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Entrepreneur Extraordinaire

Lincoln Jacobe says there's no such thing as working too much. Especially if it means an early retirement

The requests began slowly, and were simple at first. Celebrities and other VIP guests of the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel in the early ’90s would ask small favors of the property’s young front desk supervisor, Lincoln Jacobe. Although it wasn’t technically his job and the hotel had a perfectly competent concierge staff to handle such requests, Jacobe was a stickler for superior customer service. So he tirelessly secured transportation and arranged for red carpet treatment at the Island’s hottest clubs for the rich and famous. “The requests really varied, but whatever it was, I tried to accommodate it,” says Jacobe. “Sort of like a gopher.”

Over the years, the requests became more frequent, and increasingly complex. On top of booking limousines and making dinner reservations, he began catering to the highly specialized needs of the Sheraton’s celebrity guests. Whether it was securing last—minute concert tickets or arranging private tours of local haunts for his celebrity clientele, Jacobe worked his connections to the fullest. And in the process, he became damn good at it. So much so, that even celebrities who weren’t staying at the Sheraton began calling on him because they had heard he was Hawaii’s go-to guy. Jacobe says: “The longer I did it, the more calls I’d get. I began developing a reputation where people in Hollywood would just call me and say ‘Hey Lincoln, I got your name from so-and-so, and I’m coming to Hawaii, can you help me out?’”

One such person was Simon Lithgow, son of “American Idol” co-executive producer Nigel Lithgow. About four years ago, Simon came to Hawaii on vacation and needed help arranging his trip. He turned to Jacobe, who had by that time, officially incorporated Hawaii Pacific Entertainment, a company that, among other things, arranges itineraries for visiting and local VIPs. “We put a good trip together for Simon. We took him to a concert and had dinner and we went to Pipeline [night club]. We showed him such a great time that he said he was going to talk to his dad to see about casting for “American Idol” here.” And well, unless you were living under a rock while the rest of the state caught “Idol” fever, we needn’t tell you the end of that story.

If you were among the horde of local “Idol” fans, you can thank Jacobe, whose company coordinated the local auditions, for bringing them down the next time you see him. That is, if you can catch him. VIP itineraries are just one of several services Hawaii Pacific Entertainment offers, and Hawaii Pacific Entertainment is just one of two businesses that Jacobe runs. He also owns and operates Technology News Network. Combined, his companies’ services include concert promotions and productions, castings and auditions, sports and entertainment management, publishing, multimedia services and television, film and video production. In other words, he’s one heck of a busy guy.

Idol, Yes. Idle, No.

The word “Idol” may hold special meaning for Jacobe, but its homophone counterpart “Idle” has never existed in his vocabulary. For as far back as he can remember, he’s been a man on the move, barely stopping to take stock of all the things he’s accomplished over the years. While attending Farrington High School, Jacobe started his first job as an airport greeter, holding signs and handing out lei to tourists. At age 18, he started college and also took on a second job doing guest services at Marc Resorts. His intention was to follow his parents’ advice and get a degree in accounting, after which he’d find a steady job outside of the visitor industry.

RIDING IN STYLE: Lincoln Jacobe, his staff and guests enjoy a long limo ride out to the Turtle Bay Resort for the Season 2 DVD release party of “Lost.”

The problem was, Jacobe loved the visitor industry. And it loved him back. Within a year of starting at Marc Resorts, Jacobe was promoted to supervisor at the company’s Waikiki Grand hotel. A year after that, at the young age of 20, he became the property’s assistant manager. From that point on, it was life on the fast track for Jacobe. Over the next several years, he took on a variety of positions at a number of companies, often overlapping two or three jobs at a time. He did everything from sales and marketing and employer relations to guest services and operations management. He worked for all the name-brand resorts, such as Hilton, Alana Doubletree, Halekulani and Starwood. He even branched out, doing customer service and sales for Aloha Airlines’ cargo division for eight years.

“I guess you could say I worked a lot,” jokes Jacobe. “But I also learned a lot. One second I was working at one level, then the next, I was a manager supervising people. So I learned everything from management to operations and sales and also the numbers — figuring out our bottom line.”

In 1996, at the age of 25, Jacobe decided it was time to put his skills to the test and ventured out on his own. He went into business with a good friend and avid techie, Joseph Collins. Together they created a technology magazine called Hawaii’s Web and Internet News. Jacobe was keyed up about the new venture, but the timing, he says, couldn’t have been worse: “At the time that we started, the Internet still wasn’t proven. A lot of people weren’t even online yet. And then the dot-com bomb hit in the late ’90s and as a result we lost some clients. And that was all within the first few years of our business, so it was kind of scary.”

But he didn’t buckle under the pressure. Instead, Jacobe did the only thing he’s ever known how to do: He took on more work. “The dot-com bomb hit our business pretty hard. In order to rectify that, we diversified our company. We created new brands and more products and branched out to create more revenue streams,” he says. What they ended up with was Technology News Network, a multimedia company that now includes the magazine (which was renamed, two tech TV segments, a radio show, regular Internet expos and an annual technology awards event.

MIC CHECK: Technology News Net staff members prepare for a taping of the “Flavors of Technology” television show.

