Day two of the East Meets West Conference was held appropriately at the East-West Center in Manoa, Friday, Feb. 2. Governor David Ige began by addressing the audience, emphasizing Hawaii’s commitment to nurturing startups and entrepreneurs. Approximately 25% of the audience were visitors from tech startup, investing, and travel companies.
The morning’s discussions focused on blockchain, cross border investing and technology as it relates to social impact. Cryptocurrency and the blockchain technology behind it was the hot topic which seemed to weave the technical keynote talks together, with lots of focus on Initial Coin Offerings (ICO).
“Cryptocurrency is a digital currency that can be used for payment or exchange of goods. The benefits to crypto are vast, notably the simplicity of transfer over borders, and the transparency,” said Rahul Sood, CEO at esports betting company Unikrn. “All transactions are stored on a public ledger, there is a record of every wallet, and there’s no real way to ‘print more coins’ without devaluing the entire currency.”
In the midst of the get-rich-quick excitement surrounding cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Sood advocated a practical approach.
“The primary goal of an ICO should not be to raise money, an ICO should come after you figure out what problem you’re trying to solve,” he said. “If there is no real need for Blockchain then an ICO is pointless.”
Edith Yeung, head of greater China operations for venture capital firm 500 Startups, was a member of the cross-border investing panel. She sees benefits for Hawaii when it comes to cross border investing in startups.
“We should help local entrepreneurs to think about problems that are bigger, not just using Hawaii as a midpoint for cross border business,” said Yeung. “To be world class you have to think about the resources you already have and find commonalities where everyone will benefit. We should be coming to Hawaii because we are learning from the locals – certain things that only happen here.”
The impact and technology panel discussed investing in mission based companies. Dawn Lippert, CEO at Elemental Excelerator and Stephen Forte, Director of Laudato Si’ Challenge, agreed that startup companies looking to have positive social impact are quickly becoming the norm.
“We as investors are moving entire portfolios into ‘impact’ investing to where by 2020, it will simply be investing,” said Forte.
The afternoon was filled by breakout sessions with keynote speakers mixing it up with other panelists to elaborate further on the main topics.