Startup Shuffle: Accelerator, Venture Team Additions


It’s been a busy month for Hawaii’s startup community.

For starters, two Honolulu-based startup accelerators announced the latest companies to enroll in their programs this month, an encouraging sign of growth for Hawaii’s tech industry.

The XLR8UH program, focused on technologies and companies coming out of the University of Hawaii, has chosen 10 finalists for its second cohort out of 70 applications. Meanwhile, Blue Startups is heading into its fifth cohort, selecting eight companies out of about 300 applications.

By design, the Blue Startups program is open to teams from both within and beyond Hawaii’s shores. Like the previous four sets of startups to go through the program, there is a mix of both local and mainland companies in the latest batch. The companies with local ties are:


  • Freshr: An app aimed at streamlining the $250 billion commercial fishing industry by providing real-time data and opening up the market for fishermen and distributors. “Instead of 10- to 20-day-old fish,” founder Francisco Arango and his team says, “we believe we can get that down to same-day to 4-day-old fish.”
  • Ujoin: “White labeled Kickstarter for passing laws,” from founder Kory Payne (formerly of Voter Owned Hawaii). Giving grassroots community organizers and activists a tool that rivals those used by policy professionals in building online community, monitoring bills, and campaigning for change.
  • VRCHIVE: A content distribution platform that connects 360° photographers with virtual reality consumers, empowering anyone to be a VR content creator. Founded by Ka’i Kau, founder of the Hawaii VR Club (previously featured here), Jesse Thompson and Evan Young.
  • TotalGDS: Online booking and promotion software for the travel industry, primarily for tour operators, activity vendors, and other time-based service providers. Founded by Allen Zhang, formerly of DSL reseller Bizwind.
  • Huedoku: An iOS game from Maui artist Gabriel Mott. who already made waves with his ColorIsRelative website and Colorbox installation. Check out videos of how the app works on YouTube.

The Hawaii teams will be working and learning alongside Benjamin, a California-based deals app pitched as “SnapChat meets Groupon with Big Data,” CandyBar, a Missouri-based mobile app platform for “events, tourism and civic pride,” and Paperplane, described as an artificial intelligence powered travel planning platform that automatically plans trips for travelers.

Members of the cohort shared some common threads, including travel technology and a focus on the Asia Pacific region. Blue Startups offers up to $70,000 in investment and mentorship in exchange for 6 percent of a company’s equity. And just this week, Blue Startups was just named one of the top 20 accelerators in the country,

Meanwhile, XLR8UH this week named ten finalists for its second cohort of UH-linked companies. The companies come from a range of research backgrounds, including software, robotics, clean tech and biotech, led by both faculty and students from the UH John A. Burns School of Medicine, the UH Institute for Astronomy, the College of Engineering, and the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

The finalists, many of which came through the UH Business Plan Competition, are:


  • Adnoviv, a smart occupancy sensor that detects true human presence by heartbeat and respiration.
  • Akabotics, an autonomous robotic platform used to conduct continuous maintenance dredging on shallow waterways.
  • Arismus Creativity, a free design platform created for small business.
  • Bio-Logic, an oral pharmaceutical used for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease and associated colorectal cancers.
  • Comprendio, a proven education technology that can identify, align and close the knowledge gap through real-time learning metrics.
  • EmployAble, an online vocational training tool aimed at helping people with disabilities achieve success.
  • Epistates, provides personalized medical treatment via epigenetic assessment for high-performance athletes and patients with chronic disease.
  • Jun Innovations, a super cooling technology that maintains freshness and increases longevity of perishable products.
  • News Navigator, provides users with more control over the news they receive.

In addition, MorphOptics (focused on specialized lenses) is returning from the first cohort last year.

Open to all UH faculty, students, and alumni, the XLR8UH “proof of concept center” offers up to $175,000 in investment (up to $50,000 for completing the program and up to $100,000 in follow-up funding) as well as mentoring in lean startup methodologies and investor pitches.

And while these startups and accelerator programs move forward, the local startup community saw even more change as Sultan Ventures (which is a partner with UH in XLR8UH) expanded its team by adding several familiar names to its roster of talent.

Melialani “Meli” James, head of the Hawaii Venture Capital Association and previously the program manager at Blue Startups, will head up New Ventures. Bryan Butteling, lead organizer for Startup Weekend Hawaii, will manage Strategic Partnerships. And Peter Rowan, an angel investor, educator and entrepreneur, will assist with Investor Relations.

On Wednesday’s “Bytemarks Cafe,” we talked about the ongoing evolution of Hawaii’s startup scene with James, Butteling, and Omar Sultan, co-founder of Sultan Ventures. You can listen to the show here (starting at about 21 minutes):

1 Response

  1. October 6, 2015

    […] in June, and Freshr is returning to the program after making it into Blue Startups’ previous cohort. But SmartYields is new, and the startup I’m a part […]

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