Dashboard to track Hawaii innovation launched

Hawaii’s progress in fostering and capitalizing on innovation can now be tracked on a new interactive dashboard launched today.

The “Hawaii Innovation Matters” dashboard was created through a partnership between UHERO and local coding bootcamp DevLeague, with support from the Hawaii Business Roundtable.

UHERO said that innovation is the key to economic growth and prosperity, accounting for roughy half of the increase observed in U.S. gross domestic product. As a result, “it is important to be able to track our progress over time and to see how Hawaii stacks up against other states and localities.”

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Feds Asked to Boost Hawaii Macadamia Nut Exports

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard today sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agriculture Services (FAS) calling on the agency to provide greater visibility to Hawaii macadamia nuts on its export list to foreign markets.

Hawaii farmers in the macadamia nut industry generated more than $36 million in revenue in 2013. Growth in this industry would expand business and employment opportunities in rural Hawaii communities. Industry leaders like Troy Keolanui, John Cross, and Richard Schnitzler applauded Congresswoman Gabbard’s efforts to encourage FAS to prioritize macadamia nut exports.

“Promoting Hawaiian Macadamia nuts to foreign markets is a big boost to our industry, and we are grateful to Congresswoman Gabbard for again taking the lead to represent the farmers of Hawaii,” said Troy Keolanui, co-owner of the Hilo-based OK Farms.

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Energy Excelerator announces latest cohort

The Energy Excelerator selected 17 startups from a pool of high quality applicants to transform Hawaii’s energy system. Fifty percent of the new portfolio startups has principal team members with previous exits.

“We are excited to work with a new cohort of startups with a ton of experience in running successful companies,” says Dawn Lippert, Director of the Energy Excelerator. “These are really smart people that have vetted technologies and are eager to partner with our local businesses to help solve some of our most difficult energy challenges.”

The Energy Excelerator’s goal is to strategically address Hawaii’s energy challenges across many different sectors. The 2015 cohort consists of startups with innovative solutions for the State’s energy, transportation, water, and agriculture industries.

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Microbes touted as key to future agriculture

A local technology commercialization company is working with two mainland biotechnology firms to encourage the adoption of microbial treatments to boost agricultural productivity while reducing water consumption as well as cutting the use of fertilizers and pesticides.

“Everything we’ve been taught about farming is incorrect,” declares Vincent Kimura, president of Inovi Green. “Historical and current agricultural processes of crop fertilization and soil tilling are falling out of favor, damaging ecosystems and producing diminishing returns. Environmentally-friendly microbial treatments have evolved to do this work far more effectively.”

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Polynesian Cultural Center marks 50th year

Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) opened and began a new venture highlighting the peoples and cultures of Polynesia through entertainment, arts, education, and personal interaction.

It was October 14, 1963, when the PCC welcomed its first guests. Today, more than 37 million guests later, the PCC continues to thrive on Oahu’s North Shore as the only cultural tourist attraction of its kind in the world.

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Hawaii ‘Energy Excelerator’ gets $30M from Navy

The Navy’s Office of Naval Research, under the Asia Pacific Technology Education Program, announced today that it will invest $30 million dollars in the Hawaii-based Energy Excelerator. The new Navy commitment triples the funding that the program operated with over the past three years, showing that they recognize the value of Hawaii as an ideal place for new energy innovation.

The Energy Excelerator funds seed-stage and growth-stage startups with compelling energy solutions and immediate application in Hawaii.

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Entrepreneur, Deal of the Year awards announced

The Hawaii Venture Capital Association awarded its 2012 HVCA Deal of the Year to Darren Kimura, CEO of Sopogy, maker of concentrated thermal solar collectors. In addition five local entrepreneurs were acknowledged in various categories with the HVCA Entrepreneur of the Year award.

The Young Entrepreneur award went to Scott Mercer of Volta Industries, makers of advertising driven free electric vehicle charging stations. Dan Leuck, co-founder of CONTIX and CEO and founder of Ikayzo won the Software Entrepreneur award. Ken Berkun, founder of Labels That Talk won the Inventor Entrepreneur award for his patented invention, Soundpaper. Winner of the Socially Responsible Entrepreneur of the Year award is Elyse Petersen, founder of Tealet, a social enterprise that connects tea drinkers with small tea growers around the world. David Watumull, co-founder of CARDAX Pharmaceuticals and former CEO of Hawaii Biotech was acknowledged for his many years of devoted entrepreneurship in biotech as the 2012 Legacy Entrepreneur.

“These entrepreneurs are local heroes and role models. They have worked long hard days, made personal sacrifices and taken extreme risks that prove there are people in Hawaii that have what it takes to build great companies,” said Bill Spencer, President of the Hawaii Venture Capital Association.

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Navy powers up city’s largest solar facility

An official “Flip the Switch” ceremony and Hawaiian blessing was held today to mark the completion of more than 4,300 solar panels installed at the Pearl City Solar Energy Facility. Capable of generating 1.23 megawatts of electricity, it is now the newest and largest utility-scale solar photovoltaic project on O’ahu.

This project marks the fourth utility-scale solar facility that developer Forest City Hawaii has completed in Honolulu, making it one of the largest renewable-energy developers and owners in the state.

At today’s ceremony, Jennifer Sabas, chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, praised the project’s vision, and Governor Neil Abercrombie commended the project for advancing the state’s clean energy goals. These sentiments were echoed by other event attendees, including Jerrod Schreck, president of Hoku Solar, and Connie Lau, president and CEO of Hawaiian Electric Industries, chairman of Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc. and chairman of American Savings Bank.

