Fourth Purple Prize cohort to pitch place-based startups

Free 'Kilo Hōkū' demo event to be held on Saturday, September 26

Kilo Hōkū Flyer
The teams in this year’s Purple Prize cohort have been working incredibly hard to create their vision for Hawaii’s future.

the Purple Maiʻa Foundation will close its fourth Purple Prize incubator program on Saturday, Sept. 26, with Kilo Hōkū, its annual demonstration day where this year’s cohort will pitch the innovative, place-based technology startups that they have been building over the last six months.

The Purple Maiʻa Foundation has held its Purple Prize competition annually since 2016. Last year, the organization made the switch to an incubator model, helping founders to develop new ideas and eventually new businesses.

In April, the Purple Prize brought on its most selective cohort yet with just eight teams, the majority of which were founded by Native Hawaiians and women. The teams selected were building with innovative, technology-driven, entrepreneurial approaches to local challenges.

Pōhaikealoha Panoke built ʻŌiwi Online to virtually educate people about Hawaiian culture and history. Tate Castillo and his team comprised of fellow Shidler College of Business graduate Kirk Urada and University of Hawaii professor David Ma are building Polu Energy, an innovative renewable energy company that will reduce Hawaii’s carbon footprint and add to the diversity of our local energy sources. And John Garcia aimed to mitigate the challenge of Hawaii’s high cost of living for indigenous communities by creating Exchange Ave, a platform that gives aloha a value.

Many Purple Prize founders have faced roadblocks, needing to take steps backward in order to take steps forward. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended normal life in the last several months and has presented new challenges for first-time founders of new companies. 

“The stakes for our organization rose significantly once COVID-19 hit,” says Alec Wagner, Purple Prize director. “We knew that we could not hit pause on our programming to adjust to the new realities of our world.

“We had a kuleana as an organization and as a program to do our best to empower underrepresented founders to start new companies and position them as close as possible to being able to attract wealth into the community and create jobs,” he adds.

By combining entrepreneurial education and a highly-focused virtual environment, the Purple Prize has been able to help accelerate the growth of teams and startups in alignment with cultural values like aloha, waiwai (regeneration), kuleana (responsibility), and haʻahaʻa (humility). Throughout the program, members of the cohort were able to tap into resources like frequent 1-on-1 meetings with advisors, public relations, hear from cultural and community leaders online, and connect to a global network of investors, mentors, and service providers.

As much as the Purple Prize is a competition, Kilo Hōkū is also a celebration. The Purple Prize recognizes that for the past six months, eight teams braved the storms of 2020 and have built social enterprises that will play essential roles in guiding Hawaii towards a season of recovery.

In addition, the Kilo Hōkū Peopleʻs Choice App will allow participants to cast a vote and support the teams’ continued growth.

Limited seats are available for the finale Kilo Hōkū event and ʻohana of all ages are invited to join by RSVP at

Learn more and join the app mailing list by visiting

This year’s Purple Prize sponsors are Nakupuna Foundation, 11th Hour Project, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, DataHawaii.Gov, Shaka Tea, Olukai and Fitted Hawaii, and Servco.

About the Purple Maiʻa Foundation

The Purple Maiʻa Foundation is a technology education nonprofit whose mission is to educate and inspire the next generation of community serving technology makers and problem solvers. We support indigenous values in contemporary tech culture, and we think that by teaching our students to innovate as indigenous technologists, we can be part of a global shift toward growing more sustainable societies.

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