On Wednesday, October 14, U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet presented $50,000 checks to both XLR8UH, the University of Hawaiʻi’s proof of concept center/venture accelerator, and the Maui Food Innovation Center at UH Maui College in recognition of being named two of the nation’s elite programs in the annual SBA Growth Accelerator Fund Competition.
The ceremony was held at the Daniel K. Inouye Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) Hale at UH Mānoa. The presentation was attended by U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono and Congressman Mark Takai, who gave introduction to small business successes in the islands. Contreras-Sweet’s visit to Hawaiʻi marks the first by an SBA administrator since 2005.
XLR8UH is a first of its kind proof of concept center/venture accelerator developed by the University of Hawaiʻi and Sultan Ventures, a boutique venture firm, which also manages it. The proof of concept center educates, mentors and invests in UH research and talent, ranging from students to post docs, faculty and alumni. It is one of the first public university investment programs in the nation, revolutionizing the way innovation and research is commercialized. To date, 11 companies have been through the XLR8UH program, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue and receiving millions of dollars in follow-on funding.
“This national recognition of our accelerator program by SBA, at just over a year old, confirms our belief in the abundance of opportunities that exist at the University of Hawaiʻi in all disciplines, particularly those that emphasize Hawaiʻi’s strengths in energy, astronomy, marine and life sciences,” said Omar S. Sultan, cofounder and managing director of XLR8UH and founding partner of Sultan Ventures. “Our goal is to cultivate and empower the talent affiliated with UH.”
As a winner in the accelerator competition, XLR8UH will report metrics such as jobs created, funds raised and startups launched. This will allow the SBA to continue building upon its database of accelerators and their impact and to develop long-term relationships with the startups and constituents in these innovative and entrepreneurial communities.
“XLR8UH is a cornerstone to the successful commercialization of our research,” said Vassilis L. Syrmos, UH vice president for research and innovation. “By developing talented entrepreneurs from our ranks and fortifying the entrepreneurial ecosystem at UH we are also contributing to the Hawaiʻi Innovation Initiative in its efforts to diversify the state’s economy.”
For more, read the University of Hawaiʻi news release.
About the Maui Food Innovation Center
The Maui Food Innovation Center provides business and technological expertise to food and agricultural entrepreneurs throughout the State of Hawaiʻi.
A program of UH Maui College, the center helps farmers and food manufacturers increase profitability through the development of new value-added food products, reduces the state’s dependence on imports and contributes to the sustainability of island-based agriculture.
“The Maui Food Innovation Center is an important program that offers both the training and facilities needed by local food entrepreneurs to build a small business,” said UH Maui College Chancellor Lui K. Hokoana. “We’re excited the project has been recognized nationally, and this additional award will increase learning opportunities for students.”
For more on the Maui Food Innovation Center, visit the UH Maui College website.