purple prize 2020

We accelerate excellent teams with ideas for innovative technology products to start and launch mission-driven companies that amplify community and regenerate our ecosystems.
Kilo Hōkū Demo Day

What is the purple prize?

Since 2016, the Purple Prize has empowered the people of Hawaiʻi to create impactful technology startups that are truly rooted in Hawaiian values. To date, we have worked with over 40 teams and have awarded those with the highest potential to create real impact in Hawaiʻi nei.

The incubator runs for six-months (April to September) and is consciously designed to help criteria-aligned projects refine their idea and build traction in preparation for launch and/or future investment.



  • ROOTED IN PLACE: Companies are grounded in the local cultural history and physical environment.
  • EXCELLENCE: The team is comprised of what we call “outlier individuals” who are highly motivated, ambitious, bold, values-based, and genuinely pono. 
  • IMPACT POSITIVE: Technologies and companies in the Purple Prize create net positive community and environmental impacts.
  • TECHNOLOGY-ENABLED: All products must leverage hardware, software, algorithms, and/or platform technologies.

Purple Prize Teams

Throughout the Purple Prize, startup teams work towards refining their idea and building traction in preparation for launch and/or future investment.

This year, Purple Prize accepted 8 teams in the industries of education, agriculture, ecology, green energy, and community development. Meet this year's cohort.

BoxFarm Labs

An adaptable hydroponics system for the expansion of specialty crop varieties in tropical greenhouse climates.

Founded by 

Preston Tran, CEO

Gabor Paczolay, CTO

Exchange Ave. (EA)

Exchange Ave is a mobile app, designed for highly-organized, self-sufficient social exchange.

Founded by

John Garcia, CEO


FOODPrint allows you to offset carbon from air travel by paying local farmers to plant food trees.

Founded by

Kalisi Mausio

MAG Hugs

Allowing teachers to send “virtual hugs” that tell students “I see you,” “you are valued!”

Founded by

Sheila Buyucacar



An app helping mothers use Hawaiian moon phases and their meanings to better the wellbeing of their families and communities.

Founded by

Hiʻilani Shibata
Talia Cardines
Naiʻa Lewis

ʻŌiwi Online

ʻŌiwi Online is a digital wahi pōhai (gathering place) that promotes access to an abundance of Hawaiian Cultural Learning. It is not a school or program, but rather a waʻa (canoe) by which we can navigate a sea of knowledge and opportunity.

Founded by

Pōhai Panoke

Polu Energy

An innovative renewable energy provider amplifying Hawaiʻi’s renewable energy mix with the values of lōkahi and kūpaʻa.

Founded by

Tate Castillo
Kirk Wei
Dr. David Ma

The Vegetation Continuum

An educational resource for ʻāina-based practices, restoration, and stewardship.

Founded by

Kahealani Acosta

Mentors of Purple Prize

Throughout the Purple Prize, core mentors spend time with teams to work through challenges and important benchmarks in the Purple Prize process.

This year, a handful of experienced professionals with backgrounds ranging from VC, entrepreneurship, software development, design, education, and community building have committed to offering their time in different capacities depending on what they have to offer. Meet our Core Mentors.

Jenna Quindica

Jenna Quindica is a generalist software engineer who has specialized in finding product-market fit at scrappy companies. She left startup life to join First Round, an early-stage venture capital firm, where she builds products and tools to support the internal team and First Round-backed companies. Jenna hosts an engineering meetup in SF, has given talks to the PHP and Python communities across the US, and mentors students through Code2040, Techtonica, and Hackbright. Jenna graduated from Kamehameha Schools Kapalama in 2013.

Miki Tomita

Born and raised on Maui, Miki has worked in education for 20 years, working to create opportunities for positive change for our planet and people. Most recently as the Education Director at Polynesian Voyaging Society, co-founder to Education Incubator and for a decade as a mother to her daughter Mayumi. Her work is anchored at the intersections of education and innovation, with a sharp focus on placing youth at the center of transforming society’s greatest challenges into opportunities for learning, innovation and reinvention of a healthy, abundant world.

Forest Frizzell

Forest Frizzell has spent his entire career in the tech industry with leadership roles in government, nonprofit, and utilities. As Deputy Director of Information Technology at the City & County of Honolulu, he spearheaded several infrastructure upgrade initiatives that resulted in the City begin awarded #1 Digital City by the Center for Digital Government.

He sits on the Board of Directors for Boys and Girls Club of Hawaii and plays a very active role as Board President for Purple Maiʻa Foundation. He has presented at TEDx Honolulu and was selected as one of 13 emerging local leaders in the inaugural class of the Pierre Omidyar Fellows program. He received recognition as one of Pacific Business News’ Forty Under 40, and Hawai‘i Business’ 20 for the Next 20: People to Watch.

