For centuries, Hawaiʻi has been overly dependent on dominant, extractive industries, from sandalwood and whaling in the early 1800s to sugar plantations and tourism beginning in the mid-1800s. Tourism now represents nearly a quarter of economic activity in Hawaiʻi. The economy is highly concentrated with the top 5 sectors representing ~63% of total nominal GDP, 21% higher than the national U.S. average.
It is imperative to not only diversify the economy but to create opportunities that are more stable and regenerative and that provide equitable opportunities to build wealth. Startup Hawaiʻi intends to do this by empowering people of all ages to effectively pursue bold ideas that solve big problems and create the infrastructure required to build strong, scalable, high-growth companies.
Creating a structure for success will also enable Hawaiʻi Island to serve as a leader with a repeatable model for other remote and rural locations, particularly island communities.
Hawaiʻi Island is at a crossroads and is ripe for change. Several factors are contributing to this:
- There is a critical mass of stakeholders with a desire to create a thriving tech community
- The rise of remote work presents an opportunity to connect and engage with the global economy and retain talented residents
- There is a recognized need to diversify the economy. This has been driven home by a pandemic that halted tourism
There are entrepreneurial students and residents on the island who can help drive change
There are several local groups dedicated to sustainability and resilience efforts, several of which are optimal for technology-driven innovation