Entrepreneur, Deal of the Year named at 20th HVCA awards


The Hawaii Venture Capital Association (HVCA) held its 20th annual Awards Gala last week with a sold-out crowd at Waialae Country Club cheering the recipients.

“It’s a testament to the vitality and growth of our entrepreneurial ecosystem that the HVCA Awards Gala is in its 20th year,” said Meli James, president of HVCA. “We are seeing bigger deals and the enduring success of our local companies.”

Raphael Rosen, president and co-founder of Carbon Lighthouse, accepted the “Deal of the Year” award, recognizing the largest financial deal of 2019: a growth round of $32.6 million led by National Grid Partners with participation from Cox Enterprises, Ulupono Initiative and others.

Carbon Lighthouse is a software-enabled clean energy company making it easy and profitable for building owners to eliminate carbon emission caused by wasted energy.

“Carbon Lighthouse is deeply grateful and honored to be recognized by HVCA for the Deal of the Year award,” said Brenden Millstein, chief executive officer and co-founder at Carbon Lighthouse. “We are very thankful for our investors and partners in Hawaii who understand and appreciate our mission to stop climate change and have continued to support Carbon Lighthouse over the years.”

“With their help we have eliminated 11 power plants worth of carbon emissions to date, and we look forward to removing many more in the future,” Millstein said.

The “Entrepreneur of the Year” award went to Fused Hawaii, with founder and CEO Roxelle Cho accepting the award. Fused, based on Hawaii Island, sells original designs of timeless functional swimwear.

Mohala Eyewear claimed the “People’s Choice of Startup Paradise” award this year. Founder and CEO Ashley Johnson started the company to make sunglasses designed to fit all women. Partnering with Room to Read Girls’ Education program, each pair sold sends a girl to school for one week.

Vassilis L. Syrmos, vice president of University of Hawaii (UH) Research and Innovation, accepted the award for “Investor of the Year.” The state’s major research university, UH plays a prominent role in the state’s economic growth and development through its world-renowned research and innovation programs in astronomy, earth and ocean sciences, medicine and tropical agriculture.

Hawaii State Senator Donovan M. Dela Cruz, chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, was named “Startup Paradise Champion of the Year” for support of the state’s entrepreneurial eco-system.

The “Corporate Intrapreneur of the Year” was accepted by Ed Sniffen, Deputy Director of the State Department of Transportation’s Highway Division, which incorporated the use of Carbon Cure technology for carbon-injected concrete for a stretch of Hawaii freeway in 2019. The use of Carbon Cure technology has the potential to reduce more than 500,000 pounds of CO2 for every mile of concrete pavement.

Other award recipients were:

Maui Nui Venison for “Island Innovator of the Year,” with founders Jake and Kuulani Muise accepting the award. Maui Nui venison is sourced from invasive deer, harvested humanely and in the wild. The company was created to respond to the overpopulation of Axis deer in Hawaii.

The “Agriculture/Clean Tech Entrepreneur of the Year” was Naveen Sikka, founder of TerViva. TerViva is a Series D agricultural technology company that produces pongamia trees, with abundant protein and oil seeds, that are provided to growers to restore degraded farmlands.

The “Tech Entrepreneur of the Year” award went to both Assaf Karmon and Tim Roy, founders of TurnoverBnB. Turnover BnB is a SAAS provider for vacation rental managers and a marketplace for service providers in the vacation rental industry.

” Social Impact Entrepreneur of the Year” was Rob Barreca, founder of Farm Link Hawaii. Farm Link connects local growers directly to buyers via an innovative online marketplace and supply chain infrastructure.

The “Consumer Packaged Goods Entrepreneur of the Year” award went to Kelleigh Stewart and Brandon von Damitz, founders of Big Island Coffee Roasters. Named by Forbes as one of their “12 Best Roasters” in 2018, Big Island Coffee Roasters is a coffee farm and roasting company with a new line of edible coffee, Espresso Bites.

And Cassidy Crowley, founder of The Baby Toon, took the prize for “Student Entrepreneur of the Year.” Baby Toon is a uniquely designed spoon for babies.

About the Hawaii Venture Capital Association (HVCA)

Since its founding in 1988, HVCA has served as a catalyst and beacon in the heart of the Pacific for entrepreneurship, venture capital activity and growth. HVCA holds a monthly, curated breakfast meeting where members and guests discuss the latest trends and developments in Hawaii’s business community that impact the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Each year, HVCA conducts an awards program recognizing up to 12 categories of entrepreneurs and investors in Hawaii’s Startup Paradise ecosystem.

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