Tech exodus

Entrepreneur Tareq Hoque
resigns as chief executive
after Firetide opts to move
management to California

Here we go again.

Tareq Hoque, former head of Adtech in Hawaii, is now the former head of Firetide Inc., a wireless networking technology firm that is moving its management to California from Honolulu.

Hoque, who co-founded Firetide two years ago, is resigning immediately as president and chief executive, though he will remain on the company's board and have a significant stake in the company's future.

"I'm certainly not interested in moving to California," he said.

Firetide deals in wireless fidelity technology, which can establish Internet access and computer networks in public places. Firetide believes it has a leg up on the industry because of the ease and cost of using its equipment.

The pickle is that Firetide, a private company, needs to raise millions of dollars in venture capital on the road to offering its stock publicly. Over the past several months, the company has found there's not enough venture capital for Firetide in Hawaii, but there is in California, Hoque said.

It's the same story the state has seen before. Digital Island moved to San Francisco before it went public in 1999 (the company was later sold). Venture capitalists based in California want to be close to their investments, not a five-hour flight away.

Many in Hawaii's fledgling tech industry have cried out for more money for years, appealing to the state's vast institutions. The venture capital deals that do happen here -- though relatively small -- draw fanfare simply because there's not much going on.

One exception was Internet data center firm Pihana Pacific, which attracted $236 million in venture capital, but closed headquarters here last year in a merger.

Firetide has raised $3.2 million, but it needs more. Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. has invested in Firetide, but so has Menlo Ventures of Menlo Park, Calif.

It is a story that Hoque is painfully aware of. He's the former head of the Hawaii Technology Trade Association, which has lobbied the state for high-tech incentives. In 2001, Hoque quit as president of high-tech firm Adtech shortly before the company moved assembly jobs to California.

Hoque said the ability to launch companies in Hawaii has improved, thanks in part to high-tech tax credits, but the ability to keep them is constrained.

He noted that Firetide is also looking for management that can take the company public.

"If we're really going to reengineer, there's a lot of things we need to do differently," he said.

Hoque said the decision to resign was made over the past several weeks between him and Firetide's board. Only four months ago, Firetide announced it planned to hire bunches of workers in Hawaii.

"We wouldn't make a decision like this lightly, without having a strong compelling reason to do so," he said. Venture capitalists are interested in putting a substantial amount of money into the company, something that Hoque would normally be happy about, if he weren't losing his job.

Firetide's growth will have to occur in California. Firetide has about 20 employees in the state, and there are no plans for local layoffs, Hoque said.

"The bottom line is I'm a victim of my own success," said Hoque.


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