(TNS) — Hawaii Gov. David Ige has pledged to propose $10 million of the state budget be used to help build the innovation sector.
Ige said he would request the funds be used for the state-run HI Growth Initiative, which was created to attract private investment to innovation in Hawaii.
“It really is about how we can encourage and invest in our people and our companies,” Ige said Monday as keynote speaker at a Hawaii Venture Capital Association luncheon focusing on a statewide startup collaboration called Startup Paradise.
Ige said he is committed to creating more innovation jobs to build career opportunities that young people want in the state.
“We all know the story of our children going away to college and never coming back,” Ige said. “It’s about stopping that brain drain. … That’s what Startup Paradise means to me.”
Ige said that to build a successful sector, the state needs to improve the quality of public education, and the government has to keep up with the changing community.
Meli James, head of new ventures at Honolulu investment firm Sultan Ventures, said a supportive government is vital to creating more opportunities for companies in the growing industry.
“Government support is crucial to the startup ecosystem,” she said.
Tarik Sultan, managing partner at Sultan Ventures, said the number of startups that are part of Hawaii’s Startup Paradise has grown exponentially. There are now 145 companies in the innovation community, up from 18 in 2012 when the collective effort to build an innovation sector in the state was launched.
“Startup Paradise has really taken off,” Sultan said. “Every year there is exponential growth, exponential momentum.”
Startup Paradise is a coalition of startup boot-camp programs, investment firms and co-working spaces in Hawaii seeking to promote and brand innovation in Hawaii. The coalition includes Blue Startups, Energy Excelerator, Sultan Ventures and the University of Hawaii’s startup program XLR8UH.
Sultan said that according to a survey of four accelerators in the state, startups created more than 1,000 jobs over the last four years and raised more than $251 million across the budding ecosystem.
James said in addition to HI Growth Initiative, investing in the University of Hawaii, Hawaii’s High Technology Development Corp. and the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii also would help the ecosystem thrive.