We were invited to Hawaii for East Meets West Conference. The Mobile Challenge Asia Pacific (MCAP) was holding their regional pitch competition there – at the second day of the conference.
A total of 9 countries were competing with 3 teams from each country. That made a total of 27 pitch teams from Asia Pacific. Besides me representing Swapit, Nicole from Spincle and Ilya from USpace were part of the Hong Kong team. I’d encourage you to check them out, they got some very cool products!
Everyone who knows me, knows that I am not very good at pitching – especially when there is a rather big audience. Though, I believe my pitch there was one of the better ones (I certainly performed worse before). So in the end Hong Kong is not being represented at the global final of MCAP which takes place in February in Barcelona at the GSMA Mobile World Congress. I wish the AsiaPac contestants all the best for their pitches there, though.
HAWAII STARTUP ECO-SYSTEM
Besides the MCAP pitch, we had the great opportunity to visit all “startup hubs” in Honolulu. It appears there is a lot happening in Hawaii and the University of Honolulu is one of their breeding grounds of innovation and talent in the holiday state.
There are great places like Blue Startups, XLR8UH, GVS Accelerator, Energy Excelerator and many more. All MCAP pitch teams could take part in a tour to visit all such places. I find it always quite interesting to see how the startup industry is like in other places.
Hawaii – as an island in the middle of the pacific ocean – is cut off from the mainland (and I mean the U.S. mainland). This means, that all not naturally occurring resources, need to be flown into Hawaii which adds a lot of cost and is in the end quite inefficient. Thus, energy efficiency seems to be a huge topic in Hawaii. A place that needs to get its natural resources flown or shipped in, would benefit a lot from affordable and renewable energy sources. Of course, me coming from Germany, this was a no-brainer. It seems many Americans need to be convinced of their benefits. Our renewable energy industry in Germany is world-leading and our energy production from renewable energy sources is increasing constantly. Especially since we decided to shut down all nuclear power plants – in a country of 80+ million people with a lot of energy-intensive heavy industries, by the way. So for Hawaii to focus on the field of renewable energy makes sense, not just from an ecological but also from an economical point of view.
Besides the focus on energy, there is also some great focus put on movie production (which I am still a bit wondering about, but well, if it works, why not?) as well as biotech and ecological advancements. As a rather segregated flora and fauna, biological advancements can be tested in that separate ecosystem. So to sum it up, there is a lot happening in Hawaii!
After all, many Americans consider Hawaii a paradise. Therefore, by definition, the Hawaiian startup industry markets itself as #StartupParadise.
ESTABLISHING NEW CONNECTIONS
Besides the MCAP pitch and our startup tour, there were also some great sessions in between. For example, Henk Rogers, the founder of Tetris held a great talk, Dave McClure from 500Startups was talking again, the SendGrid folks told us some great stories, and so on. So there was a lot to learn, a lot to take home with. In fact, we ended up using SendGrid for our latest Chinese New Year promotion (Swapit Gives Away HK$6 Million in Red Packets for Chinese New Year) to deliver our red packets by email to each person who earned one. And the best thing of that: by using our SoftLayer Catalyst program credits, we were to upgrade our SendGrid account to an Enterprise Account which gives us access to a much higher sending volume as well as Enterprise-grade support.
In between all those sessions, I had the chance to connect with other fellow startups (e.g. Vcool from Taiwan), talk to several folks running incubation and acceleration programs, angel investors and some VCs from places like Japan, Korea, Hawaii, Indonesia, Taiwan and more. So all in all, it was some good 3 days of busyness in #StartupParadise. Though, I haven’t seen anything but the conference venue (Hilton Waikiki) and the way from and to the airport.
I am grateful to the great people at Blue Startups who organized the whole conference as well as the great SoftLayer Catalyst folks who made it happen and ensured we could take part there. After all, a small startup doesn’t have the budget to fly to Hawaii on its own costs. Thanks a lot!