We are dedicated to building a startup ecosystem here in “Startup Paradise” that goes well beyond Blue Startups. We collaborate with our colleagues running accelerator programs in energy, life science, media, food and fashion to create a bigger vision for Hawaii to embrace and support innovation and entrepreneurship.
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Managing Director: Chenoa Farnsworth
This article is part of our Startup Accelerator Spotlight Series featuring accelerators from around the world. We hope these spotlights will assist the entrepreneur should they consider attending an accelerator program.
In two sentences or less, tell us about your accelerator and its objectives.
Blue Startups is a Top 20 Accelerator in the US (Techcrunch) focused on helping scalable-technology companies compete on a global scale. With an extensive global mentor network, Blue Startups is fast becoming a nexus of entrepreneurial activity in Hawaii, and between Asia and Continental United States. Blue Startups was founded by Henk Rogers of Tetris Company and Chenoa Farnsworth of Hawaii Angels in 2012 and has been a member of the Global Accelerator Network since 2013.
Why is your accelerator program unique? Please describe the benefits of participation in your program.
What makes Blue Startups unique is that we are the bridge between the United States and Asia. We host an annual East Meets West Conference bringing together investors and entrepreneurs from Asia, Hawaii and North America. EMW ’16 featured our demo day, amazing international speakers, deep-dive learning opportunities and ample networking in a tropical Startup Paradise. In addition to our Asia connections, we operate in “Startup Paradise” a burgeoning tech scene in Hawaii made up of an informal collective of organizations working together to strengthen the innovation ecosystem in Hawaii. We offer a fantastic place to live, work and have fun! Each cohort ends with a capstone week in San Francisco, where our 2nd demo day is held at 500 Startups. This week is filled with office hours, workshops and company tours with our mentor network in San Francisco.
What is the most difficult part of working with startups?
The most difficult part is making sure they take full advantage of the program. Entrepreneurs can have difficulty prioritizing time and attention. The Blue Startups program is very fast and furious and if an entrepreneur does not participate fully, they will miss out on valuable information and resources. Entrepreneurs can be very singularly focused – and while this can be a good thing, it can also hinder their ability to take feedback and change direction when necessary. It can be frustrating when entrepreneurs don’t heed advice and get themselves into trouble in predictable ways.
What do you enjoy the most; what do you find most appealing about working with entrepreneurial startups?
The most enjoyable part of working with startups is witnessing the improvements companies make throughout our program and seeing them realize the opportunity at hand. Being able to celebrate the wins and support them through the setbacks, even after our programs, keeps the job fun. We also enjoy learning about new niches and opportunities from the entrepreneurs that are living in these spaces. The more dedicated an entrepreneur is to their business, the more we can learn from them.
Tell us about your success stories. Which are the most interesting companies to have participated in your program?
- Volta builds free electric car charging networks for communities. They partner with commercial site owners providing charging stations, installation and a split of advertising revenue. Currently, they have secured $12.5 million of equity and project financing and they are set to expand the network of more than 100 outdoor stations into more communities with the goal of positioning brands as enablers of the future.
- FloWater is using the newest technology in reusable water bottle Refill Stations, delivering a high quality, environmentally friendly alternative to bottled water. They have raised $4 million and have deployed over 400 units.
- Vantage Sports’ goal is to affect all aspects of sports by combining the best minds of the game with the best technology in the world. They have raised $3 million in follow-on funding and have partnered with multiple NBA teams to provide deep analytics to improve player performance.
- AreaMetrics raised $2 million and they gather powerful foot-traffic insights and empower brick & mortar merchants to create meaningful connections with customers. Their platform leverages a network of millions of app users to gather retention rates, customer demographics, bounce rates and other key performance indicators.
What are the three most important factors startup entrepreneurs should consider when contemplating attending an accelerator?
- Are you ready? To take full advantage of everything an accelerator has to offer, the stage of the company is important. Getting a company that has tested an MVP and is ready to go to full market launch is the ideal stage for us. We can assist in refining the product offering, scaling up and financing the company.
- Do you have a team? We often get applications from solo founders and we cannot accept them. We urge entrepreneurs to build their team, then build their product. With a full team, companies are able to take full advantage of the program.
- Are you committed? An accelerator is not a place to explore whether or not you want to pursue building your own company. It is a place that provides you with the resources to take your company to the next level. If you are still contemplating if entrepreneurship is right for you, explore that option through lesser programs that require a lower level of commitment.
What else would you like to share?
We believe entrepreneurship and excellence can and will be found anywhere in the world. Silicon Valley does not have a corner on the market for innovation and intelligence. It does have amazing resources and our job is to connect our companies (both East and West) to those resources so that being in Hawaii becomes an advantage, not a hardship. We are dedicated to building a startup ecosystem here in “Startup Paradise” that goes well beyond Blue Startups. We collaborate with our colleagues running accelerator programs in energy, life science, media, food and fashion to create a bigger vision for Hawaii to embrace and support innovation and entrepreneurship. Together we are stronger and together we can put Hawaii on the startup map and create a vibrant innovation sector with high paying, low impact jobs for our citizens. We are funded in part by the State of Hawaii and would not be able to do what we do without the strong support of our Hawaii State and Honolulu County governments along with the dedication and resources of hundreds of private investors and volunteer mentors.
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