Hawaii opens gates to $10m paradise

Governor David Ige said public-private collaborations like the Startup Paradise initiative are needed to create jobs and retain talent in the state.

David Ige, governor of Hawaii, plans to devote $10m in state funding to HI Growth Initiative, a government program to boost innovation, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported on Tuesday.

Ige was keynote speaker at an event industry advocacy group Hawaii Venture Capital Association organised to discuss the progress of Startup Paradise, a public-private initiative bringing together key participants in the innovation sector.

Startup Paradise’s government backers include High Technology Development Corporation, a Hawaiian state agency established to facilitate the growth of the local innovation and technology industry, and HI Growth Initiative.

Launched in 2011 by state economic development agency Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation with $20m in state funding, HI Growth Initiative aims to attract private investors to support an innovation economy. The program had invested a total of $10.5m in 65 companies as of the end of 2015.

Other Startup Paradise partners include investment firm Sultan Ventures, co-working space Box Jelly and accelerator Blue Startups. XLR8UH, an accelerator set up by Hawaii University and Sultan Ventures to invest in university-led commercial enterprises, is also a partner.

Ige said initiatives like Startup Paradise are needed if Hawaii is to hold onto young people who might otherwise leave the state in pursuit of jobs: "It is about stopping that brain drain…that is what Startup Paradise means to me."

Tarik Sultan, managing partner at Sultan Ventures, said Startup Paradise has grown rapidly as the number of early-stage companies in Hawaii has risen to 145 from just 18 in 2012. Startups have created more than 1,000 jobs in Hawaii over the last four years, and raised more than $251m, he added.

HI Growth Initiative provides funding to support businesses in three categories: entrepreneur development, accelerators and investment capital. Its investee companies have secured an additional $2m in private funding on average, collecting a total of $136m, or more than 12 times leverage on the state’s initial investment.

 - Image of governor David Ige courtesy of the office of the governor of Hawaii

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