Purple Mai‘a Is Building a Tech and Innovation Ecosystem, Starting with Keiki

The nonprofit’s ambitious “Malaplex” is grounded in Hawaiian culture, says co-founder Kelsey Amos.
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The second cohort of Purple Mai‘a’s women’s entrepreneurship program, Hawai‘i FoundHer, brought together five wāhine-led business owners from Moloka‘i, Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i Island | Photo: courtesy of Purple Mai‘a

Nonprofit Purple Mai‘a is building “an innovation and technology ecosystem in Hawai‘i that is locally grown and based in Hawaiian culture,” says co-founder and COO Kelsey Amos.

Its programs are meant to be safe spaces where children and adults can cultivate their digital skills. Amos describes the offerings as “education that is place-based, equitable and balanced.”

Purple Mai‘a was founded in 2013 by Amos, Olin Lagon and Donavan Kealoha. By 2022, its 48 classes were serving about 770 keiki, 70% of them Native Hawaiian and half of them girls and women.

“Tech is just overrepresented by males. So we try to create a comfortable affirming place for women. For example, we have the Minecraft Wahine Keiki classes – only girls can sign up – taught by our wahine kumu,” says Kealoha.

Purple Mai‘a has branched into sectors like workforce development, entrepreneurship and design programming, and offers certifications in business analysis and sales-force administration.

A new initiative, Hawai‘i FoundHer, is a startup accelerator tailored toward Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander and Asian American women who are starting their own businesses. Cohort members get a $20,000 investment to build their businesses, with no requirements to give up equity or ownership.

“Women entrepreneurs are over-mentored and underfunded so we wanted to address that,” says Kealoha.

Amos says Purple Mai‘a also addresses the need for more Hawaiians in the tech world.

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“The innovation economy here has to be grounded in Hawaiian culture because it is on Hawaiian land,” she says.

Purple Mai‘a calls the innovation and technology ecosystem that it’s helping to build the Malaplex.

“It’s innovation grounded in place with Hawaiian values,” says Kealoha.

Amos says the end goal is a Hawaiian informed tech campus that “embraces technology and innovation and can function as an incubation ground for ideas that serve both the local and global economy.”



Categories: Nonprofit, Technology