A startup company helping people learn different languages is the winner of the 2022 University of Hawaiʻi Venture Competition (UHVC). GOALL (Great Online Activities for Language Learning), led by University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa PhD students, won a prize package of more than $34,000.
GOALL provides a web and mobile app to help adult language learners achieve their goals through customizable and research-grounded task-based activities. Its prize package includes $10,000 from title sponsors Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI) and Hawaiian Electric, and more than $24,000 in in-kind prizes. Team members are Ann Choe, Kristen Urada, Yang Liu and Susanne DeVore, who are all PhD students in UH Mānoa’s Department of Second Language Studies in the College of Arts, Languages & Letters.
“We are very honored to receive first place,” said Choe, GOALL’s team leader. “The whole experience was a fantastic opportunity to develop our entrepreneurial knowledge and skills. We’re grateful for PACE, our coach Jeff Hui, and those who supported GOALL all along. We can’t wait to advance GOALL to its next step.”
GOALL was one of three finalists that presented to a group of judges at UHVC’s final event held in-person on April 29 at American Savings Bank. View the event on the Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship’s (PACE) YouTube channel.
UHVC is hosted annually by PACE in UH Mānoa’s Shidler College of Business to support budding entrepreneurs by providing hands-on education, mentorship and resources to students from the 10-campus UH System who wish to start a new business.
Resesio—a company that offers an automated optimization model for the construction design process, resulting in significant material and cost savings—won the second place prize, which includes $5,000 from HEI and Hawaiian Electric and $14,400 in in-kind prizes. Team members are UH Mānoa Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering PhD students Mohamed Sherif, Amr Ghanem and Mostafa Abdelhafeez. Sherif and Ghanem won the 2021 UH Breakthrough Innovation Challenge and a $5,000 prize for a company called Model-C, which is focused on infrastructure simulation and optimization technology.
The third place winner was the Ōfaga Leo Preschool System, which provides immersion language education in Hawaiʻi and the continental U.S. in areas where there is a high demand for childcare and preschool services in Samoan language. The third place prize totaled more than $10,000, including a $2,500 cash prize sponsored by HiBEAM in honor of pioneer Billy Richardson. Team members are John Patu, Jr., a PhD student in Hawaiian and Indigenous Language and Culture Revitalization at UH Hilo, and Carmelita T. Patu, a creative media student at Windward Community College.
These three teams reached the finals after beating out 25 other teams in two earlier rounds of competition.
“We are proud of all of the courageous teams that embarked on their entrepreneurial journey through the competition. We were pleased to see a diverse group of participants from six UH System campuses with startup ideas, ranging from geothermal energy to educational platforms to consumer products,” said PACE Executive Director Sandra Fujiyama. “This competition is not possible without the generous support of our sponsors, partners, and volunteers, for whom I am very grateful.”
“At HEI, we recognize the vital role entrepreneurs play in creating and maintaining a vibrant economy for our island state,” said Scott Seu, HEI president and CEO. “We applaud the innovative ideas and hard work of all the participants, and recognize the many mentors and professors who guided them along the way.”
In addition to cash prizes, each winning team will take home a carefully curated prize package of support services. Prize sponsors include Blue Logic Labs, HiBEAM, Hub Coworking Hawaiʻi, New Venture Pro, Pineapple Tweed and Vantage Counsel.
Outstanding student entrepreneur
Fujiyama also presented Madonna Castro Perez with PACE’s outstanding student entrepreneur of the year award for her exceptional contributions to entrepreneurial activities at the university and in the community. The law student was a member of the winning team in the 2020 competition. She has served as the vice chair of the Calvin Shindo Student Venture Fund since February 2021, leading a committee of 12 students to manage the venture finance process. She served as a civil rights advocate at the Legal Aid Society of Hawaiʻi and an intern at Blue Startups.
This program is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Enhancing Student Success (PDF) and Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), two of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.
—By Marc Arakaki