Archive for the ‘Networking’ Category

Makers Movement and More

April 1st, 2014
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Makers pix

PROGRAM ALERT: The new April episode of Career Changers TV premieres Thurs., April 3 at 7:30 PM on OC16 (channel 12/high def 1012). For daily viewing times, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV. You can also watch segments on the CCTV YouTube Channel, which now has over 200,000 views and is climbing each month. Contact me directly if you're interested in advertising on the show or being a featured sponsor!

Above is a photo of my videographer, Stanford Chang, shooting b-roll of the first-ever Honolulu Mini Maker Faire at Iolani School on March 15. Despite the obsolete spelling of "faire," it has nothing to do with medieval times or making miniature fairy sprites -- although they did make mini-robots and small 3-D printed objects for demo purposes. There were also knitters and do-it-yourself types who work in all types of mediums, from film and virtual reality to woodworking, metal and molded plastic.

So what is the Maker Movement all about? Watch the show or view the segment to find out! We also did a separate piece on the Hawaii Inventors group, and three of the products they had on display at the event. BTW, hats off to Iolani School for hosting the Mini Maker Faire, which was actually spread out over two floors of the Sullivan Center for Innovation and Leadership. What was cool is the faculty and students seem to have a creative flair themselves, as evidenced by their homage to Frank Sinatra... in the elevator of all places!

Sinatra elevator

Above is the back wall of the elevator, which plays Sinatra music and has other visual references to his recording career, courtesy of #iolanihackers. While we were filming, there were a number of students who were working on various high tech projects that weren't a part of the Makers fair. I also saw younger kids who signed up for Makers workshops that taught soldering. So one thing you can say about the Makers Movement -- and Iolani School -- is that they both take an eclectic approach to creativity.

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In the same episode, we have a segment about the fun and quirky Hound & Quail shop on Kapiolani. Never visited it before? Actually, it's not that easy since they're only open three hours each week on Monday due to the partners' full-time professions. Mark Pei is a pilot for Hawaiian Airlines. Travis Flazer works for the theater department of Punahou School -- er, "Theatre" I mean... another old-timey English spelling like "Faire." No wonder foreigners think English is confusing. Here's the link to that video.

Anyhow, if you're wondering what the story is behind the name, there really isn't anything specific -- other than their interest in taxidermy, including mounted birds and other animals that had me thinking about Norman Bates in PSYCHO. But Mark and Travis are really nice, intelligent, normal guys... well, just a tad off center, perhaps.

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WAIMEA VALLEY NEWS: On Sat., April 5 at 10 AM, they will be officially dedicating the renovated amphitheater to Rudy Mitchell. "Uncle Rudy" has been an integral part of the valley's history and vision, according to Richard Pezzulo, Waimea Valley Executive Director. You can learn more about the restoration of the amphitheater (not "amphitheatre") and other new developments by watching the piece we did back in February (click here).

Media Disconnect on Economy

August 3rd, 2012
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PROGRAM ALERT: The new August episode of Career Changers TV begins running Saturday night at 8:30 pm on OC16. Please visit www.CareerChangers.TV for other daily viewing times. You can also watch segments from the show on the CCTV YouTube Channel (low res versions).

For the past few months, I've been telling people that what I'm hearing on the streets in Honolulu is things are looking good for businesses despite all the negative national headlines repeating messages of doom and gloom. Granted, the job outlook hasn't improved much for certain segments of the population -- but if those who are unemployed haven't upgraded their skills or changed their job hunting strategy, their prospects aren't going to change either. And yes, the uncertainty of what's going to happen with Europe's economic house of cards is a legitimate reason to worry about the future of big global corporations with stakes in those markets.

Yet I keep seeing evidence that good old-fashioned American entrepreneurship is not only alive -- it's thriving. It's like staring at the ocean in vain for glimpses of whales breaching, when right in front of you there are tidal pools teeming with tiny sea life that go unnoticed. Okay, that might be a slightly tortured metaphor to tie in my current show's Sea Life Park theme with the Startup Hawaii conference I attended yesterday, but I think it actually makes sense.

