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Thursday, October 2, 2003



Start-up execs pitch
promise, seek funding
from capitalists

6 Hawaii companies ask for
millions at investors' conference
in order to keep their projects alive




CORRECTION

Friday, Oct. 3, 2003

>> Hawaii Biotech Inc. was not among the companies that made presentations Monday at the inaugural meeting of the local chapter of the Keiretsu Forum. An article on Page C5 yesterday incorrectly said the company made a presentation.



The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at fbridgewater@starbulletin.com.


Start-up executives can make their business sound so easy, when they've got their pitch down.

In a few minutes, Tareq Hoque explained how wireless network equipment firm Firetide Inc. would underprice the competition with technology that runs as soon as it is plugged into a wall socket.

"A custodian could do it. You don't need a network specialist anymore to deploy a network," Hoque told a crowd of venture capitalists yesterday at the Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu.

With light-blue ocean surf breaking outside the conference room at the North Shore resort, Hoque described how so-called mesh networking technology could lead to wireless Internet access on the scale of a city. He then asked for $12 million in funding, to add to the $3.2 million Firetide has raised.

Firetide and five other Hawaii start-ups made their advances to venture capitalists yesterday at the fifth annual Investors Choice International conference, along with several mainland firms. The companies were allotted 10-minute presentations.

Local presenters, and their funding wishes, are:

>> Hoana Medical Inc., a Honolulu spin-off of Oceanit that has developed a hospital bed system that uses sensors to monitor the vital signs of patients. $10 million

>> Hoku Scientific Inc., a Honolulu start-up that has developed a fuel-cell technology and is partnered with Sanyo Electric Co. of Japan. $8 million

>> Nanopoint Inc., another Oceanit spin-off in the early stages of developing a line of products that can analyze living cells, in high resolution. $2 million

>> Phase Inc., a Big Island business that develops wastewater treatment technology. $2 million

>> Best Places on Earth, a division of H & S Publishing, and a profitable Kauai company that serves as an online shopping mall for travelers. $5 million

"We're going to spend that money very smart, aiming to get you a good return on your investment," said David Tarnas, chairman and chief executive of Phase, located in Waimea. Tarnas is a former state representative who was previously chairman of biotech company Aquasearch Inc., now known as Mera Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Phase, which until now has been funded by family, friends and angel investors, is building commercial-scale equipment for pilot testing.

Thomas Gephart, chairman of the Irvine, Calif.-venture fund Ventana Capital Management said after yesterday's conference that he was impressed with the companies, particularly Firetide, and that he will consider investing in several of them.

Hoana and Hoku also made presentations Monday at the inaugural meeting of the Keiretsu Forum's Hawaii/Pacific Rim chapter, a group of angel investors. Joining them were Hawaii Biotech Inc. and Tiki Technologies Corp., a spin-off of local Internet provider LavaNet Inc. that is seeking to capitalize on fixing Internet-related problems for businesses.

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