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The Startup Catalyst™ Podcast

Stories of investors and entrepreneurs from Hawaii's startup paradise and startup hubs around the globe

The Startup Catalyst™ Podcast chronicles the stories of startup founders and investors about the ingredients along their journey which catalyzed success (and yes, failure too). Our guests range from early stage startup founders, accomplished investors, and ecosystem champions from public and private sectors alike. Join host Luke Tucker for some fun and aloha as we broadcast from beautiful Honolulu, Hawaii, spreading the stories of investors and startups in Hawaii’s own “Startup Paradise” as well as Silicon Valley and startup hubs across the globe.

Episodes

Episode 26 - Luke Tucker, Venture Associate at Sultan Ventures


Today we’ll be flipping the script and guest host Tarik Sultan will be interviewing Luke in our Season 1 Finale of The Startup Catalyst Podcast.

We talk about his path in launching these ventures, his time here at Sultan Ventures as our Venture Associate and first company hire, his involvement in the launch of our award-winning accelerator program XLR8UH as both a Program Manager and Entrepreneur in Residence, his multiple efforts giving back to the community while still maintaining a work-life balance, and finally what may be breaking news to the community, how he is adding some new titles to his resume.

Check out the full episode with show notes and reference links!

Episode 25 - Ross Baird, Founder and CEO at Village Capital


You’re going to hear some things not available anywhere else as Ross goes through some awesome stories. Including, a dinner party in Rome with some famous actors. Stick around for that, you don’t want to miss that story!

A few nuggets in the show: the maximum 3-digit Fibonacci sequence number (bet you can’t guess the number right now), the thesis of leveraging the collective knowledge, what are “2 pocket thinkers”, and what’s next for Vilcap!

Check out the full episode with show notes and reference links!

Episode 24 - Emilia Chagas, CEO and Co-Founder at Contentools

In the show you’ll learn a little of Emilia’s background being a content expert, launching her business, going through 500 startups, and what it’s like working in gorgeous Brazil.

Emilia is a maven of content, and we get into some super specific content tips including the 5 elements of a content strategy.

So whip out that note pad, take some notes and enjoy our conversation with Emilia Chagas.

Check out the full episode with show notes and reference links!

Episode 23 - Pedro Sorrentino, Venture Associate at FundersClub

Growing up in Sao Paolo, Pedro has been a hustler since his youth. His passion to pursue greatness, and his heart to apply himself and give back is just awesome.

In the show you’ll learn about Pedro’s crazy journey including making the leap from a high flying ed tech startup to connections in NYC, to Boulder, and jumping on board the rocket ship startup that is Sendgrid and finally where he’s at now as a VC with FundersClub.

Check out the full episode with show notes and reference links!

BONUS show with XLR8UH startups: Algorithmhub, Cropsticks, and MorphOptic


We talk with several XLR8UH cohort companies, including catching up with MorphOptic’ CEO and Founder Jeff Kuhn from Cohort 1 and 2 and we also chat with Cohort 4 company founders John Bay from Algorithmhub and Mylen Yamamoto from Cropsticks. Enjoy!

Listen to the episode now!

Episode 21 - Proto HUB, REV, and Investing in Community with George Yarbrough

In this short conversation with George, we talk about balancing a heart for travel and adventure, with investing in your local community and giving back.  We chat startup education, the REV program, and discuss the future of the Proto HUB here in Honolulu.

Included in the show notes is special BONUS content, so be sure and check it out!

Episode 20 - Startup Ecosystem Chat with Village Capital's Jared Marquette


Learn about Vilcap’s investment model, what the VilCap communities look like and how they were selected, what government’s role should be in ecosystem conversations, how important universities are, and Jared’s take on the Hawaii startup ecosystem (Guest Starring Tarik Sultan!)

Check out the full episode with show notes and reference links!

Episode 19 - Lanai Tabura, Entertainer & Entrepreneur

In the interview, we cover a wide range of topics and Lanai tells LOTS of great stories. We dig deep into the various entrepreneurial activities he’s enjoyed over the years and really chat through the highs and the lows.

A few highlights: Lanai’s start in radio at 17, raising millions for the Japan tsunami, the story of the great food truck race, and more!

Check out the full episode with show notes and reference links!

Episode 18 - Lauren Primiano, Managing Member at Reef.VC


Lauren has had a diverse career to date, working with various companies and agencies. She’s been an early startup employee in several medical and early stage companies, helped on the investor and community side with roles at HSDC and now Reef VC.

Check out the full episode with show notes and reference links!

