Austin Yoshino, a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa mechanical engineering student, is also chief executive officer of Manaola Innovations. The healthcare product company is creating the “Stress Less Vest,” a stress/anxiety-reducing garment that can be worn inconspicuously under normal clothing in everyday situations. Manaola Innovations and two other UH startups were awarded a total of $40,000 in grant funding by Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship’s (PACE) new Liftoff Advisors program to help create their new products.
“We are currently executing the process of putting this product on the market so the grant will go towards paying for manufacturing, the pre-ordering process and marketing/promotional materials,” said Yoshino, who was inspired to create innovative medical devices by his brother who has cerebral palsy and his late grandparents.
The second awardee, Hawaiʻi Innovation Lab, is led by Kareem Elassy, a UH Mānoa electrical engineering PhD student. Two other UH Mānoa grads are also on the team. The company is working to create “GallOptics,” a technique to make lightweight, deformable mirrors.
Student Corner is the third awardee. The multi-discipline team of UH Hilo students is focused on creating a web-based platform for student work.
Advisors and mentors
The three student-led companies were selected in October 2019 based on their potential and commitment to the new venture. Each company was matched with a board of advisors who mentored the founders for several months. Founders established business development milestones and reported their progress at monthly meetings.
The mentors advised the founders at each meeting by providing feedback, recommending different markets to explore and asking the teams to consider different strategies to reach their business goals. The advisors made the final grant award decisions based on the progress each company made and their ability to achieve their milestones during the program.
“We’re fortunate to have the support of the UH Office of the VP for Research and Innovation that allows us to offer this program. Our goal is to lengthen the runway for promising UH companies by providing them with dedicated mentorship and funding to keep them going in a forward trajectory,” said Peter Rowan, executive director of PACE. “We didn’t know what to expect with this inaugural group, and are extremely impressed with the outcome and progress that each company made during the program.”
Liftoff Advisors program companies:
- Hawaiʻi Innovation Lab—an engineering firm that develops innovations in microfluidics, radio frequency and biomedicine, founded by UH Mānoa College of Engineering students Kareem Elassy, Arif Rahman and Jordyn Maeda
- Manaola Innovations—an engineering company that designs and produces products in healthcare, founded by a multi-discipline team of UH Mānoa students Austin Yoshino, Kendra Horvath, Everett Amundson and Jason Chan
- Student Corner—a web platform that showcases student work, founded by a multi-discipline team of UH Hilo students George Donev, Althea Kamaliʻi, Morgan Dean and Ted Shaneyfelt
—By Marc Arakaki
See the website for more information about the Liftoff Advisors program.