Accelerator Names Next Set of Storytelling Startups


You might not think of a YouTube star as being a startup, but for the Big Island-based GVS Accelerator, an online musical comedy series is a promising investment.

The GVS Accelerator hit the road earlier this summer in search of its second cohort of companies. But rather than looking for the next hot app or enterprise software startup, GVS is looking for talented storytellers that can work across mediums and build lucrative creative franchises.

The accelerator is a public-private partnership between Global Virtual Studio, the County of Hawaii, and the state’s Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation (HSDC). Just last month, it was among three local accelerators recognized by the Small Business Administration as being among the country’s most innovative programs.

The companies accepted into the program are led by creative entrepreneurs looking to find a commercial audience for their work, and they get a $50,000 seed capital boost, mentorship, and access to an array of resources, including its Honua Studios facility in Kona. With several of the companies in last year’s first round now in the follow-on fundraising phase, the GVS Accelerator this week named seven companies into its second cohort.

“The selected companies represent a diverse cross­section of media and entertainment, each incorporating multiple product platforms ranging from feature films and TV series to graphic novels and mobile apps,” GVS said in its announcement.


Perhaps the best known inductee into the program is Alex Farnham, who has built a sizable audience on YouTube with his comedy videos. He has more than 200,000 subscribers and has garnered more than 54 million views. For the accelerator, Farnham’s project is “Mockstars,” a web­ series that will parody celebrities, current movies, songs, concerts, or news events through original music.

Farnham’s success echoes a previous Big Island based YouTube star, Ryan Higa, who has over 15 million subscribers that have watched his videos more than 2.3 billion times. GVS says that Farnham “brings one of the fastest­growing segments of media to the Program’s mix.”

“​I think it’s great to have something like this here,­ great for the community and for the kids growing up here,” Farnham added in a statement.

The other six companies are:

  • “Captive,” founded by John Shepherd and Patrick Hibler, which follows a former British Special Air Service officer who gets into death-defying adventures while traveling around the Pacific in his sailboat. It’s envisioned as a feature film, graphic novel, and video game.
  • “The Medicine Runner,” by Edwin Marshall and David Cunningham, tells the story about a homeless, mixed-race orphan boy and a haole village doctor in a small coffee farming community in 1920s Hawaii. It is pitched as a feature film, book, and app.
  • “Oceanna,” by Laurie and Wayne Nunez, is a children’s animated series about a young girl who imagines herself to be an underwater superhero dedicated to protecting the sea. In addition to a TV series, it will anchor an mobile game, book, soundtrack, and branded merchandise.
  • “Wings,” by local photographer Kaveh Kardan, is a science fiction tale about a young female pilot living in a world of giant robots who sets out to investigate her parents’ disappearances. Told in a steampunk style, it will be a web and print graphic novel and feature film.
  • “Native,” by Joel Angyal and Mike Leahy, is about a troubled native Hawaiian teenager who finds purpose in studying mixed martial arts. It’s intended to be a feature film, music album, and clothing line.
  • “Surf Break Hotel,” by Stefan Schaefer and Jonathan Stern, is a web and TV sitcom about a washed-up surfer who ends up getting a job as a surf instructor at a Maui hotel.

This year, companies that successfully graduate from the program are also eligible for up to $250,000 in additional, matching funds, provided they can raise at least 25 percent of their follow-on budget and find distribution.

“This is really the recipe for economic development the State has been looking for,” said state Sen. Glenn Wakai, who was at this week’s launch, in a statement. “For a small investment, we partner with private investors and good things can happen.”

Also on hand for the launch were state Rep. Nicole Lowen, Hawaii Island mayor Billy Kenoi, and Hawaii County councilmember Karen Eoff.

For more information on the GVS Accelerator program and its latest cohort, visit, connect with the program on Facebook, or follow @GVS_Accelerator on Twitter.

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