East Meets West 2020: My takeaways on Hawaii’s Startup Conference

East Meets West 2020: Stacy Ferreira
Stacy Ferreira (Hawaii State Senate) kicking off a panel during East Meets West 2020

A day after our Brand Workshop with Wall-to-Wall Studios last week, the East Meets West 2020 conference kicked off in Waikiki.

The East Meets West conference (EMW20) positions itself as the startup event of the year in Hawaii. Thought leaders and innovators from Hawaii, Asia, and North America are brought together for a two day conference in Waikiki.

This year’s conference featured international speakers, hot topic breakout sessions, pitch opportunities, and ample networking.

Here are my takeaways from the afternoon I spent at EMW20.

Indigenous Entrepreneurs – Bringing Cultural Values to Startups

East Meets West Panel: Indigenous Entrepreneurs - Bringing Cultural Values to Startups
My fellow panelists Will Reppun (Unrulr) and Roxelle Cho (Fused Hawaii)

On day two of the conference, I was asked to participate on a panel called, “Indigenous Entrepreneurs – Bringing Cultural Values to Startups.” It was moderated by Stacy Ferreira and my fellow panelists were Will Reppun and Roxelle Cho.

One of the questions Stacy asked was our take on the term, manatize.

Coined by Kamuela Enos of MAʻO Organic Farms, the term can be viewed as a Hawaiian approach to how health and wellness of people and lands can be improved via business.

Since there isn’t much content available online for manatize, I texted my friend Donavan Kealoha beforehand for some context. He pointed me to an unpublished Google Docs article he wrote, which helped me formulate my viewpoint. Mahalo Donavan!

Back to the panel, my answer to Stacy’s question about what manatize means to me revolved around our efforts with the Paubox Kahikina Scholarship.

The primary objective of the Paubox Kahikina Scholarship is to encourage Native Hawaiians to pursue careers in computer science and software development. The Scholarship is recurring in nature, which means recipients receive $1,000 per year until they graduate (5 year maximum).

My hypothesis around the Kahikina Scholarship is that software engineering is an honorable profession.

Here’s why:

  • Software is Eating the World (huge demand)
  • High income potential immediately following college (speed to market)
  • Cheaper than becoming a lawyer or doctor (lower college debt)
  • Software can help people (honorable work)

It’s my personal belief that more Native Hawaiians should be exposed to careers in software engineering and computer science. It is clearly the way of the future.

East Meets West 2020: My Takeaways
Trying my best to explain what Manatize means to me

The Intrapreneurs – Innovation from the Inside out

East Meets West 2020: Barron Guss
Barron Guss (ALTRES) sharing his thoughts

Following my panel, I stuck around for “The Intrapreneurs – Innovation from the Inside out.”

The panel consisted of:

  • Barron Guss (ALTRES)
  • Lauren Nahme (Kamehameha Schools)
  • Peter Dames (Servco Pacific)
  • Col. Winfield Scott (U.S. Airforce)

It was also moderated by Stacy Ferreira.

Although I personally do not give credence to the term intrapreneur, the panel was stacked with accomplished professionals.

For example, I enjoyed when Barron Guss said, “our job as intrapreneurs is to recognize trends and reinvent the business.”

Running into friends

East Meets West 2020: Selfie with Donavan Kealoha and Keala Chock
Selfie with Donavan Kealoha (Startup Capital Ventures) and Keala Chock (Honolulu Community College)

From the half day I spent at EMW20 on Friday, it seemed to me 95% of the Hawaii’s startup ecosystem was in attendance. It was great running into friends I hadn’t seen in months, if not years.

East Meets West 2020: Ikaika Sheehan and Assaf Karmon
Ikaika Sheehan (Activiter) and Assaf Karmon (TurnoverBnB)

East Meets West 2020: Simplicity HR booth
The HR Symphony booth

Startup Showcase

East Meets West 2020: My Takeaways

The final event of the day was the Startup Showcase, where ten startups had three minutes each to pitch six judges.

My personal favorite was Assaf Karmon from TurnoverBnB, as I thought he succinctly laid out the problem, solution, total addressable market, and company traction thus far. They ended up taking second. Lizuna took first place.

Cassidy Crowley from Shark Tank fame then made a special appearance. She authoritatively nailed her pitch.

She is already one of Hawaii’s finest.

East Meets West 2020: Crowley
Cassidy Crowley from Shark Tank fame made a special appearance

East Meets West 2020: Crowley
Cassidy Crowley killed it onstage

East Meets West 2020: HG shaka

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About the author

Hoala Greevy

Founder CEO Paubox. Kayak fishing when I can.

Read more by Hoala Greevy

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