Monday, May 17, 1999

4 Oahu firms vie
for start-up money

Star-Bulletin staff


Four Honolulu-based companies will be among 15 start-ups hoping to attract big bucks from venture capitalists at a Maui conference this week.

The "Investors Choice" conference, being held at the Westin Maui on Thursday, gives the 15 companies a chance to make presentations about their businesses to wealthy investors, said Brad Bertoch, president of the Wayne Brown Institute of Salt Lake City, the nonprofit organization that is conducting the meeting.

Bertoch said the 15 companies were carefully selected and, once chosen, went through training and mentoring programs to help them prepare their presentations.

The Wayne Brown Institute holds a few of these conferences each year throughout the country.

"The Wayne Brown model is well known," said Debra Gurin, chief executive of invencor Inc. of San Francisco, which is putting together a $70 million venture capital fund and is one of the sponsors of this week's meeting. "They know how to work with and coach the companies."

On Wednesday night, a dinner reception for attendees will include a keynote speech by Guy Kawasaki of Inc. Kawasaki, who grew up in Hawaii, left Apple Computer Co. to co-found the high-tech venture capital firm. Bertoch said the conference is primarily for wealthy individuals looking to invest in start-up companies that carry risks but also the potential for big payoffs. He said entrepreneurs interested in how the venture capital process works are also invited but stressed that they will not be able to join the 15 selected companies in giving presentations to investors.

The four Hawaii companies at the conference are:

Bullet ProBio Inc., which has the commercial rights to cloning technology developed at the University of Hawaii;
Bullet Integrated Coffee Technologies Inc., an agricultural biotechnology company and affiliate of ProBio that is researching and developing coffee plants that create caffeine-free beans;
Bullet Monster Software Inc., which markets software programs designed to facilitate electronic commerce and Web-page design and management;
Bullet Rescue Technologies Corp., an Aiea-based manufacturer and distributor of a small, self-contained device that deploys a 30-foot-long banner to make it easier for rescuers to find downed pilots, lost hikers and others in need of help.

Bertoch said anyone interested in attending the conference can register at the door.

The cost is $495, but members of the Hawaii Venture Capital Association pay $125.

Cost to attend just the Wednesday dinner is $75 but seating is limited.

More information on the conference is available at or by calling 1-888-446-3655 or 801-595-1141.

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