#StartupParadise

  1. Come Join Us For A Town Hall Meeting

    Mbloom and HSDC invite the community to come join us for a Town Hall Meeting, an open discussion introducing Mbloom to the community and discussing the investment strategy.

    The event is open to the public and will start at 6:30 PM on Thursday, July 24 at The Box Jelly in Honolulu.

    For more info and to RSVP please visit this Eventbrite invitation:

    Online Ticketing for Town Hall Meeting Hosted by Mbloom and HSDC powered by Eventbrite

    Look forward to seeing you there!

  2. Mbloom investments

    As some of you in the Hawaii tech community know, there has been a fair amount of vitriol directed at Arben and myself over the last few days since a number of entrepreneurs and journalists feel like they have discovered some sort of smoking gun of funding secrecy. Not only is there no smoking gun – there’s no gun at all.

    The irony here is that if we don’t defend ourselves, we end up looking guilty. But if we do defend ourselves, we also end up looking guilty.

    The mother of all double-edged swords.

    So with that in mind we thought it might be useful to outline some facts.

    • Arben and I met in Hawaii almost 15 years ago when we both decided to make our home there. Due to the lack of startup ecosystem in those days, we both went our separate ways. I went to Silicon Valley (by way of Canada), Arben stayed and grew his company from nothing into an award winning design agency and valued member of the community.

    • Over the past few years we talked a lot about what kind of community and environment would have allowed a new young tech entrepreneur (like I was 15 years ago) to stay in the islands and not have to seek resources and funding elsewhere.

    • Meanwhile (in parallel) Karl Fooks and HSDC had the vision and foresight to extend their support of Hawaii’s tech community by the creation of a tech focused venture fund. HSDC discussed with us the opportunity of being involved with the fund, and we were excited to come on board since it aligned very closely with the vision we were pursuing anyway.

    • One problem remained – the structure of the Hawaii fund required us to personally find 5mil USD in matching funds. The state quite wisely does not invest its own money solely in tech startups, but requires 1:1 matching funds from private investors. It took a while, but we were able to find an investor willing to take a risk on Hawaii, as a new and unproven territory for technology venture capital. But a condition of their investment was to have the fund be able to invest in a few of our personal portfolio companies that they found attractive (subject to appropriate oversight and due diligence).

    • Knowing that investing in our own companies presents a conflict of interest, all parties involved (investors and ourselves) decided from day 1 to establish a fund governance process that reviews and evaluates any of these so called related party transactions. The due diligence for this process is extremely lengthy – it took almost 5 months. As part of this process, 2 of the 4 companies we suggested were actually rejected. The other two (flikdate and Ozolio) were not rejected and investment was made.

    • In the meantime, we busied ourselves starting various different initiatives to support the startup community on Maui. We have already had two very successful Maui Tech Nights in partnership with the Global Mai Tai group, a group of seasoned Silicon Valley VCs and executives.

    • This past May we spearheaded the first StartupWeekend Maui event, an event that was sorely missing from the community. We took a leap of faith and ignited a needed energy that is now demanding follow-up events based on attendance and results.

    • When the due diligence was finally finished we made the investment announcement.

    • Numerous additional deals are being worked on which will be announced in due course.

    • We continue to contribute to the development of a vibrant startup ecosystem in Hawaii – investing a lot of time and no small amount of money.

    In summary:

    1. We have single handedly brought 5 million dollars of outside private investor dollars into the Hawaii tech ecosystem – 93% of which still remains to be invested.

    2. The two deals that are related party transactions total 7% of the fund and they were

        a. a necessary requirement to make the fund happen

        b. known to all investors from day 1

        c. subjected to a lengthy due diligence process.

    3. We continue to do all we can for the tech and startup community in Maui and Hawaii.

    Aloha everyone.

    Nick Bicanic

    See the statement from HSDC regarding this issue. ->

  3. The First Ever Startup Weekend Maui Was A Complete Success

    Startup Weekend MauiOur island’s tech community came out in force last weekend during the first ever Startup Weekend Maui. More than 50 technical creatives grouped into nine teams and occupied spaces at the Maui Research and Technology Center in Kihei, working all weekend to turn their ideas into reality.