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BizGym partners with Hong Kong accelerator

BizGym.com, an online rapid business plan building program based in Hawaii, has formed a partnership with CyberPort, the largest information technology accellerator in Hong Kong. The relationship was sparked by BizGym.com’s recent partnership in “Hawaii Tech Asia,” a business development tour organized by Hawaii Business and Entrepreneur Acceleration Mentors (HiBeam).

The two companies will create a Chinese language version of the BizGym online entrepreneur’s toolset, branding it as the “Cyberport Business System powered by BizGym.” It will feature team-matching, collaborative business planning and a direct link to Cyberport’s micro-fund application process. Operations will begin by year-end in Hong Kong and mainland China.

Cyberport is a government-owned enterprise, and when breaking news of the partnership on Hawaii Public Radio’s Bytemarks Cafe show last week, BizGym.com founder Steve Sue said that the co-branded arrangement with a prominent Hong Kong organization will likely discourage copycats from diluting the BizGym.com model in Asia.

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HECO streamlines solar power installation requirements

It will now be faster and simpler for many residential and some small commercial customers to receive approval for on-site solar photovoltaic installations without worrying about the need for a possible interconnection study, Hawaiian Electric announced today.

As of October 1, most residential and some commercial customers of Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric, and Hawaii Electric Light Company can install certified single-phase PV systems up to 10 kW on single-phase transformers and participate in Net Energy Metering (NEM) with no interconnection study.

In addition, any customer of the three companies who paid for an interconnection study and system upgrades to install a 10 kW or smaller single-phase PV system will be refunded the cost of the study and any upgrades.

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Omidyar Fellows Program Announces First Class

The Hawai’i Leadership Forum announced today the 13 Fellows selected to participate in the inaugural class of the Omidyar Fellows program. Launched in May 2012, the Omidyar Fellows program was developed to inspire and equip emerging leaders with the skills needed to affect positive, lasting change in Hawai’i.

“Omidyar Fellows is a long-term investment in our shared future. We are eager to work with the 2012 class, exploring new ideas and thinking that may benefit Hawai’i,” said Pierre Omidyar, founder, Omidyar Fellows. “Hawai’i’s next generation of leaders will inherit huge challenges – some of them recent developments, some passed down from their predecessors. Effective leaders must address existing challenges and at the same time, create proactive measures that move Hawai’i forward – all while operating in an increasingly fast-paced and transparent world.”

More than 150 candidates completed a rigorous application process for the Omidyar Fellows inaugural class, representing a wide range of sectors including government, nonprofit, business, and labor unions. The class was designed to be representative of these sectors.

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Hawaii, other states reach antitrust settlement over ebook pricing

Hawaii Attorney General David M. Louie, along with 53 attorneys general in other states, districts and U.S. territories, announced today that they have reached an antitrust settlement with three of the largest book publishers in the United States.

Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, and Simon & Schuster have agreed to pay a total of more than $69 million to consumers to resolve antitrust claims of an alleged unlawful conspiracy to fix the prices of electronic books (E-books). They have also agreed to change the way they price E-books going forward.

The settlement occurs in conjunction with a civil antitrust lawsuit filed today in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster.

The lawsuit alleges that the three settling publishers and two nonsettling publishers, Macmillan and Penguin, “conspired and agreed to increase retail E-book prices for all consumers” and “agreed to eliminate E-book retail price competition between E-book outlets, such that retail prices to consumers would be the same regardless of the outlet patronized by the consumer.”

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Hawaiian Airlines upgrades in-flight meals, hospitality

In the first comprehensive redesign of its domestic onboard service product in more than a decade, Hawaiian Airlines has cemented its signature ‘Mea Ho‘okipa Service’ as the gold standard in domestic air travel and the only authentic Hawaii experience in air travel.

Hawaiian’s ‘Mea Ho‘okipa’ (translation: I am host) inflight service philosophy has long been embraced by travelers for its celebration of the culture, people and Aloha Spirit of Hawaii. Reintroduced August 1 on all flights between Hawaii and its 11 gateway cities in North America, Hawaiian has taken its acclaimed inflight service and made it even more enjoyable with enticing new made-in-Hawaii products, Island-style complimentary meals and improved service offerings.

The new program was inspired by customer feedback, solicited by Hawaiian to further align its service with the things that customers value most in onboard service and amenities.

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Hawaii Apps company to tackle booming mobile business

A new local company has set its sights on no less than the top spot among Hawaii’s mobile app developers.

Today, Hawaii Apps Inc. is launching an Island-based business focusing only on the development of mobile apps to help local businesses, government agencies, community organizations and individuals “tap” into the marketing, advertising and entertainment potential of mobile apps.

“Mobile apps are where the world is going,” said Melialani “Meli” James, one of four principals who founded Hawaii Apps. “We want to offer Hawaii the chance to get in on the trend, for Island businesses and individuals to be able to create an app that will be developed right here in the Islands, by people who know Hawaii’s culture, traditions and lifestyle.”

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Wally Amos Returns to Cookies with ‘WAMOS’

Nationally renown, Honolulu-based entrepreneur Wally Amos is returning to the business that made him “Famous Amos.” He posted the announcement on Facebook, where he’d accumulated the maximum 5,000 friends, asking them in turn to spread the word.

“I am re-entering cookie business,” Amos wrote. ” I will sell three flavors from my original recipe; chocolate chip, butterscotch chip pecans, [and] chocolate chip pecans.”

Amos launched the “Famous Amos” brand of cookies in 1975, starting with a cookie store in California and growing to find space on supermarket shelves across the country. His name and likeness became so synonymous with success that he found a career in public speaking and authoring books. Amos even appeared as himself in an episode of the ABC sitcom “Taxi” in 1981.

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