By Jay Fidell
The HVCA is not about robber barons, it’s about local entrepreneurs trying really hard to build a diversified economy in Hawaii, and their need for venture capital, just as Silicon Valley needs venture capital, to do that.
These days, HVCA certainly seems like it’s on a roll. Bill decided to do a series on energy, and so far it’s worked out really well.
The kickoff was on July 24th, entitled the Renewable Energy Challenge – Sectors and Issues Facing Energy Entrepreneurs.
The panel talked about Geothermal, Sea Water, Biodiesel, Solar and Wind. They were Don Thomas of the Center for Active Volcanoes; Frederick Berg of Honolulu Sea Water Air Conditioning; Bob King of Pacific Biodiesel; Mark Duda of Suntech; and Mike Gresham of First Wind.
The crowd at HVCA’s regular venue, the Plaza Club, was huge, a noticeable increase. Something was happening, but what, and why?
The second of the series was on August 28th. This one was called Policy and Regulatory Challenges Facing Renewable Energy Entrepreneurs.
The panel talked about the intersection of renewables and government. They were Warren Bollmeier of the Hawaii Renewable Energy Alliance; Bill Parks of the U.S. Department of Energy; Erik Kvam of Zero Emissions Leasing; and Robbie Alm of Hawaiian Electric.
The crowd was nearly capacity at 140, including everyone from a battalion of legislators and government to energy entrepreneurs, investors and a platoon of MBA students from the Shidler Business College. What’s more, they wouldn’t leave after the program was over.
Is Hawaii’s regulatory environment adequate to fast track renewable energy? Can entrepreneurs expect minimal regulatory risk? Is the path to selling excess energy back to the grid workable? What’s a Power Purchase Agreement and how do you get HECO to give you one?
WHAT CAN WE LEARN
Both programs were eye-openers, but the underlying phenomenon is something to think about. Why all this excitement? What does the success of the series tell us?
One thing is that HVCA has found the sweet spot in presenting these programs to the business community. And Bill Spencer has found how to conceptualize these programs in a way that appeals to the business community in general, and that’s also great.
Energy is sizzling these days. There are enthusiastic entrepreneurs who want to talk up their projects. There are dedicated legislators who want to find out what’s going on for the next session. There are cautious investors who want to scope out the players so they can place their bets.
It seems unanimous. People are agreeing that Hawaii is behind but can and must catch up, that Hawaii is in a position to be a world leader in renewable energy, and that our business and government leaders need to recognize this and give it top priority. That’s worth talking about.
A COMING TOGETHER?
The vitality of the HVCA energy series makes a number of statements, all of them encouraging. It speaks of the maturation of HVCA and its non-profit education and networking model, the maturation of Hawaii’s tech and investment community to the point where people know each other, have confidence in each other, want to learn from each other, and best of all want to work and invest with each other.
HVCA should be pleased that it has become a crucible in which this kind of phenomenon can take place.
And that’s how I would explain the success of this series and of HVCA in presenting the subject.
The series isn’t over. In September, tech hero and Blue Planet Software philanthropist Henk Rogers will present and show selected clips on what happened at the invitation-only energy seminar he organized this summer, and give us an inside view of where the policy makers want to go.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Henk also draws a big crowd.