    An innovative calendar-sharing app called TabTop won a spot on equity crowdfunding platform CrowdAlliance (www.crowdalliance.co) to post their $50K crowdfunding campaign offering. It was built from scratch during the weekend by Tam Thao Pham and Adam Tait, a couple on Maui for vacation from San Francisco, who just happened to see an article about Startup Weekend in Maui Time Weekly, and decided to show up and register on the spot. TabTop allows people to share calendars with family and friends, so they spend more time with them and less time scheduling.

    CrowdAlliance will post TabTop.co in its roster of equity-investment opportunities available to eligible individual investors who use the CrowdAlliance.co platform as a source of deal flow and new investment opportunities for new companies that they might otherwise not be aware of. The prize allows TabTop the opportunity to raise up to $50,000 from eligible accredited investors that are registered on CrowdAlliance. In addition to the potential network benefits of platform membership, TabTop.co will also receive technology services and transaction support to aid in their offering campaign that are typically beyond the bootstrapped budgets of lean startups, such as investor accreditation services, access to escrow services, as well as customizable data room and marketing/communication functionality.

    Other contenders included a game named Colossal Rift, an innovation in footwear from Kingetics, a plan for coworking spaces, a travel idea called Destination Hui, a solar water collection idea from Maui Water Solutions, a 360-degree camera idea from Spatial Imaging, a job matching concept called BeeFree, and a locally sourced ketchup product called Jars of Paradise.

    Startup Weekends are 54-hour events that happen all over the globe, where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and entrepreneurs share ideas and form teams to bring them to life. They begin on a Friday night with one-minute-long pitches, then attendees vote on the best ideas and recruit each other into their teams. The teams then work through the weekend to build a viable prototype they can present to a panel of judges on Sunday night.

    Special thanks to our judges:
    Arben Kryeziu - Co-Founder, mbloom
    Jamie Dinkelacker - Director of Engineering, Google Niantic Labs
    Kevin Jardine - CEO, President Jardine Capital Corp
    Eric Nakagawa - Co-Founder, icanhascheezburger.com
    Tim Parsons - Founder, Adoboloco

    And to our coaches:
    Brad Albert - Owner, Rising Sun Solar
    Doug Nelson - CEO, Kinection
    Jeanne Unemori Skog - President & CEO, Maui Economic Development Board, Inc. (MEDB)
    Keith Powers - Managing Partner at Engaged Partners, LLC
    Sara Smith - CEO, Wrappily
    Tina Fitch - Mentor, Blue Startups

    We couldn’t have done this without the help of our facilitators from Startup Weekend Honolulu:
    Rechung Fujihira
    Bryan Butteling
    Chris Ota
    Jason Axelson

    This event wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our sponsors:
    HTDC Hi-Growth Initiative
    CrowdAlliance
    Real Office Centers
    Sultan Ventures
    Bump Networks

    And thanks to our caterer, Lynn Stettler and Cafe Carmen, for all the wonderful food all weekend long!

    (Photo by Bryan Berkowitz)

  4. Local startup wins a campaign spot to crowdfund their $500k equity offering at MaiTai Maui Tech Night 2014

    Maui Tech Night 2014Local sports technology start-up Vantage Sports won a capital raising campaign from new equity crowdfunding platform CrowdAlliance (www.crowdalliance.co) at the second annual Maui Tech Night, held at Maui Country Club, Paia.

    CrowdAlliance will post Vantage in its roster of equity-investment opportunities available to eligible individual investors who search CrowdAlliance.co for early- and growth-stage investment opportunities that they might otherwise not be aware of. The prize allows Vantage the opportunity to raise up to $500,000 from eligible investors registered on the CrowdAlliance platform. Vantage will receive posting access, technology services, and potential network benefits from the platform that are typically beyond the bootstrapped budgets of lean startups. Technology services and transaction support may include investor accreditation services, access to escrow services, as well as customizable data room and marketing/ communication functionality, in addition to access to the network of investors signed up to the website.