The "whale" everyone came to see was Steve Case, AOL co-founder and chairman of the Startup America Partnership, which is a bipartisan offshoot of President Obama's Jobs Council initiative. As Case noted, they were able to get Republicans and Democrats to come together on creating programs that would encourage innovation, while providing incentives for startups that can help boost the economy. So, you see, it's not impossible to find some common ground to build on.

Case, DicusWhat I found most interesting about Case's on stage discussion with Howard Dicus was that his key points mirrored what earlier speakers told the 300 plus attendees -- and those speakers ranged the gamut from local entrepreneurs who laughed about launching their ventures with less than $300, to executives at major investors in startup companies. In fact, George Kellerman, a venture partner out of California (went to UH) joked that Case's five positive reasons Hawaii can be a major player in startup innovation, sounded like Case cribbed notes from Kellerman's morning presentation.

Both guys, along with other panel speakers, noted Hawaii is a gateway to Asia; can attract talent because of our lifestyle ("brain gain" instead of brain drain); we have local wealth that can be tapped into, from successful folks who live here part-time or have moved to Hawaii; and it's much cheaper now to start a new biz, especially in the high tech or social media arena.

Which is what I am seeing and hearing on a daily basis. You no longer need to invest tens of thousands in computer hardware and hire high-priced programmers and engineers to launch a new internet-based company. What's more, there's been a proliferation of startup "accelarators," which are sort of a combination of venture capital investors and incubators. It works like this: someone like Kellerman's company, 500 Startups (name inspired by Dr. Seuss 500 hats book) will provide $50K to $100K in financial backing for a startup they like. They also provide physical space and mentors to offer guidance. If it goes well, they may "double down" on their investment for another year or two -- he says about 20 percent of their 350 investments so far fall into that category. In return, the accelerator gets a small percentage of the startup company's stock or equity -- around 5 percent but it varies depending on the potential. For instance, one of their early investments was Wildfire, which provides advertising services for Facebook... Google just announced they are acquiring Wildfire for $50 million. Kellerman wouldn't say how much 500 Startups will get for "exiting" that investment, but I think it's safe to say the return will be quite handsome.

That kind of payoff is making the accelerator biz very competitive. But the ones I met yesterday say their philosophy is based on the "pay it forward" model because in their own cases, many of them benefited from the help and guidance of successful mentors. There's much more I'll share when we air these segments next month on Career Changers TV. My question though is where was the local news media yesterday? I found a number of interesting stories -- local successes, national successes with Hawaii connections -- and the only news story I saw come out of that was on KGMB since Howard Dicus was able to get Steve Case to do an interview on camera.

I guess if the organizers wanted to get more local news coverage, they should have set the Sheraton Waikiki on fire or crash a car into the hotel lobby. Anyway, speaking of positive stories about startups in Hawaii, in our new episode we have a segment about an offshoot of Bess Press publishing called Pass the Projects. They're creating interactive apps for smart devices that combine traditional print media with digital media, including a very cool app for Sea Life Park. Here's a sneak peek.

Have a great weekend!

Newsy Tidbits

July 13th, 2012
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People ask me where I get my story leads for Career Changers TV. Sometimes they're literally right under my nose. We'll be shooting one segment, and often that subject will introduce me to another person who has agreed to be the "talent" for b-roll shots (background footage) or to be part of an onscreen demo. Interestingly, the people that volunteer to help out, usually are entrepreneurs themselves who tend to say "yes" when opportunities arise to promote a friend's business -- or their own company. They know an age-old secret of success: the more you give, the more you get in return.

For instance, on the current CCTV episode, when my cameraman (Stanford Chang) and I arrived at the office of hypnotherapist Mindy Ash, I was pleasantly surprised to see her client for the b-roll session filming was someone I had met at a Hawaii Inventors Club meeting: Kathy Custer. If her name sounds familiar, it's because she was recently selected for the Pacific Business News "Forty Under 40" special edition. Just 27-years-old, Kathy is the founder of Keiki Sitters & Ohana Helpers, which is a great story in itself. But she's one of those serial entrepreneurs who aren't content with merely launching one successful biz. When I first met her, she told me about a new venture... indoor skydiving. You may have seen those vertical wind tunnels on TV before, where people put on specially-designed jumpsuits and "fly" inside the padded enclosures. Very cool -- and very expensive to build.

