In August, the University of Hawaii will host a “Hacking 4 Recovery” (H4R) training program featuring well-known Silicon Valley entrepreneur and participating mentor Steve Blank, creator of the lean startup approach.
The program’s objective is to diversify the economy with the assumption that tourism will not fully reopen soon due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will providing teaching and mentorship opportunities to local entrepreneurs to foster new businesses and models.
The free program will be conducted through daily Zoom virtual sessions, August 10–14, 4–7 p.m., with the goal of jump-starting businesses. It’s hosted by the UH Office of Innovation and Commercialization (OIC).
Hawaii college students, faculty and staff; high school juniors and seniors; and other community workforce entrepreneurs are invited to submit applications through the H4R website. Prospective applicants do not need to have an established business, however, they will need to have an idea or current business problem they would like to foster through the program.
“We are taking a whole of the community approach to helping Hawaii get on the road to recovery,” UH OIC Interim Director Steve Auerbach said.
Possible topics include travel hospitality, economics, sciences, agriculture, healthcare, computer science, engineering, and disaster management and resilience. Joining Blank on the teaching team are technology guru Steve Weinstein, local entrepreneur Dirk Soma and others.
The deadline to apply is July 26. Prospective applicants will need to sign in with a Google account to complete the application form and attend one of two information/mixer sessions on July 16 and July 21.
As many as 100 participants will be selected. Established groups will operate as one team, while individual participants may be grouped together based on their topic of interest. More information will be provided when participants are selected.
Maui Economic Development Board STEMworks is one of the partner organizations.
“During times of uncertainty and hardships, it is essential to come together as a community to learn from and support one another,” Program Manager Katie Taladay said. “For many years there have been discussions around diversifying Hawaii’s economy and more than ever we need to take concrete steps towards this initiative.
“Hacking 4 Recovery is a brilliant opportunity for current businesses, entrepreneurs, students and members of our community to learn about the lean methodology and work together to reimagine a new economic future for our communities,” Taladay added.
The traditional business model involves putting together a business plan, pitching it to investors, introducing your product and then selling it to the market. Experts say this plan is not favorable because at some point it is likely the plan will suffer a major setback.
The lean startup approach, developed by Blank, is an innovative method making rounds in academia. The method, which will be taught in the H4R program, involves three key principles:
- Instead of beginning with a detailed business plan, entrepreneurs create a business model canvas which illustrates how the business creates value for itself and its customers
- The method seeks customer feedback early to test its hypotheses; and
- Based on feedback, the product is constantly being modified.
“This program allows one to get out of the building, their house or wherever they are, and take an idea and test it as rapidly as possible in front of potential customers, regulators and others, and they test it using something we call the customer development process,” Blank said.
A model for future partnership
Auerbach added that the H4R program will serve as a guide for a UH OIC partnership with the UH Mānoa College of Engineering through an entrepreneurship course in spring 2021. The course will utilize the lean startup approach and will be open to students of related majors, not just engineering.
“It’s exciting for the college to be able to formally offer courses that combine innovation and entrepreneurship because we want creativity and entrepreneurship to be a part of our cultural fabric,” College of Engineering Dean Brennon Morioka said. “We believe that’s what taps into the best traits that engineers can offer to society.”
Auerbach added that one of the course outcomes is to “inspire participants to want to learn more about becoming an entrepreneur, building a company, social enterprise, doing something to support the community and/or decide entrepreneurship is not for them, but what they learned from this session is transferable knowledge, skills, and resources that they can take with them in the workplace.”