Guy Kawasaki on Hawaii Education, Rail Plan

Hawaii’s best chance at success comes from education rather than special funds and tax credits, according to renowned venture capitalist and former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki. He also expressed exasperation over Honolulu’s rail transit plan, and appreciation for the work of L.P. “Neenz” Faleafine, who works with him on running “digital magazine rack” Alltop.com.

Kawasaki was the featured guest last night on “Bytemarks Cafe,” Hawaii Public Radio’s technology show. And Neenz was with us in the studio to talk about how she came to work with and learn from him.

Though much has been made over the years of Hawaii’s geographic location and the natural advantages it ostensibly brings, Kawasaki was skeptical.

“Just to say we’re in the middle of the Pacific between China and the mainland and that’s a great natural advantage… for what?” he asked. But he said he could understand how Hawaii could benefit from alternative energies such as solar, which is a technology he invests in.

Kawasaki was also cool on government programs intended to stimulate growth, from grants to tax breaks like Act 221. Calling himself a “supply-side guy,” he said the best thing Hawaii could do is “to properly fund and create the school of Engineering at the University of Hawaii.”

“If you have a great School of Engineering, you have great engineering professors and great students and those great students will come up with great ideas. And if you have students with ideas, the money will flow, the corporate financial attorneys will flow, the PR firms will flow… everything is because of two guys in a garage with a great idea. Yes, you can create funds to make that easier for two guys in a garage, but if you don’t have two guys in a garage, it doesn’t matter how many funds you have.”

Hawaii’s challenges, Kawasaki said, were epitomized by Honolulu’s rail transit plan.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but Hawaii can’t even build a mass transit system that stops at the airport and the University of Hawaii and Waikiki,” he said. “Excuse me? I mean, why else would you build a mass transit system? No, instead, it’s going to go to Salt Lake. Can you see why I would be scratching my head?”

Kawasaki was full of praise for Neenz.

“She’s the shoulders upon which Alltop is being built right now,” he said. “I don’t know where we would be without Neenz. She’s a very intelligent person, and that counts for everything with me. And also, she’s willing to grind it out. There are a lot of smart people who are lazy. If you combine a person who is smart and willing to grind it out, that’s a winning combination.”

I co-host “Bytemarks Cafe” with Burt Lum every Wednesday at 5 p.m. on KIPO 89.3FM.

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13 Responses

  1. Great show! Interesting perspectives shared. Any ideas out there on a shorter term fix (i.e., less than 20 years) for stimulating Hawaii’s tech industry?

  2. Russel Cheng says:

    if you don’t have two guys in a garage, it doesn’t matter how many funds you have.

    Exactly. I completely agree with this. Invest in our engineering school and younger generations to encourage risk taking, creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.

  3. Kay Logsdon says:

    Watched the show and appreciated the insights – not just into Hawaii, but into Guy’s commitment to excellence (including family life). Also enjoyed seeing Neenz, who has been so helpful in getting foodchannel.com added to Alltop.

  4. Scooby says:

    As usual, Guy makes excellent points. We should totally invest in our engineering school, as well as K-12 education. Any successful area, from San Jose to Seattle to Austin to Raleigh has great schools.

    And as usual, Guy says some half-informed things. It’s true the rail line doesn’t go to Waikiki, but that’s because it’s for locals, not tourists. Tourists are here for what, a week? two weeks at the most? Meanwhile, us locals gotta get to work and many of us are crammed on overcapacity highways or a totally congested H-1 coming in from the west site.

    And maybe the rail line doesn’t go to UH-Manoa, but it does got to plenty other education areas — Leeward Community College, Honolulu Community College and the downtown HPU campus. And don’t sleep on UH-West Oahu, which is finally getting the support it needs to become a real campus. in the next 20 years, as Ewa and Kapolei grow, UH West Oahu will become critical to our educational system — the same educational system that Guy says we shoudl invest in.

  5. russell says:

    I have much respect for guy and his accomplishments…but enough with the rail bashing, particularly from someone who isn’t stuck in crippling traffic from the west side to town everyday. We need the rail or we will suffer in traffic hell.

    Sorry to be so melodramatic, but I feel that rail is absolutely critical to the future success of our island. I known that guy was using it as an example of a broader point but with rail now on the election ballot I think that every negative comment will me magnified.

  6. Seth Ladd says:

    glad to hear I’m not the only one that thinks NOT going to the airport is stupid

  7. aaron kagawa says:

    its all about the students! i completely agree. but, someone tell Guy that there is a College of Engineering AND Department of Information and Computer Sciences. :)

    (I say this because I’m starting an ICS alumni group, and its hard to shine the spotlight on the smaller ICS department).

  8. milo smith says:

    Rail will provide a traffic alternative for an area that really needs it, economic stimulation for an economy that really needs it and controlled plan development for a island needed it 10 years ago. The people who are against the project are people who shoot the wounded after the war has been fought. Lead follow or get out of the way. Come on this is going to happen.

  9. Matchu says:

    I completely agree with Guy. If were going to have mass transit, we need to have stops at the Airport, UH Manoa, and Waikiki…perhaps exphanding phase I to incorporate an extention to at least one of these three locations?

  10. Joe Lee says:

    Act 221 is great for the State! It has the potential to draw in huge investments from both local and mainland investors. Unfortunately this act is set to expire in 2010 unless Gov. Lingle agrees to an extention.

  11. Kim says:

    I also thought it was a very interesting show.

    “Correct me if I’m wrong, but Hawaii can’t even build a mass transit system that stops at the airport and the University of Hawaii and Waikiki,” he said. “Excuse me? I mean, why else would you build a mass transit system? No, instead, it’s going to go to Salt Lake. Can you see why I would be scratching my head?”

    I certainly can!

  12. Sam says:

    Shouldn’t the rail serve Hawai’i residents? Will it go from dense population areas to dense employment areas? Waianae, Nanakuli, Kapolei to…Salt Lake? Why would someone living in those 3 areas want to go to Salt Lake, for what purpose?

  13. Sam says:

    Hey, Governor Abercrombie – why doesn’t Hawai’i state have an Inspector General? For that matter, why doesn’t each county have an IG? Something to think about I think…food for thought.

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