Kathy had to raise $6 million to bring this new activity to Hawaii, which meant she had to nail her presentation when she went in front of investors. She credits her hypnotherapy session with Mindy as one reason she felt so confident when she made the big pitch. But it was Kathy herself they were really investing in and her "can do" attitude. I mean, here's this dynamic business owner with close to 400 employees, and she's making time for us to film her sitting on a chair in a demo session, or she's making time to attend inventor club meetings and networking events. Kathy is a great role model for anyone who wants to change their life, and we'll be doing a feature on her in an upcoming CCTV show.

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Another tidbit I picked up at the Pacific Gateway Center prior to a human trafficking project meeting, is related to fashion designer Andy South -- a literal relation. Andy's mom, Nora Sisouphanthong, is a caseworker at PGC who has been helping immigrant farm workers that were victimized by recruiters in Southeast Asia, then abandoned and left to fend for themselves in Hawaii. (You can see the 808HALT.com project video that includes Nora by clicking this link.)

I asked her how Andy was doing, since I hadn't heard any news about him recently. Turns out Andy is opening a new showroom in the Downtown area, and has also been investing in equipment for a clothing manufacturing business he's starting to produce other designers' fashions, as well as his own. The showroom will give him more visibility, while the manufacturing operation will help expand his revenue stream. Smart move.

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The last tidbit comes from an interesting lunch meeting I had with Andrew and Christine Lanning, the husband and wife team behind Integrated Security Technologies, based in Aiea. I met Christine while Stan and I were shooting a segment on Matt Myers, a sports massage therapist and MMA fighter, which will be in our August episode. She was the b-roll client for Matt's demos, and after explaining how she used his services because she was doing triathalons, Christine casually mentioned she was CEO of a security business that has worked with Kaiser Permanente, the City and County of Honolulu, plus other large commercial installations.

I wanted to know more, especially since high tech security is a growing field. That's the reality of life in post-9/11 America. Unfortunately, there also seems to be a rise in property-related crimes due to the recession -- break-ins, burglaries, robberies of tourists and residents alike. One area that has been largely overlooked are school campuses. Well, Andrew and Christine have been working with Punahou School on a new security system to help protect students and the campus facilities, which will be going into effect next semester. They're also hoping to win a contract for a local college that Andrew believes could become a nation-wide model for campus security. You'll be hearing more on that in a future CCTV show too.

You can watch the current episode Saturday nights at 8:30 pm on OC16. For other daily viewing times, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV or watch segments from past and present shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel. Have a great weekend!

Weekend Launches New Businesses

September 20th, 2011
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Whew! I was only at Startup Weekend for two hours on Saturday to do pre-interviews, then returned Sunday for about three hours to shoot a segment for Career Changers TV and hear the final presentations, and I was blown away. It is astounding to see what can be accomplished in 54 hours when you have creative minds combined with motivated, skilled individuals in the same room working towards a common goal.

In fact, some of the presenters said they are moving forward with their ideas for new businesses... and I think a couple of them have a chance to succeed not just locally, but nationally or even internationally. If you missed my last post, Startup Weekend is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas, vote on the concepts they like the most, then form teams to create a five minute presentation. The panel of judges included successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, who have been responsible for investing millions of dollars in startups here and on the mainland. They've also made lots of money themselves. That alone made the $100 admission price worth the cost because the judges were on hand throughout the weekend to act as mentors, who offered advice to the different groups.

Over 40 people attended the first Honolulu Startup Weekend, which was good enough for the organizers (Danielle Scherman of Social Wahines and programmer Dave Pascua) to announce they will be doing the next one in March, and plan on continuing to do them every six months. Both Danielle and Dave had attended SW events on the mainland, and were brought together by the national SW organization, which also sent a facilitator from Seattle to help run things.

They started with 27 ideas pitched on Friday night, which were narrowed down to 15 before the attendees voted on which they liked best. Out of that, they wound up with eight who worked all Saturday and most of Sunday on figuring out logistics, budgets, marketing angles and tag lines, before getting up in front of the judges to sell their concept and answer questions.

