A HITIDE of Innovation

“PIVOTS ARE A PERMANENT FACT OF LIFE FOR ANY GROWING BUSINESS. Even after a company achieves initial success, it must continue to pivot.”

– Eric Ries, Fast Company

Like the startups that it serves, the Hawai‘i Technology Innovation Development Ecosystem, a University of Hawai‘i (UH) incubator better known as HITIDE, continues to adjust and improve its program and offerings to better support the university’s “deep tech,” science-based startup companies.

The novel 24-month incubator provides customized education, guidance and networking opportunities that complement and support the unique demands and experiences of academic entrepreneurs, many of which have full-time teaching and/or research positions.

In addition, HITIDE offers up to $50,000 in seed funding including matching funds for those that secure a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) federal grant and matching grant with Hawaii Technology Development Corporation (HTDC).

Enhanced Program Offerings

Since piloting the incubator in 2022, UH has brought on significant resources to build and strengthen HITIDE’s curriculum and opportunities, including NSF I-Corps and a new collaborative partnership with MassChallenge, a nonprofit that connects startups, experts, corporations, and communities to grow and transform business and economies.

“Partnering with MassChallenge provides a huge opportunity to connect local innovators and entrepreneurs with a global network of thousands of innovators and entrepreneurs,” said Vassilis L. Syrmos, UH vice president for research and innovation. “They bring a powerhouse of mentors and potential partners from major corporations, government contractors, and other institutions who have the experience, insight and influence in the sectors that our HITIDE cohort companies are trying to get their technologies into.”

In addition to growing HITIDE’s mentor and networking pool, MassChallenge is providing in-depth education around: pitching; sales and marketing; financial modeling and projections; and funding opportunities including tips and tricks on securing federal grants.

“The mentor-matchmaking process has been a truly enriching experience, allowing me to learn from seasoned and accomplished professionals who share a similar career path and offer invaluable insights for my entrepreneurial growth,” said Marcelo Kobayashi, HITIDE Cohort 2 member and Generative Design Software founder and chief technology officer. “My experience with HITIDE has been nothing short of transformative and the engaging coaching and other interaction sessions so far have not only been enlightening but also enjoyable, playing a pivotal role in refining my business pitch.”

Anticipated Outcomes

“Developing and advancing technology for commercialization can be a winding and complicated endeavor, and having coaches and mentors that can empathize and support individual journeys can help companies mitigate or even avoid some of the challenges and pitfalls, and expedite their progress and success,” said George Yarbrough, HITIDE program lead and associate director of entrepreneurship programs for the UH Office of Innovation and Commercialization (OIC).

At the end of the program, all cohort participants should be able to walk away from HITIDE with a solid understanding of their product-market fit; a federal grant or contract; a broader and stronger business network; and milestones to qualify them for a growth accelerator to help them scale their business.

“We are here to provide the right tools and resources to build business acumen and advance technology development,” added Yarbrough.

“We are pleased to support this diverse group of UH startups, said Interim OIC Director Steven Auerbach. “Their innovations reflect
the caliber of our world-class research institution and have the potential to significantly advance health initiatives, space exploration and engineering design. With the right resources and support through HITIDE, we hope to help them change the world.” UH will begin recruiting for cohort 3 in summer 2023. For more information about HITIDE, visit: hitide.research.hawaii.edu.

New Cohort

In Fall 2022, HITIDE welcomed Cohort 2, five UH-affiliated startups with innovative technologies, including:

GENERATIVE DESIGN SOFTWARE is disrupting engineering design by using emerging, computer-aided, artificial intelligence (AI) engineering technologies and an advanced algorithm to pull various forms of data to improve engineering design, while reducing cost and the number of development cycles to prototyping in aerospace, automotive and building industries.

TEAM: Marcelo Kobayashi, Mechanical Engineering Professor, College of Engineering, UH Mānoa

HI-SPECTRAL provides groundbreaking snapshot hyperspectral imaging capabilities that advances the characterization and identification of different substances and materials beyond astronomical observations, with potential applications in health, agriculture, earth and environmental science.

TEAM: Haosheng Lin, Astronomer;  Morgan Bonnet, Sr. Mechanical Engineer, Institute for Astronomy

INTERSTEL TECHNOLOGIES is on a mission to develop operations capabilities for the future of aerospace exploration through its iCOSMOS software, a fully responsive mission operations system for robust, coordinated operation satellites, UAVs, and other vehicles, in dynamic environments.

TEAM: Trevor Sorensen, Specialist and Project Manager; Eric Pilger, Lead Software Engineer; Miguel Nunes, Deputy Director and Systems Engineer; Lynzee Hoegger, Junior Software Engineer, Hawai‘i Space Flight Laboratory (HSFL)

MAHINA AEROSPACE is a low-cost, spaceflight-ready, educational, small 1U cube satellite paired with a collection of STEM curricula that advances aerospace education and provides a low-cost option for industries to send integrated payloads to space.  

TEAM: Amber Imai-Hong, Avionics Engineer and Program Manager; Frankie Zhu, Assistant Researcher; Luke Clements, Software Engineer; Chris Amendola, Systems Integrator, HSFL

XR CORE offers image processing and 3D printing using artificial intelligence segmentation to enhance pre-surgical planning and clinical training for current and future clinicians.

TEAM: Scott Lozanoff, Professor, Anatomy, Biochemistry and Physiology; Jesse Thompson, Technical Director of Anatomical Imaging; Thomas Noh, Clinical Assistant Professor, John A. Burns School of Medicine