Nearly 30 people pitched startup ideas at this year’s Startup Weekend Maui, presented by the Maui Economic Development Board Nov. 16-18. For the fourth consecutive year, a group aspiring entrepreneurs gathered to create a startup business from idea to launch with only 54 hours on the clock.
The weekend kicked off at MEDB’s Malcolm Center in Kihei with participants pitching 20 startup ideas. Teams formed around the top seven ideas and then the race to the finish was on. Participants worked through the weekend and when they arrived at the finish line, they presented their business ideas to a panel of judges. In addition to judging the businesses, the support team of judges and coaches provided helpful advice each step of the way.
Startup business ideas ranged from an app to connect people to mobile vendors like local food trucks, to a company that makes biodegradable beach toys.
“Every year, I’m just blown away by the quality and creativity of the ideas that these aspiring entrepreneurs come up with,” said Gerry Smith, MEDB’s Director of Business Development, who served as facilitator the weekend. “And, this year was no exception. Everyone brought their A game.”
The first place winning business was Taking Care of Tutu, an online resource to help senior citizens protect their assets and plan for long-term care. In addition to receiving a bevy of business support prizes, team members Meg Obenauf, Ralph Thomas, and James Tolley also have 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 Taking Care of Tutu. “This entire process really forces you to work on the startup idea that’s been percolating in your head,” Obenauf said. “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!”
Second prize went to UH Maui College ABIT program’s team – Omar Sanchez, Mario Canul, Saxon Knight, Brian Leeper, and Bjorn Lindquist – for Aloha Kids, biodegradable beach toys. “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 Sanchez. “And whether this startup idea goes forth or not, my next idea will be that much better because I participated in Startup Weekend.”
The crowd favorite award went to team members Kenneth Aldrich, Annie Alvarado, Leda Erlandson, and James Keyhani for their business Geckolocation, the app to connect people with local, mobile vendors including food trucks.
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, according to organizers.
“The wonderful thing about this event is you have people from different types of backgrounds with different types of talents and skills,” said Frank De Rego Jr., Director of Business Development Projects for MEDB. “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.”
In addition to the winning teams, startup ideas presented on Sunday included Be Aloha, a gamified and incentivized version of Meetup with environmental twist, team members: Diego Sanchez, Matt Barnes, Matt Bostwick, and Jason Boschetii; CulturALL, cultural connectivity for a better travel experience, team members: Caitlyn Kuskowski, Kimberly Scott, and Brian “Worm” Wormwood; The Dance Garden, the only comprehensive dance studio in Pa‘ia, team members Marluy Andrade, Lacey Abercrombie, and David Johnston; and The Seeking Root, an online portal that connects healing providers with the community, team members: Jeannine Bourque, Samantha Covington, Fred Echeverria, and Tammy Bo Xavier.
This year’s judges who provided valuable feedback and ultimately selected the winners were 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.
“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?” Nath said.
“It’s exciting to see these entrepreneurs take their ideas and turn them into some kind of reality, said one of this year’s coaches, Doug Nelson, President of Kinection. “It’s definitely a journey and one of great growth – the ideas grow, the people grow and the teams grow as well.”
In addition to Nelson, 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; Chris Speere, Site Coordinator, UH Maui College’s Maui Food Innovation Center; and Wayne Wong, Director, Hawaii Small Business Development Center – Maui Center.
The Startup Weekend Maui Series is presented by Maui Economic Development Board and 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.
Photo courtesy of MEDB