The one that took first place also caught my interest when I heard the pitch: GreatHealthOptions.com, which offers consumers a way to find medical treatment by price -- whether you have insurance or not. Brant Wojack, the idea guy, is a programmer by trade like a lot of the participants. But he saw a need created by the gap in health care coverage and thinks his concept could be an effective bridge between consumers, insurers and medical care providers. I was surprised Brant's team won because the panel asked some tough questions, which I surmised meant they were skeptical of the viability of the business model. Apparently, the judges liked their answers.

Second place went to Burt Lum for HeartMyCity.Me, which had early buzz from the mentors. You know how when you see a big pothole or broken streetlight, and wonder why doesn't someone fix it? Burt figures folks can take a photo with their smart phones or text a message to his site, which would then alert the appropriate government agency or civic group about the problem... other users could also add input or "vote" to prioritize fix-it projects. I love this idea because it also puts pressure on taxpayer-funded agencies and departments to do their jobs in a timely manner. One of the judges, a venture capitalist, told me she can see this rolling out across the country and could even go worldwide. (BTW, you may recognize Burt's name from the HPR radio show he does, Bytemarks Cafe... he's got a great story about what brought him to this event, which I'll write more about in a future post.)

Third place went to Sinful Edibles, which started out as a pretty straightforward, attention-getting pitch: Porn Cakes. The presentation emphasized their adult-oriented food creations would be "tasteful" and they even handed out samples to the judges (um, "things" on a stick if you get my drift).

Another idea that impressed me was Kudos, which began as Best Dishes. It's sort of a more specific Yelp type rating service without the negative feedback. Users choose their favorite dishes and the site will match it up with discount deals from the restaurant or food place. I also liked Fruit Box -- a way for people to share their excess mangoes or farmers markets to sell leftover produce instead of throwing it out.

There's a bunch more I have to say about the event and some of the other startup ideas. But I'll save that for when we run the segment on Career Changers TV. Sorry I had to leave out some of the other groups and didn't have room here to talk about the mentors themselves. You can find out more though by going to the StartupWeekend Honolulu site.

If I skimped on details or got anything wrong in my descriptions above, please feel free to post corrections and additional information in the comments section below. I have to approve first-time posters, however, so there may be a lag time before your comments appear.

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For daily viewing times and more, visit www.CareerChangers.TV. You can also watch video segments from past and present episodes on the CCTV YouTube Channel.

Startup Weekend: Got Apps?

September 15th, 2011
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Got an idea for a web-based business or smart phone application? If so, you might want to check out Startup Weekend Honolulu, which begins Friday, Sept. 16 at 6 pm and continues Saturday and Sunday, 9 am until 10 pm each day. Yep, that's 54 hours to pitch your idea, form groups for the top vote-getters, then do a presentation for judges who have the clout and know-how to actually launch a new company.

During that process, groups will get to work with mentors and do lots of networking with like-minded entrepreneurs. The cost is $100 and it will be limited to the first hundred who register. I'll be there with videographer Stanford Chang filming the Sunday final presentations for a future Career Changers TV show. Click here for more details.

If you can't make it to Startup Weekend, post your mobile app suggestion in the comments section below. Doesn't have to be practical or serious. Make me laugh, and I might just send you a small prize or dinner gift certificate!

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On a related note, Newsweek recently ran a cover story on Steve Jobs and how Apple revolutionized the computer industry by tapping into the social aspects of the internet. When I bought my first iMac, I told my wife we should invest in Apple stock. It was about $6 per share at the time. I wasn't even thinking about iTunes or the iPod though, which were the real game changers -- I just thought that transparent Bondi Blue egg-shaped iMac looked so damn cool. Instead, we spent the money on a trip to Vegas. Now Apple is trading at close to $400 per share! Sigh...

But how did Jobs make Apple such a success? Here's a link to "The 10 Commandments of Steve" that appeared in Newsweek. The folks who attend Startup Weekend should read them over and think about what they can do to make their apps not just useful, but "cool" too. Among his rules: keep teams small, shun focus groups, simplify and prototype to the extreme. Also, be ruthless. That last part is more about being tough on yourself and killing your "babies" or ideas that aren't working. It's important to remember, even Apple has had flops over the years.

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For daily viewing times and other links, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV. You can also watch videos from past and current shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel.