The Greenhouse

May, 2002

The managing partners of Hawaii Opportunities Group LLC founded the company in October 2000 to assist Hawaii entrepreneurs with professional management services, in order to attract investment and spur business development in the Islands. Self-dubbed “the state’s first Strategic Venture Catalyst firm,” Hawaii Opportunities Group incorporates aspects of boutique investment firms, management consulting agencies, and most recently – infrastructure suppliers – into their mix of innovative services provided.

Kevin Robinson, managing partner of Hawaii Opportunities Group, says that while the firm has been offering management and investment support since its inception in October 2000, it is now in a position to expand its services. Through a unique marketing agreement with 1132 Bishop St., Honolulu’s “connected” office building, Hawaii Opportunities Group launched 21@1132, The Greenhouse, the state’s first private multi-industry business incubator, on the 21st floor of the downtown building.

Q: What’s the difference between The Greenhouse and traditional incubators? A: Traditional incubators provide a warm fuzzy place, whereas The Greenhouse is very hands-on. Picture an actual greenhouse, where a guy is changing the soil, bringing the nutrients out, watering it – that’s us. Whereas an incubator, you just sit there like an egg, in a warm place. In some sense, it’s almost diametrically opposed to the traditional incubator models. An incubator by its very nature is designed to get a company from concept to inception to just emerging sustainability. We anticipate long-term relationships.

Also, The Greenhouse is for companies in a wide range of business development. Could be a startup, but also it could be for a company that has been in existence for a while and can use the services to grow faster.

Q: How are the fees structured? A: It’s different with each client. Some prefer to pay us a monthly fee, like traditional consultancies. Other clients are charged a percentage of profits brought in. And then at the other end of the spectrum, would be the clients that have absolutely no money, so we’re in essence investing in them and they’ll pay us back in equity trades. But within that spectrum we can also have a combination, where some clients pay 25 percent fees and 75 percent equities, or other clients pay no fees and it’s all based on commission. We’re the only firm in town that will go from 100 percent fees to 100 percent equity. And those fees cover everything from the office to the consulting to the business development. Q: Does Hawaii Opportunities Group have a preference for clients in specific industries or niches? A: The Greenhouse was extremely tailored to Hawaii’s particular needs and niche industries. In our initial market research, we interviewed 25 companies, some venture-capital firms and some traditional incubators. Then we met with a total of about 70 companies to assess what’s here. Software, biotech and distance learning were all relevant industries here because you can do it remotely, and you don’t have to be a large company. Q: What are some of the qualifications you look for in potential clients? A: The most important thing is the value that each client adds to the network of other clients. We emphasize a high- synergy profile, so we place a priority on clients who add system value, such as providing services to other clients, purchasing from other clients or adding knowledge to the group.

Secondly, is a business model that we can add value to as Hawaii Opportunities Group. We’d have less interest in a company that we don’t have experience in, because if we have to go and completely learn something new, it’s not going to be very efficient for the client. So although it’s very tailored to the local entrepreneurial market, it largely depends on whether or not we feel we can help.

Q: Will Greenhouse clients receive any special consideration in terms of obtaining funding through Hawaii Opportunities Group? A: I wouldn’t call it special consideration. It’s the more knowledgeable we are of the business model, the better we can assess their needs or the potential for return on that investment. It’s a win-win situation.

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