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20 For the Next 20

Twenty people to watch

(page 5 of 5)


Photo Courtesy of Pono Shim

Pono Shim, 46

Executive director,
Enterprise Honolulu

Pono Shim speaks in parables. But he puts his own twist to them.

One of his favorites is the story of the crabs in a bucket. Put a single crab in a bucket, the story goes, and he easily escapes; put a bunch of crabs in a bucket, though, and they all hold each other back. Normally, the crabs are seen as a metaphor for people. But Shim sees a deeper meaning.

“You know why the crabs act that way in the bucket?” he asks. “Because we put them in a bucket.” For Shim, it’s the bucket that’s the real symbol. “We accuse humans of acting like that without realizing that we’ve created buckets. So we’ve got healthcare buckets, and IRS buckets, and legal buckets, and spiritual buckets, and political buckets, and buckets upon buckets upon buckets. And people are going nuts. Maybe somebody needs to kick the bucket.”

That perspective – the urge to cut through our divisions – is exactly why Shim was selected to run Enterprise Honolulu, says board chairman Robbie Alm. “I think, when we were looking at the challenges facing Hawaii, a lot of them seem to be the inability to get people to talk to each other instead of at each other.” In other words, they’re all in their own buckets.

“Pono has a quiet history of being able to get people to talk about different issues,” Alm says. “I think he has the ability to help people reframe issues, to get away from the traditional ways of looking at them.” That could make all the difference.



Photo: Mark Arbeit

Kenneth Zeri, 52

Hospice Hawaii

Before Ken Zeri took over at Hospice Hawaii six years ago, there were fears the nonprofit would not survive. Zeri, a former Navy officer, streamlined costs, fine-tuned operations and built a new corporate culture, based on accountability and a shared vision to provide the best care to end-of-life patients. Staff morale improved, which also helped improve care to the more than 700 patients Hospice serves every year.

“Ken is super high-energy and he’s such a visionary,” says Rachael Wong, executive director of the Hawaii Consortium for Integrative Healthcare. “He’s done tremendous things to grow and improve Hospice Hawaii, but I think his work on the policy side will have a much broader impact on the community.”

In 2009, Zeri spearheaded the campaign that persuaded the state Legislature to pass a law covering Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment. The program, part of a national movement, is designed to improve the end-of-life care people receive and to ensure that physicians honor a patient’s treatment wishes. Zeri continues to be active in Kokua Mau, the state’s palliative care organization, and has consistently led the local movement to redefine what is the best end-of-life care.

“Home care, not ICU care, in my opinion, is the best option for most people, and we can help make that happen,” Zeri says. “I like to think that our organization provides more options for local families and shows that end of life can be filled with dignity and happiness.”



Photo Courtesy of Toby Taniguchi

Toby Taniguchi, 38

Executive vice president, store operations,
KTA Super Stores

Toby Taniguchi is a guy who gets it. He understands that people, just as much as profits, are what define a successful business. He can quickly
switch from bruddah to businessman and has a natural ability to relate to everyone from country farmers to
key legislators.

Taniguchi was a 2003 Pacific Century Fellow and is the chair of the Hawaii Island United Way. He is also involved with the Boys and Girls Club of the Big Island, the Girl Scouts Council and the Hawaii Japanese Center. As a participant of the Junior Achievement of Hawaii Island program, he often shares with students his five principles for success: create a vision, work hard, never give up, live by an impeccable moral compass and give back.

and looking people in the eye, so I don’t care if it’s going to be a pain in the butt or cost me money, if I give somebody my word, pau, end of story, it will get done.”

Darla DeVille, president and chief professional officer for the island’s United Way, says, “There are very few people who walk their talk and Toby is one of them. He’s collaborative, genuine, driven, compassionate and never points the finger.”

DeVille says Taniguchi’s greatest strength is his ability to bring the right players together to get the job done. “If we had more leaders like Toby we would be in a much better place.”

Besides, you’ve got to love a guy who signs his e-mails with a shaka \m/.



Photo Courtesy of Vinod Veedu

Vinod Veedu, 34

Senior nanotechnology engineer,

To thousands of Hawaii kids, Vinod Veedu is best known as “Dr. V,” the host of “Weird Science,” a popular Hawaii News Now segment where his outlandish experiments introduce children to the marvels of science.

But Veedu’s greatest legacy is likely to be his role at Oceanit, where many people believe he’s going to be the catalyst for a new industry in Hawaii.

“Nanotechnology,” Veedu says, “is basically a technology that deals with materials between one and 100 nanometers.” For comparison, he points out that the thickness of a human hair is about 1,000 nanometers. At this scale, the property of materials changes. Gold is red; conductors become semiconductors; inert materials become catalysts. And because scientists like Veedu can manipulate structures at the molecular scale, nanotechnology promises whole new classes of materials and tools. The implications for Oceanit and Hawaii are enormous.

One example of the potential of this science is nanoconcrete. Veedu and his team have created an admixture of carbon nanotubes, which not only makes concrete much stronger, but creates a conductive network, making it possible to sense microscopic cracks in the concrete. Nanoconcrete’s applications – buildings and bridges and dams – are almost limitless.

“In fact,” says Oceanit marketing manager Ian Kitajima, “we’re getting ready to spin off a third company – developing building materials, like nanoconcrete – based on Veedu’s work.” That’s just the beginning. “Nanotechnology is going to transform everything we do,” Kitajima says. “It will touch every part of the business.”



Photo Courtesy of Hank Wuh

Hank Wuh, ageless

CEO, Cellular
Bioengineering Inc.

Since the death of sugar, Hawaii’s greatest export has probably been education, as too many smart, ambitious young people move to the Mainland for school and better opportunities. Hank Wuh wants to stop that brain drain.

Wuh’s company, Cellular Bioengineering Inc., inverts the usual recipe for success for a Hawaii tech company: invent something, and then move out into the world to sell it. “Instead, we go out into the world and look for ingenious, disruptive ideas,” he says. “And we purchase these technologies and bring them back to Hawaii to develop for global markets.” The result is an eclectic collection of new products, ranging from artificial corneas to high-tech cleaning materials.

Wuh hopes his approach makes Cellular Bioengineering a beacon for Hawaii’s youth – even those who’ve already left. “The idea really is we want talented, young, smart people with great aspirations to know there’s a place to come home to and use that talent.”

Part of that formula, Wuh says, has been the company’s internship program. “It’s been growing. We have kids who’ve gone on to medical school, law school, dental school and Ph.D. programs. It’s been fantastic, actually.”

Wuh believes Cellular Engineering can be the model for other Hawaii companies. “We’re in the business of transforming novel, ingenious ideas into tangible products,” he says. “It’s just that we’ve made the decision to do it here in Hawaii. In the process, we want to inspire other young entrepreneurs to do the same.”


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Hawaii Business magazine invites you to comment on our articles and the issues they raise. Comments are moderated for offensive language, commercial messages and off-topic posts and may be deleted. Some comments may be chosen for inclusion in the magazine on the Feedback page.

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Mar 8, 2010 10:31 pm
 Posted by  csapdt

Wow, a few business people mixed in with union/democrat anti-business people. Surprising from a 'business' magazine. Maybe they should be watched for the threat they represent to businesses in Hawaii.

Aug 22, 2012 08:36 am
 Posted by

If you want real information on Keiki, check out

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