Episode 17 - Brett McDonald, CEO and Founder at Vantage Sports


Today’s episode is part tres of our special trifecta of episodes that are the sport focused olympic series, where this week we welcome Brett McDonald, CEO and Founder at Vantage Sports.

Vantage Sports is a premiere sports analytics platform that provides key insights to players, teams, and media. Recently shifting its focus into the eSports industry, Vantage League provides aspiring gamers with data-driven coaching services and unique access to professional teams.

Check out the full episode with show notes and reference links!

Episode 16 - Troy Ruediger, Founder at Starters.Co.

Today’s episode is part 2 of our special 3-part sport focused olympic series, where this week we welcome Troy Ruediger, Founder at Starters.Co.

Starters is a collaborative community of #sportstech innovators and influencers who are shaping the future of sports. Check out #wearestarters on the twitter (their twitter handle is @startersHQ).  So a little bit about Troy: Shaping the future of sports w/ @StartersHQ and he leads Product/Growth @vibby

Check out the full episode page with show notes and reference links!

Episode 15 - Hunter Swensson, COO and Co-Founder at Paranoid Fan


Today’s episode kicks off our special 3-part sports-tech series, just in time for the Olympics. Leading off is Hunter Swensson, Founder and COO at Paranoid Fan.

Paranoid Fan is a social mapping app that helps fans navigate through their game-day experience, and Hunter has a super interesting journey, being a professional esports athlete where his corporate sponsors included Toyota, and he also worked for ESPN in Texas.

Check out the full episode page with show notes and reference links!

Episode 14 - Evan Leong, Entrepreneur & Investor

Evan is a fantastic entrepreneur, running various successful companies and projects. He was the host of the popular Greater Good Radio show, distributes Bubble Tea supplies around the globe, owns StandUpPaddleSurf.net and Kokua.org.

In this interview, you will learn about the power of networking, figuring out work-arounds to succeed, what OPI, OPE, and OPM are, the importance of having clarity and setting parameters, the “2-week rule” and the “70% and go” approach.

Check out the full episode page with show notes and reference links!

Episode 13 - Omar Sultan, Founder and Managing Partner at Sultan Ventures & XLR8UH

In the interview, Omar gets into how he and his family launched Sultan Ventures, learn about his healthcare and technology background, things he looks for in an entrepreneur’s pitch, the importance of education in our startup ecosystem and much more. A quick teaser, you will find out how many different black belts Omar has, as well as his top three tips on what to do when visiting New Orleans.

Check out the full episode page with show notes and reference links!

Episode 12 - Michael Keoni DeFranco, CEO & Founder at Lua Technologies

As Founder, CEO at Lua, Michael Keoni has led the company to its industry-leading position and immense traction in the Healthcare space having achieved the stringent HIPAA compliance status.

Michael Keoni is also a contributor to both Fortune and Forbes, speaks Mandarin and Japanese, and is also a trained chanter (oli) having studied under renowned scholar, author, and kumu hula Dr. Pualani Kanaka’ole Kanahele.

Check out the full episode page with show notes and reference links!

BONUS #3 - Week of Blue Startups Cohort 7 Demo Day - Safe Chats CEO and Co-Founder Nikita Osipov

Hey everybody! This is the final show of our bonus series of special programming for the week of Blue Startups Cohort 7 wrapping up with their Honolulu Demo Day last Friday, and leading up to their Silicon Valley Demo Day this weekend.

We interviewed several startup founders from the Blue Cohort 7 including Dillon from UNUM, and Rob from Activiter. Today, we catch up with Safe Chats CTO and Co-Founder Nikita Osipov, and CMO Irina Rudakova.

This episode includes the Safe Chats elevator pitch, Q&A on their product including how they’re differentiated form competitors, user traction, their future plans, and their favorite thing about Hawaii.

BONUS #2 - Week of Blue Startups Cohort 7 Demo Day - Activiter CEO and Co-Founder Rob Lafontaine joins us to chat about his Startup and answers Q&A

Part 2 of our 3-part series of special programming for the week of Blue Startups Demo Day for Cohort 7 wrapping up with their Honolulu Demo Day last Friday, and leading up to their Silicon Valley Demo Day this weekend.

Today we chat with Rob Lafontaine, CEO and Co-Founder at Activiter.

This episode includes the Activiter elevator pitch, Q&A on their product, competition, monetization strategies, and even the best activity he’s done in Hawaii.

Tune in tomorrow for Safechats CEO and Co-Founder Nikita Osipov.

