this uncertainty can be helpful now to established businesses.” explained Nelson.

Nelson went on to describe the Lean Startup Approach using the model of Build, Measure and Learn with a focus on Customer Discovery (What is the problem?) and Experimentation (What is the solution?) A key to customer discovery is talking to potential customers. Nelson pointed out “That if you don’t have time to talk to your customers then you don’t have time to do your business.”

The meeting included exercises of self-reflection, to assimilate the techniques discussed, and networking within small breakout groups to discuss these reflections.

“The thing that stuck out to me the most that most of us are startups again,” shared Leinaala Tolentina, Cornerstone Maui, LLC. “I’m thankful to know that I’m not alone in being a startup again, having to pivot and having to change my whole marketing strategy. I’m grateful to Doug Nelson for pointing that out and that it is okay to be a startup again.”

Charles Kelly really appreciated having the meeting online. “I hope that when (MEDB) returns to in-place Maui TechOhana gatherings that it also continues to have an online component. I live out in Pauwela and it’s just too difficult to drive down and attend the meetings.”

“As Doug said, COVID-19 has opened up new expectations for customers and providing remote or virtual meetings is one of those expectations,” said Annette Lynch, Program Manager for MEDB. “We look forward to hosting more Maui TechOhana and other virtual meetings in 2021 as we also strive to return to face-to-face meetings, keeping health and safety top of mind.”

MEDB’s TechOhana meetings, supported by the County of Maui Office of Economic Development, provide an opportunity to share views and thoughts in an open forum with presentations on relevant topics in business, technology, and innovation.

To learn more about Maui TechOhana events go to

You can watch a preview of the TechOhana with Doug Nelson.