For Lauren Primiano, head of venture funds at mbloom, being a member of the Chinatown, Honolulu Real Office Centers location is about more than just having a space to work — it is about being part of a vibrant local startup community.
mbloom, a venture capital fund that launched in 2014, has a strong focus on funding and supporting startup technology companies in the state of Hawaii.
“We’re an early-stage venture fund, and we are the only such fund that is focused on the Hawaiian market,” Primiano says. “Part of the reason for our existence is that we’re funded by partial public funds, as well as private funds. We have money from the state of Hawaii, which was invested as opposed to a grant in us, to show that the state has an equitable share in our fund, just as any other private investor would.”
Some members of mbloom’s portfolio include Fanhandle,a personal brand engagement company; Ozolio, a high definition webcam streaming service; ReadyCart, a commerce revenue program; and Vantage Sports, an analytical tool for athletes and sports programs.
Primiano and her colleagues at mbloom have already noticed a strong surge in the local startup scene since starting two years ago.
“Hawaii is not a Silicon Valley in any regards, but over the last few years, there has been a lot of activity in the startup community here,” she says. “We have a number of accelerator programs, many of which are nationally recognized, that we work with closely.”
An accelerator program is a mentorship and education-based incubator for technology startups, with an end goal of receiving funding from sources like mbloom. Many of the accelerator programs in Honolulu are located in Chinatown, near the ROC location where mbloom has offices.
“Being in ROC Honolulu is a great location for us because we are in walking distance of all of these different accelerator programs,” Primiano says. “I just had coffee with an entrepreneur that is right down the street from ROC, and sometimes people come here as well.”
In fact, the ROC Honolulu Chinatown location is so steeped in startup culture that Primiano plans to include it in a “startup paradise” tour she is giving for the Honolulu: East Meets West technology conference happening this week. It will be one of only five stops.
“We’re really excited to bring that community of people into our environment, and especially into ROC to showcase all of the different tenants,” Primiano says.
The startup tour is just one example of how mbloom seeks to foster community within the Hawaiian startup scene.
“We also host an annual event in Maui called MaiTai Maui Tech Night,” Primiano says. “That is another really good platform for the local startup scene to connect with resources, tech executives and investors.”
The fourth annual MaiTai Maui Tech Night will take place this coming June.
In two short years, mbloom has made a splash in the Hawaiian startup market, and Primiano and her colleagues look forward to continue fostering innovation.
“We are just one piece of the puzzle,” says Primiano, “in terms of all of the different startup activity here.”