New Hawaii Accelerator Launching for Security, Energy Startups
Washington D.C.-based Decisive Point, in partnership with HTDC, will support early-stage ventures poised to transform the public sector.
A new accelerator program is coming to Hawaii. “Mission: Hawaii,” the second in what may become a national network of Mission Accelerator sites (following New York), is launching with the backing of Washington D.C.-based venture capital firm Decisive Point and the Hawaii Technology Development Corporation (HTDC).
The “Mission: Hawaii” technology accelerator aims to catalyze innovation in Hawaii by connecting local startups with federal funding, expertise, and private investment opportunities. Its focus will be early-stage ventures with transformative technologies for government within the fields of security and defense, energy resiliency, sustainable agriculture, and mobility.
“Mission Accelerator fosters the local economy, connecting startups to top talent while bolstering local workforces and supporting an innovation-driven economy,” writes Decisive Point principal Jacqueline Blackburn. “Our program brings startups, investors, and partners together to cultivate a center of gravity for collaboration and strengthen the innovation base.”
Decisive Point will leverage its expertise in government contracting to help Hawaii entrepreneurs capture federal research dollars and win procurement contracts.
“Through curated events and programming, our cohort teams engage with government stakeholders and commercial customers to tackle challenges,” Blackburn continued. “Cohort companies gain access to a network of private investors and government funding opportunities fueling technical development and opening doors to scale in the government and commercial markets. “
Further details are sparse, but applications are already open through an online form, with a September 15 deadline. An information session will be held on August 15, with information to be provided to those who register online.
The groundwork for “Mission: Hawaii” and Decisive Point’s arrival in Hawaii kicked off almost exactly one year ago. Decisive Point partner Ryan Benitez hosted an introductory pau hana in August 2022 at the Treehouse coworking space in Kahala.
“Our mission is to support founders with the guts to try; the ones who look at challenges facing the country and our communities and see problems worth solving,” Benitez wrote at the time. “We support our founders as they navigate the federal market and invest in those that deliver solutions to both commercial customers and the nation.”
Decisive Point already had invested in a company with ties to Hawaii: Pendulum, which rebranded from Macro Eyes earlier this year, an artificial intelligence-based startup founded in 2014 that optimizes operations and supply chains. Although based in Seattle, the company had remote team members on Maui.
Decisive Point also collaborated with the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet and the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) to launch the Hawaii cohort of the NSIN Propel accelerator program, focused on next-generation applications of emerging dual-use technology for government and defense.
The program recruits companies with technology solutions that support the modernization needs of the U.S. Navy and broader Department of Defense community.
NSIN Propel Hawaii was the third iteration of the accelerator. It kicked off in January, and concluded with demo day presentations at the end of May.
The cohort companies are now working on delivering their cutting-edge capabilities to “enable the U.S. Navy and its partners to operate as a ready, capable, and combat-credible force in the Pacific region.”
Decisive Point debut
Decisive Point is only the latest venture capital firm from the continent to extend its reach to the Aloha State.
Founded in 2019, Decisive Point partners with the federal government to identify innovations that can solve real-world problems, help bring those technologies to market, and cultivate a robust ecosystem of startups that drive innovation in the public interest.
“We are experts in helping deep-tech startups grow, navigating government, capturing public R&D funding, and providing our portfolio companies with additional capital,” the company states. “Through partnerships and support of technology accelerators, we are directly engaged with many of the country’s most active technology ecosystems and R&D centers of gravity, giving us early exposure to great companies and innovations.”
Decisive Point helps startups navigate the substantial procedural and regulatory obstacles of government work through programs like Mission: Hawaii. More specifically, the venture firm provides extensive support to prepare startups for the public sector, including reviewing federal R&D funding opportunities that align with a startup's technology, providing feedback on proposals, conducting customer discovery with government stakeholders, and advising on regulatory compliance issues.
And once startups win government funding and launch pilots, Decisive Point helps position them for long-term contracting opportunities, ensuring successful delivery and helping agencies integrate the technology into workflows.
The goal is to remove the usual risks of startup life to encourage government adoption and investment, thus increasing the odds of their success.
Working with the state
Like many of the accelerator programs in Hawaii, Mission: Hawaii is funded in part through HTDC.
Though one of the HTDC’s more well-known business grant programs lost its funding this year due to politics, the semi-independent state agency is the hub of a number of state and federal programs designed to support small businesses and economic diversification.
One of these programs is the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Announced last May, the most recent SSBCI program brings up to $62 million in federal funding to Hawaii to expand access to capital for small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs. Hawaii is among the first states in the nation to be approved for participation.
SSBCI funding was “instrumental” in the launch of the Blue Startups accelerator. The HTDC also supported the launch of the Elemental Excelerator (known as the Energy Excelerator at the time), the Hawaii-island based GVS Transmedia Accelerator, and partnered with Startup Capital Ventures for Series A investing opportunities, among others.