    MaiTai Maui Tech Night is a star-studded gala event hosted by Hawaii’s first incubator and tech fund, mbloom, for the group of kiteboarding Silicon Valley venture capitalists and entrepreneurs known as Mai Tai.

    The contest was judged by a panel of global experts including Reichart Von Wolfsheild, US inventor, technologist and host of the History Channel show Invention USA, Silicon Valley marketing guru Padma Rao, founder of global internet convention Le Web, Loic Le Meur, tech investor and entrepreneur Christine Herron, and Jamie Dinkelacker, the Maui-based Director of Engineering for Google’s Niantic Labs.

    Over 300 movers and shakers from the local technology, business, and government scenes mixed with the North Shore’s top ocean sports talent in a meeting of creative and entrepreneurial minds. Guests heard speeches from mbloom co-founder Nick Bicanic, Karl Fooks, President of the Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation, State Representative Kaniela Ing, and Bill Tai, Partner and General Partner with Menlo Park, CA based venture capital firm Charles River Ventures and co-founder of the MaiTai group.

    The evening’s entertainment was provided by local electronic music trio Sandwich Island Bass, and international reggae solo artist, Mishka, a Maui-resident and keen windsurfer and surfer himself.

    Other finalists included Ikehu, a system that encourages non-peak energy consumption, Livesift, a provider of collaboration and engagement software for meetings and live events, Happy Hour Pal, a mobile app that delivers detailed happy hour promotions to users, Gibi, a mobile app that prevents lost pets, Juicies, a mobile power solutions brand and Quic, a company that promises to enhance and monetize it’s user social media content.

    (Photo by Bryan Berkowitz)

  5. Please Help With Patent Reform in Hawaii

    A couple of month’s ago, Bump Networks posted a call to action regarding patent reform, urging support in the form of email or a letter to Senator Mazie Hirono.

    It’s time to do that again. Winning Senator Hirono’s vote is going to be critical for moving forward the legislation in the Senate. It would go a long way for Senator Hirono’s office to hear from Hawaii companies to support a package of legislation that has been agreed to by Senators Charles Schumer (Democrat, New York) and John Cornyn (Republican, Texas).

    The key member of staff to contact in her Washington office is Mike Stanek <Mike_Stanek@judiciary-dem.senate.gov>.

    Feel free to use our letter as a suggested template for yours:

    Dear Mike,

    I am writing to you in the hope that the content of this message will reach Senator Mazie Hirono - and that she will give it consideration when casting her vote in respect of the patent reform legislation currently before the Senate.

    • Startups and small businesses are at the receiving end of frivolous patent litigation that has grown three-fold since 2005, costing the American economy at least $29 billion per year.

    • Patent trolls threaten innovation in Hawaii and the growth of the startup community in this state as startups find themselves wasting valuable time and resources by putting more executive and engineering resources toward depositions, purchasing attorney time to produce millions of documents in discovery, diverting budgets from research and development, and delaying product development and general company growth.

    • It is imperative that Hawaii fosters its VC and startup communities by supporting legislation that disincentivizes troll-like litigation behavior.

    • The strong bipartisan passage of the Innovation Act in the House, as well as President Obama’s call for reform in his 2014 State of the Union address, paves the way for strong patent reform in the Senate. The momentum is there to sign an act into law this year.

    There have been several pieces of introduced legislation that would work together to undercut the troll business model. The final legislation should:

    • make discovery more efficient so that trolls cannot use the high cost of litigation to extort settlements;

    • strengthen fee-shifting to cut down on the asymmetry that incentivizes startups to settle, versus putting their business (and existence) on the line to defend a frivolous infringement claim; and

    • create a more accessible means for challenging bad patents at the Patent Office, as an alternative to litigation.

    Venture capitalists nationwide have already shown their support for meaningful patent reform, including for all of the provisions listed above, in this letter sent late last year.