Mark Watkins

Mark is the founder of Bookship (https://www.bookshipapp.com), a social reading app, where people build better relationships through books. He's a multi-exit entrepreneur, including Endeca (Search & Business Intelligence platform acquired by Oracle for $1.1B); goby (a personalized recommendation engine for finding fun things to do), acquired by Telenav; and CDRS (a 3D modeling system) acquired by Parametric Technology Corporation. He started his career as a software engineer, rising to become VP of Engineering at Endeca and CEO of goby, where he raised venture funding, built the team and product, and led the eventual acquisition by Telenav.

Kate P. Matayoshi

Katarina P. Matayoshi is an associate at local venture firm Sultan Ventures, where she leads various initiatives focused on empowering entrepreneurs to build and scale viable companies and creating a thriving innovation community in Hawaii. Katarina helped launch XLR8UH®, one of the top 30 venture accelerator programs in the nation, where she worked with a diverse group of startup founders, mentors, and partners. As part of the program, her team invested in local startups and helped them build and grow their businesses in Hawaii and beyond. Today she supports local businesses by connecting them to necessary expertise, resources, and network through XLR8HI®, Hawaii’s Entrepreneurship Center, and trains the next generation of innovators by leading Sultan Ventures’ Internship and Fellowship Program.

Scott Shigeoka

Scott Keoni Shigeoka started two social enterprises in Europe and the U.S. He is the current Entrepreneur in Residence at GoDaddy, a position that was crafted for him. He is a former lead with the design firm IDEO, was a writer for The Washington Post, and has consulted with dozens of organizations like Airbnb, Starbucks and AARP. He graduated from Aiea High School in 2007.

Donavan Kealoha

Donavan Kealoha is a venture capitalist at Startup Capital Ventures, an early stage investment firm. In this role, Donavan serves on the board of directors for portfolio companies AreaMetrics and Hobnob; he is also a board observer with Breinify. Donavan is also a co-founder and Executive Director of Purple Mai’a, a 501(c)(3) non-profit EdTech startup, focused on providing indigenized tech education to underserved, high opportunity youth across Hawaii. Donavan is a licensed attorney and a proud product of the Hawaiʻi public educational system. He graduated from Lana’i High School and holds a BA, and JD/MBA from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

Bella Hughes

Isabella "Bella" Hughes was born and raised in Honolulu and now resides in Hilo. Her career spans the fields of contemporary art, culture, agriculture and entrepreneurship. She is the President and co-founder of Shaka Tea, a line of Hawaiʻi-grown, tropical-botanical, herbal teas brewed with māmaki, an ancient superleaf only found in the Hawaiian Islands that supports sustainable agriculture and economic growth in rural Hawaiʻi. 

Shaka Tea is found in over 3,000 major retailers across the US and recently launched in Japan. In addition to her work with Shaka Tea, she is the co-founder and Director Emeritus of Honolulu Biennial Foundation (HBF), an independent curator, editor, arts writer and frequent juror and moderator in the arts and culture sphere. Hughes was appointed by Governor David Y Ige to serve on the Hawai’i Technology Development Corporation board and also serves on the Merit of Appeals Board, appointed by Mayor Harry Kim.


How the program works

1. Level Playing Field

To create an environment that amplifies collaboration and creativity, we select teams who are at a similar stage of development: idea to pre-market. 

2. Educational Opportunities

You donʻt need an entrepreneurship or tech background to succeed in the Purple Prize! Our workshops equip our teams with the skills and knowledge necessary for starting a business – from culture immersives to customer discovery to practicing the pitch.

3. Tailored Advice and Network Connections

The common model of mentorship — where each team is assigned a mentor based on industry or need — is less effective at this early stage. Instead, we have bi-weekly check-in calls and make carefully chosen connections to people who can offer constructive feedback, advice and resources. 

4. Flexible Funding

Bootstrapping and fundraising, through friends and family can be time consuming and generally challenging. Our teams have access to flexible capital that doesn’t require a major proposal. 

5. Access to Customers

In 2019, we ran the “Indigenous Tech Prototype Showcase” and invited over one hundred people to test and give feedback on early prototypes. Teams were able to receive early validation, interact with real customers, and form relationships with members of the community. 

6. Incentives

The most successful team(s) in each Purple Prize cohort receive a monetary award and continue to receive incubation services including tailored advice, access to networking opportunities, access to customers, continued education opportunities, and workspace at our headquarters, Hālau ʻĪnana.


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