BONUS - Week of Blue Startups Cohort 7 Demo Day - UNUM Co-Founder Dillon Morgan Chats about his Startup and answers Q&A

This is the first installment of our 3-part series of special programming for the week of Blue Startups Demo Day for Cohort 7 wrapping up with their Honolulu Demo Day last Friday, and leading up to their Silicon Valley Demo Day this weekend.

We will be interviewing several startup CEO’s from the Blue Batch #7. This episode we catch up with UNUM Co-Founder and CEO Dillon Morgan.

This episode includes the UNUM elevator pitch, we get into some Q&A about their traction, competition, monetization strategies, and even the best instagram accounts he’s loving right now.

Tune in tomorrow for Activiter CEO and Co-Founder Rob Lafontaine.

Episode 11 - Warren Doi, Go To Market Lead at Energy Excelerator

Warren is a serial entrepreneur, he co-founded GreenCar Hawaii, a company that built a clean energy transportation network with zero-emission vehicles. GreenCar is one of several other companies Warren has started. He has successfully raised over $10 million in investment capital over the years.

In the interview, Warren talks about successes and failures with GreenCar, his advice to entrepreneurs, his time working for exciting startups in the Valley, and the awesome work he’s doing with EEX. Warren is also very active in mentorship and giving back, working on various islands providing guidance and support so we get into his views on entrepreneurship and the startup scene here in Hawaii.

Check out the full episode page with show notes and reference links!

Episode 10 - Gabe Mott, CEO and Co-Founder at Huedoku

Gabe is an artist and startup veteran beginning his career as an associate at Silicon Graphics during the dot com boom and growing in his passion for art, color theory, and technology.

He gets into some fascinating topics on color theory, such as 2 ways to create luminosity, we talk about launching the app in Holland, and what you’ll even get to find out what his favorite color is!

Check out the full episode page with show notes and reference links!

Episode 09 - Mark Quezada, CTO and Co-Founder at Hobnob


Mark is the CTO and Co-Founder at Hobnob. Mark is one of the most talented full stack developers and startup minds in Hawaii. He’s founded multiple companies, has built apps and websites visited by millions, and has been a major asset in the Hawaii startup ecosystem for nearly a decade.

Some highlights of the interview include Mark’s story about getting his first contract to build a website in high school, what it was like working for eBay founder and billionaire, Pierre Omidyar (make sure and stick around to the very end for a BONUS Pierre anecdote), and finally some great nuggets about his experience with various startups including: Fast Customer, Minded, and of course the awesome product that is Hobnob!

Check out the full episode page with show notes and reference links!

Episode 08 - Chenoa Farnsworth, Managing Director of Blue Startups and Hawaii Angels

We are thrilled to have Chenoa on the show! Chenoa is a leader in the startup community here in Hawaii, and she has been a force in growing and investing in the ecosystem.

In fact, she has been directly involved with organizations that have collectively invested nearly $100 million.

In this episode we talk about the early days of her career in tech and investing, some of the “heady Act 221 Days”, launching Blue Startups, and helping to connect Hawaii to a global startup community. Our Startup brand is bigger than most know! #startupparadise

See the full episode page with show notes and reference links!

Episode - 07 Sean Ho`okano - Briel, CEO and Co-Founder at Comprendio

In this episode of The Startup Catalyst Podcast, we welcome Sean Ho`okano-Briel, CEO and Cofounder of ed tech platform Comprendio, a tool that helps instructors and learners connect the what and why into how to. *(full disclosure, Comprendio is an XLR8UH portfolio company).

Sean is a consummate teacher, and he’s got some really great nuggets in this show. We talk about launching Comprendio, tools and sales processes they’re trying out, his love for Hawaii and respect for the ocean, and you will get some great insights into Sean’s mental models and frameworks for approaching problems and opportunities.

See the full episode page with show notes and reference links!

BONUS Episode - HVCA State of the Startup Investment Industry in Hawaii Luncheon

This episode is a unique one as we recently attended the Hawaii Venture Capital Association’s “State of the Startup Investment Industry in Hawaii” Luncheon, where a distinguished panel discussed the latest developments of the venture industry both locally and nationally. Preceding the panel discussion there is two presentations:

One by Steve Markowitz, where he provides a debrief of the Angel Capital Association conference he attended a few weeks ago in Philadelphia.

Second up is Tim Dick’s 3rd annual “state of the VC industry” talk. Fantastic data and analysis with both the Silicon Valley and Honolulu perspectives. Tim’s slides are available on slideshare.