“The fact that Lincoln and his partner expanded from just a bi-monthly tech news magazine into an entire media company in just five years is pretty amazing,” says Sprint Hawaii Marketing Director David Oyadomari, who’s worked with Jacobe since the inception of the magazine. “I believe if it wasn’t for Lincoln, a lot of tech going on in Hawaii, from small startups to large companies like Sprint, wouldn’t get noticed. Because there’s a lot of technology going on here, but only a few select channels to promote it. Lincoln has touched upon just about every channel you can think of to promote technology. And then, on top of that, he’s also gotten into entertainment in a pretty big way.”

The Road Ahead

Jacobe never really intended on opening an entertainment company. For years, he was perfectly content concentrating on the tech business while handling random celebrity requests (which continued to come long after he left the visitor industry) on a freelance basis. “I had a lot of small clients here and there, so I just did it under the auspices of our Internet company for a few years,” says Jacobe. “Then as it grew, it became kind of weird because people would ask — well, are you tech or entertainment or what? So that’s when we started Hawaii Pacific Entertainment.”

Like the tech business, the entertainment company started off small, but quickly grew to include a variety of services. In the beginning its primary focus was on catering to visiting celebrities and managing local stars such as Nohelani Cypriano and “American Idol” finalists Camile Velasco and Jasmine Trias. Now its scope of services includes concert promotions, event productions and casting auditions for reality shows that hit Hawaii shores. Some past shows he’s casted for include “The Swan,” “The Biggest Loser” and “Elimidate.” And this October they’ll help cast unruly local kids for NBC’s hit show “SuperNanny.” A humble Jacobe has this to say about the success so far: “I don’t know why, but things just sort of keep happening for me, and one thing has continued to lead to another. I’ve been really lucky in that way.”

But Trias says luck has had little to do with Jacobe’s success. “Lincoln’s so good at what he does, one, because he’s so well connected, and then also because his main thing is always making sure everybody’s happy,” says Trias, who credits Jacobe with helping her maintain a career in Hawaii and establishing her presence internationally. “And he’s not just looking out for one person’s interests over another. He’s really looking for the best solutions for all parties involved, which really makes him a pleasure to work with.”

THERE’S NO ‘I’ IN TEAM: Jacobe says he put a lot of effort into hiring just the right management team. They are, from left to right, Ikaika Kimura, vice president of television, film & video production; Patty Low, director of promotions & client services; and Laleen Ramiscal, director of special events.

Trias isn’t the only satisfied customer. Large, national clients, such as the NFL, Buena Vista Entertainment and even Disney, have given Jacobe their seals of approval, hiring his firm to handle promotions and planning for big events like the Pro Bowl and the DVD launch parties for both seasons 1 and 2 of ABC’s “Lost.”

This year marks the 10th anniversary of both Hawaii Pacific Entertainment and Technology News Network, but for Jacobe, the occasion is bittersweet. After working alongside him for nearly a decade, Jacobe’s business partner and good friend Joseph Collins passed away in January. Collins’ death left Jacobe saddened and painfully aware that he had no succession plan should something happen to him.

“I haven’t had anyone close to me die before, so when my business partner passed away and [all the ownership] transferred to me, I thought, ‘Gee, if I die, where would all the company equity and all the knowledge we’ve built for 10 years go?’” says Jacobe. “I wanted to make sure we could take care of our employees, especially because of their investments into the company. So I began restructuring the equity structure.”

Jacobe won’t reveal how much the company’s worth (although he says that by mid-year, sales were already up 25 percent over all of last year’s), but his plan is to share equity with his top three managers, Laleen Ramiscal, Ikaika Kimura and Patty Low. Jacobe says: “When you work with someone for 91/2 years, it’s like a marriage. You become a real team. And when you lose half the team, you get into survival mode. My survival method was to bring in different partners with different skill sets who can keep the business up and running. And I do still think we’ve got a big year ahead of us.”

At press time, the entertainment company was planning no fewer than seven major events for the latter half of this year, including its own 6th Annual Flavors of Technology Awards Gala in October. It’s also looking to launch a record company, build an in-house recording studio and purchase new, state of the art equipment for its film and television productions.

On the technology side, Jacobe and his staff have been coordinating a plan to license franchise rights for everything under the Technology News Network umbrella. “That’s basically all the intellectual property and technological know-how. That includes everything from our magazine to the TV shows and the expos,” he says, adding that they’ve already secured a test market in Florida and hopes to begin franchise sales in the second quarter of 2007.

On top of all that, Jacobe’s also got a couple pet projects. He recently started a charitable foundation, which will hand out its first technology scholarships this year. He’s judging, for the third consecutive year, an annual high school business plan and marketing competition. Oh, and he’s also looking for a young successor. “I’ve been trying to find someone around 22 years old, who can be a protégé, that I can train and mentor, to maybe take over the business one day. But I don’t really see that much talent out there just yet. Maybe that’s too young of an age, but you figure, I was 25 when I conceptualized going into business, so I’m still hopeful,” says Jacobe, who plans to retire by age 55. “Sometimes people look at me and think that I’m so busy, I work so hard, but that’s been my plan all along — Work hard all the way, then retire a little early.”

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