Survey Says Startups Have Big Impact

High Technology Development Corporation (HTDC) executive director Robbie Melton explains how companies with which HTDC works in its incubator programs are like chickens: “Chickens hatch, they stay in the incubator until they are big enough, and then they go out on their own.”

The same, it seems, goes for budding companies involved with HTDC’s incubators, including Manoa Innovation Center.

“The idea is that you stay here for a couple of years … and then you will get to the point where (the company) is big enough and you are going to graduate,” Melton says.

HTDC offers educational programming, such as this product design workshop. HIGH TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION PHOTO

HTDC offers educational programming, such as this product design workshop. HIGH TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION PHOTO

And as the results of the 2014 HTDC Annual Economic Survey — which was released last month — indicate, there are some pret- ty sizable eggs being produced. The survey found that the 93 companies that responded generated $213.7 million of total economic impact, including an estimated $124.3 million in total revenue and $66.8 million in income.

The survey was sent to 141 companies, including current tenants at Manoa Innovation Center, HTDC’s virtual clients, and companies that have graduated from the incubator. Together, the 93 companies also employ 832 workers and generated $11.1 million in state taxes for 2014.

“This shows how our incubator contributes to the Hawaii economy,” Melton says. “Our companies do make a significant contribution. The majority of them are startup companies — so even these startup companies con- tribute to the economy.”

HTDC incubators provide a range of services to ensure that early stage companies have their needs met.
“Starting out, you need a lot of resources, and you need a lot of help,” Melton says.

Manoa Innovation Center provides office spaces for rent, as well as a number of services to help companies grow, including mentoring, educational programming and outside referrals for needs like accounting or legal consultation.
Plus, there’s the benefit of being embedded in a community of like-minded entrepreneurs. Current Manoa Innovation Center tenants include Hawaiian Cool Water, Autism Training Solutions and The Cut Collective.

“When companies meet each other at some of these events, they actually partner with each other and help each other,” Melton says.

HTDC is a state agency founded by the Legislature to grow the local tech industry. Creating these supportive incubators will, HTDC hopes, contribute to its 80/80 initiative, which aims to create 80,000 new jobs in the tech and creative industries, with salaries of at least $80,000, by 2030.

To further support startups, HTDC also has a grant-matching program for companies that earn federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants. Of the 93 survey respondents, 29 were receiving SBIR grants — and were responsible for a total economic impact of $89.7 million during 2014.

“Under the SBIR program, you’re only allowed to spend what’s in your budget — so it doesn’t allow for other things, like hiring extra peo- ple, maybe possibly purchasing additional equipment or buying more supplies,” Melton explains of the grant program. “So our funding allows them to do those kinds of things.

“Our match could go a long way to get (companies) to the market faster,” she adds.

A bill that would allow HTDC additional funds for the matching program passed out of the state Legislature last week and is awaiting the governor’s signature.

In other HTDC news, it also currently is in the process of launching its Neighbor Island Innovation Initiative, which will bring business mentors to innovative companies on other islands. Melton anticipates the initiative will kick off by July.

“Now, innovation is happening everywhere,” Melton says. “You don’t have to be in a big city, you don’t have to be in an incubator to launch a company … Even in some of the more rural areas, there are a lot of things happening, soweneedtobeapartofthat and support that, because we need to make sure that those companies have an equal chance of success.”

For more information about HTDC, visit htdc.org or find it on Facebook and Twitter at @HTDCorg.