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.
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.