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OmniVocab won the 2024 UH Venture Competition. (Photo credit: Paula Ota)

A startup company helping learners master different languages won the 2024 University of Hawaiʻi Venture Competition (UHVC) and a prize package totaling approximately $50,000.

What began with more than 40 teams at the start of the competition, OmniVocab bested three other teams in the event finals on May 4 to claim the title. The company aims to help intermediate language learners overcome obstacles in acquiring a new language through immersive experiences.

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For the first time, the UH Venture Competition was held in the Walter Dods, Jr. RISE Center. (Photo credit: Paula Ota)

The team included UH Mānoa students Ryan Beattie (mechanical engineering), Josiah Kila (information and computer science), Kaihehau Goo (management), Sage Suzuki (computer science) and Noah deMers (computer science). They were coached by Shidler College of Business marketing lecturer Patricia LaPorte.

“What previously was a last-minute submission soon became a worthy competitor amongst many worthy teams,” DeMers said. “If we’ve learned one thing from this, it is to never underestimate what you have to offer compared to others and to always tunnel through any uncertainty. As the movie Coach Carter puts it, ‘As we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.’”

The first place prize included $10,000 from Hawaiian Electric Industries and Hawaiian Electric, 20 hours of marketing consultation by Pineapple Tweed ($5,000 value), rapid prototype development or data driven digital marketing package from Blue Logic Labs ($4,000 value), one year of unlimited coworking membership to The Hub Coworking Hawaii ($19,500 value), incorporation package and financing term sheet sponsored by Vantage Counsel LLC ($7,500 value), and other in-kind prizes.

UHVC is hosted annually by the Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (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. This year, excitement soared as the event took place within the vibrant, newly inaugurated live-learn-work student housing community—Walter Dods, Jr. RISE Center—marking a momentous milestone in the competition’s history. With student team representation from UH Mānoa, UH Hilo, and Kapiʻolani Community College, encompassing more than 20 diverse majors from tropical plant and soil sciences to computer science, the competition showcased the innovative spirit thriving across the UH System.


people standing holding a large check
EduKits Hawaiʻi won second place in the 2024 UH Venture Competition. (Photo credit: Paula Ota)

Placing second was EduKits Hawaiʻi, a nonprofit organization that creates and distributes placed-based STEAM resource kits to Title I school students. Its goal is to enrich classroom learning and increase parent involvement through fun hands-on activities based on STEAM lessons that align with Next Generation Science Standards and Na Hopena Aʻo framework. The team members were Candide Krieger (curriculum studies) and Samantha Alvarado (tropical plant and soil sciences), and their coach was Susan Yamada, PACE Board of Directors chair. The second place prize included $5,000 from PACE and more than $40,000 in in-kind prizes.

The third place team was Tadish, a mobile application that streamlines the process of recording and rating individual dishes, offering users accurate and personalized suggestions based on their taste preferences and history of liked dishes. The team members were Alyssia Chen (information and computer science) and Timothy Huo (computer science), and their coach was Alexey Loganchuk from Sidera Labs. The third place prize totaled more than $17,000, including a $2,500 prize sponsored by HiBEAM.

AgiPower—an agricultural engineering company that designs and builds customized aquaponic systems for residents and farm owners—won fourth place and a $1,000 prize from PACE. The team members were Kurt Metrose (mechanical engineering) and Ted Metrose, and they were coached by Faustino Dagdag from Leeward Community College.

“We’re thrilled to showcase the incredible passion, creativity and perseverance displayed by all participants in the 2024 UH Venture Competition,” PACE Executive Director Sandra Fujiyama said “It’s inspiring to see innovative entrepreneurs at UH, like OmniVocab, paving the way for transformative solutions in language education.”

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