Participants bring their “A” game to Startup Weekend Maui 2018

Nov 21, 2018

For those who participated in Startup Weekend Maui on Nov. 16-18, the experience may well have felt like the Superbowl for entrepreneurs. From start to finish it was one adrenaline rush, however, in this action-packed “game,” everyone walked away a winner.
For the fourth consecutive year, Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) has presented this empowering event designed to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs. And, oh what a climactic one it was with teams given 54 hours on the clock to create a startup business from idea to launch.

Gerry Smith, MEDB’s Director of Business Development, who served as facilitator for Startup Weekend Maui shared about this year’s participants, “Every year, I’m just blown away by the quality and creativity of the ideas that these aspiring entrepreneurs come up with. And, this year was no exception. Everyone brought their A game.”

Here’s a recap of how this past weekend played out. Nearly 30 people participated in this year’s Startup Weekend Maui which kicked off at MEDB’s Malcolm Center in Kihei on Friday. Over 20 startup ideas were pitched. Teams formed around the top 7 ideas and then it was a race to the finish where participants worked throughout the weekend. The finish line 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.
This year’s judges who provided valuable feedback and ultimately selected the winners: Virendra Nath, President of HDEP International; Michael Powers, former SVP at CBS Interactive; and Teena Rasmussen, Director of the County of Maui Mayor’s Office of Economic Development.

This year’s Startup coaches and mentors were: Gary Albitz, FocalPoint Business Coach and Lecturer at UH Maui College; Rünno Allikivi, Head of Scandinavia at Funderbeam; Debasis Bhattacharya, Assistant Professor at UH Maui College; David Daly, BDC Director of MEO, Inc.; Rebecca Filipovic, Attorney at McKeon Sheldon Mehling; Bobby Jackson, Business Coach of RedRidge Consultants; Jules Kremer, Technical Project Manager at Google; Fred Mabie, Faculty member at UH Maui College, ABIT; Luana Mahi, Owner and Principal Broker of Kismet Natural Foods Brokerage; Keri Mehling, Attorney & Partner at McKeon Sheldon Mehling; Doug Nelson, President of Kinection; Chris Speere, Site Coordinator, UH Maui College’s Maui Food Innovation Center; Wayne Wong, Director, Hawaii Small Business Development Center – Maui Center.

The startup ideas that were presented during the finale on Sunday were:

Aloha Kids – Biodegradable beach toys.
UH Maui College ABIT program’s team: Omar Sanchez, Mario Canul, Saxon Knight, Brian Leeper, Bjorn Lindquist
Be Aloha – Gamified and incentivized version of Meetup with environmental twist.
Team members: Diego Sanchez, Matt Barnes, Matt Bostwick, Jason Boschetii
CulturALL –  Cultural connectivity for a better travel experience.
Team members: Caitlyn Kuskowski, Kimberly Scott, Brian “Worm” Wormwood
Geckolocation – App to connect people with local, mobile vendors including food trucks.
Team members: Kenneth Aldrich, Annie Alvarado, Leda Erlandson, James Keyhani
Taking Care of Tutu – Online resource to help senior citizens protect their assets and plan for long-term care.
Team members: Meg Obenauf, Ralph Thomas, James Tolley
 The Dance Garden – Only comprehensive dance studio in Paia.
Team members: Marluy Andrade, Lacey Abercrombie, David Johnston
The Seeking Root – Online portal that connects healing providers with the community.
Team members: Jeannine Bourque, Samantha Covington, Fred Echeverria, Tammy Bo Xavier

Virendra Nath, who served as one of Sunday’s judges shared, “In our judging criteria, I was looking for a team that really thought through their business idea and answered the questions WHY would my product work and what differentiates it from everyone else?”

The Taking Care of Tutu team captured first place, the Aloha Kids team placed second, and The Dance Garden third. The Geckolocation team captured the Crowd Favorite award.

In addition to receiving a bevy of business support prizes, the Taking Care of Tutu team also has an opportunity to apply for the Startup Weekend Regional Showcase, in which judges will identify the best team from each Region. Regional winners will then advance to the Global Showcase and only one will be selected the champion, receiving additional exposure and prizes.
Obenauf, an estate planning attorney, was shocked and humbled that her team captured first place for her startup idea. “This entire process really forces you to work on the startup idea that’s been percolating in your head. Because the reality is, we’re all so busy – there are kids, cooking, laundry, and our regular jobs – and we really don’t have the opportunity to work on a business startup idea in 54 hours unless we come away and do Startup Weekend Maui. And, I’m so thrilled that I did!”

“The entire weekend was a time crunch but the take away were tips on project management, delegating tasks, leadership skills, pitching startup ideas, how to talk to investors, and great mentality tools,” said Diego Sanchez of the Be Aloha team. “And whether this startup idea goes forth or not, my next idea that will be that much better because I participated in Startup Weekend.”

Doug Nelson, one of this year’s coaches, commented about the impact of Startup Weekend, “It’s exciting to see these entrepreneurs take their ideas and turn them into some kind of reality. It’s definitely a journey and one of great growth – the ideas grow, the people grow and the teams grow as well.”
Frank De Rego Jr., Director of Business Development Projects for MEDB, shared “The wonderful thing about this event is you have people from different types of backgrounds with different types of talents and skills. But the one thing that brings them together is the passion about their ideas and putting a business together, exploring if it’s a possibility for them. It’s a learning process, a networking process, but it is also a fun process. And, why not have fun when you’re trying to pursue your dreams.”
Startup Weekend Maui is part of a global grassroots movement of active and empowered entrepreneurs with various skill sets who are determined to learn the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures. The Startup Weekend movement is the largest community of passionate entrepreneurs with over 2,900 past events in 150 countries around the world.
The Startup Weekend Maui Series is presented by Maui Economic Development Board. Sponsored by County of Maui, Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, Hawaiʻi SCORE, HTDC, Maui Brewing Company, The Maui News, Pacific Media Group, Startup Capital Ventures, Sultan Ventures, University of Hawaiʻi Maui College, and XLR8HI. Prize sponsors are Focal Point Coaching, Linn Nishikawa & Associates, Maui Chamber of Commerce, Maui Printing, and MEO.
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 MEDB’s services and upcoming events, please visit, email or call (808) 875-2300.