Stay tuned for the end where we bring Meli on the show to briefly talk about takeaways from the event and what’s coming up next for HVCA.

Check out the full blog post for more info!

Episode 06 - Peter Rowan, Angel Investor & Angel in Residence at Sultan Ventures and XLR8UH

Peter is an active angel investor, he was Corporate Vice President, New Ventures at Coinstar where he helped grew the company from $150 million to $1.3 billion in revenue including investing in the Redbox platform. So next time you rent that DVD at Safeway you can thank Peter. Peter is a teacher in entrepreneurship and new venture strategy and is active in the entrepreneurial community as an advisor, mentor and investor.

We really get into some nitty gritty in this interview, with fascinating stories beginning to end. We talk about ad agencies in New York, his Russian studies at Cornell, of course Coinstar and Redbox, as well as Hawaii startups.

See the full episode page with show notes and reference links!

Episode 05 - Susan Yamada, Executive Director Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship

Susan has had an amazing career spanning California and Hawaii, impacting startup companies and young entrepreneurs in incredible ways. We chat about her experience turning around a publishing company in the late 90s (and then getting fired), the huge win of TRUSTe, and her work with UH entrepreneurs at the Pacific Asia Center for Entrepreneurship. Also, learn what her favorite golf course in Hawaii is and even her golf handicap.

See the full episode page with show notes and reference links!

Episode 04 - Rechung Fujihira, CEO Box Jelly

Rechung is an accomplished entrepreneur, builder of communities, and a straight up genuine and generous dude. Learn how Rechung started Box Jelly, Hawaii’s first co-working space, how he builds communities, and why he gives back.

See the full episode page with show notes and reference links!

Episode 03: Steve Haumschild, Angel Investor and Founder and CEO of Lanikai Brewing Company

Adventureman, investor, and master brewer; Steve Haumschild shares his experiences in life and business. From living in a tent in the woods to working on a volcano in Hawaii, to launching a successful brewery; we cover it all! This is a fun episode where we enjoy some Moku imperial IPA (listen to learn what its original name was going to be), and chat startups, adventures, and life journeys.

See the full episode page with show notes and reference links!

Episode 02: Meli James, Head of New Ventures at Sultan Ventures, Program Director at XLR8UH, President of HVCA

Hawaii native and Silicon Valley veteran, Meli James, discusses her experiences going from Cornell to startups in San Francisco and her work in Hawaii’s Startup Paradise. Meli is the Head of New Ventures at Sultan Ventures, a boutique venture firm leading the transformation of Hawaii into a Startup Paradise; program director for XLR8UH, a national award-winning accelerator; the president of Hawaii Venture Capital Association; and entrepreneur-in-residence at her alma maters: Cornell University’ s Pillsbury Institute and Punahou School.

Born and raised in Honolulu, Meli lived in Silicon Valley for over 10 years, where she co-founded numerous start-ups, including Nirvino – #1 ranked wine app and Apple Platform Top 100 App (during its time). In 2015 she was recognized by Hawaii Business Magazine as one of its 20 to Watch for the Next 20. She has recently been recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of 5 Women to Watch in 2016.

See the full episode page with show notes and reference links!

Episode 01: Tarik Sultan, Founder of Sultan Ventures and Managing Partner at XLR8UH

SV Partner and Founder chats financials, startups and investing. Tarik Co-founded Sultan Ventures and XLR8UH, and along with his brother Omar is the recipient of the 2014 Hawaii Venture Capital Association’s (HVCA) Investors of the Year. Tarik serves as the Chair of Startup Hawaii, the regional chapter of Up Global (formerly Startup America) as a Board Member and Treasurer of the HVCA, a non-profit which seeks to foster entrepreneurial development through networking, education, and access to venture capital; and has been federally appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce as a Member of the Hawaii Pacific Export Council, a non-profit organization of local leaders and experienced international business professionals who provide assistance to local businesses expanding in international markets.

Tarik has worked with, advised, and led several startups, most recently as Interim CFO of Ibis Networks, a venture backed cleantech startup focused on reducing energy consumption. Tarik holds a BS from Tulane University with a focus on Neuroscience and Cognitive Studies and an MBA from the Shidler College of Business.

See the full episode page with show notes and reference links!

Recognitions and Acknowledgements

Music Credits:

– Gronlandic Edit by Of Montreal
– Birds of Prey (Fulgeance Emotronical Mix) by Architeq
– Sleepwalk by Santo & Johnny

DJ credits go to Drew Farwell, CEO of Outdoor Junkiez.

Many thanks to past, present, and future guests!