    As VCs and entrepreneurs operating in the State of Hawaii, we note that that if a company has an existing patent demand against it, it could potentially be a major deterrent to our decision whether to invest, and this is a material constraint on Hawaii’s ability to innovate.

    We urge you to support patent reform legislation so that Hawaii’s community of startups and small businesses can continue to contribute to the growth of the American economy.

    Many thanks for your time,

  6. mbloom, Hawaii’s First Early-Stage Technology Venture Capital Fund, Closes $10 Million mbloom Fund 1

    (Kahului, HI – January 21, 2014) – mbloom Ventures LLC, a Maui-based technology fund for Hawaii startups, today announced the close of a $10 million early-stage venture capital fund.

    The investment, mbloom Fund 1, is a public-private partnership with Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation (HSDC) and Devon Archer, a New York-based investor.

    “We are excited to use mbloom Fund 1 to create economic growth for Hawaii,” says mbloom co-founder Arben Kryeziu. “Innovation happens in Hawaii, but many companies leave the island for growth opportunities on the mainland. We want to keep Hawaii startups here, giving them opportunities to develop, connect, and make a mark just like the startups in Silicon Valley.”

    Kryeziu and partner Nick Bicanic created mbloom after recognizing the need to keep great talent on Maui.  With the fund, Kryeziu and Bicanic plan to provide mentorship, strategies, and business networks that nurture and cultivate the success of new Hawaii startups. 

    The Hawaii community has expressed great support and excitement for mbloom and its potential for success. 

    "I’ve long believed that great entrepreneurs and innovators can be found throughout the United States – and Hawaii is no exception," said Steve Case, chairman and CEO of Revolution. "I congratulate Arben and Nick on the launch of the mbloom fund, marking an important step for building momentum in the Hawaii technology community." 

    For more information on mbloom, please visit http://mbloom.com/ or contact Alexis Wogan at alexis@mbloom.com.

  7. Case Study: Wrappily, Your Eco-Friendly Gift Wrap

    Recently, we had the opportunity to work with Wrappily's Sara Smith on her business plan and website for her eco-conscious and chic wrapping paper. We were able to help her compartmentalize her business assets and help her create a business strategy that would lead her to success.

    Here’s what Sara had to say about working with mbloom: “The support and expertise I am receiving from mbloom is accelerating my launch beyond measure, not only in just getting to market, but in preparedness, positioning, and strategy, as well. I am so grateful!” 

    We love Wrappily’s concept of printing contemporary designs on recyclable newsprint with soy-based inks. Not only is Wrappily an eco-friendly option for gift wrap, but it also employs the underutilized printing presses – helping the local economy.

    Check out her shop that we optimized for search engine ranking and user experience:

    You can be a part of Wrappily’s journey by donating to its crowd-funding campaign. There’s a wide-range of incentives for donating, so make sure to take a look.

    Gift happily this holiday season with Wrappily: your eco-friendly solution.

  8. #StartupParadise: This video first aired at the VC Summit in Honolulu on Wednesday, December 4, 2013. mbloom co-founders Arben Kryeziu and Nick Bicanic announced mbloom’s $10M fund following this video.

  9. Maui Tech Incubator Gets a Goverment Boost - Hawaii Public Radio
  10. Startup Paradise Demo Day in Silicon Valley: Register Here!

    On Wednesday, December 11, 2013, our friends at Blue Startups are taking their teams to Silicon Valley for Startup Paradise Demo Day at 500 Startups.

    Blue Startups is a Honolulu-based accelerator that provides strategies, mentorship, and networking opportunities to startups to help them build a successful company. The latest batch of startups will be taking on Startup Paradise Demo Day, where they will pitch their businesses to Venture Capitalists. It’s an evening of great innovation, conversation, and inspiration. Make sure you register to see the latest and greatest labors of the following Blue Startups:

    Here are the details:

    Demo Day
    500 Startups
    444 Castro Street
    Mountain View, CA

    Wednesday, December 11, 2013 
    5:00pm – 7:30pm

    Register here